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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

cfrb cuts and looses legends


Sad news. From The Star.


Award-winning reporter and commentator Tayler Parnaby, a 50-year news radio veteran whose pre-noon daily broadcast was the last link to NewsTalk 1010 CFRB's fabled past, is calling it quits.

Parnaby and controversial shock news radio personality Richard Syrett were among six long-time news staffers whose positions were lost in a cost-cutting shakeup at the once-formidable Toronto radio station in the past week.

They were among 23 jobs cut from Astral Media's English-language radio division. The specialty TV, radio and outdoor advertising company, which acquired Standard Radio in 2007 for $1.1 billion, released a statement citing the need to "maintain and enhance the competitive position of its 82 radio stations."

The positions, which included four held by veteran CFRB news producers/writers David Bent, Jane Brown, Bill McDonald and John Elston, will not be replaced, station manager Steve Kowch told the Toronto Star yesterday.

"Only one show, the Richard Syrett Show, has been cancelled, and that's because after two years it is not performing the way it should.

"This sort of thing happens in radio all the time."

Parnaby's signature 11:50 a.m. newscast has been a fixture since the Star's Gordon Sinclair launched it during World War II.

"It's been a hell of a ride," said Parnaby, 67, CFRB's chief correspondent since 1988 and a former mainstay at CKO, CKEY and CHUM.

"I've been part of the Toronto soundtrack, I guess, since 1964," he told the Star yesterday from the Caledon home he shares with his wife of 43 years, Lynda.

Parnaby had been semi-retired for the past 18 months, Kowch said.

"He made the decision to retire for good this past weekend. He asked for two things: for (news director and Toronto at Noon host) Dave Trafford to do the newscast (announcing his retirement), and for no fuss to be made on air about his decision to step away."

Based at CFRB's Queen's Park bureau, Parnaby enjoyed grilling politicians with an almost patrician formality that frequently gleaned more thoughtful responses than from other, less polite questioners.

A tireless newshound, Parnaby reported on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, the 2005 tsunami in Southeast Asia, the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial in Los Angeles, and numerous federal, provincial and U.S. election campaigns.

But he was most famous for his popular pre-midday newscast and commentary, which continued a tradition begun around 1942 by Sinclair, a famed Star correspondent fired for, among other indiscretions, daring to take his act to CFRB.

"The `10 to 12' newscast, which Gordon Sinclair began, is being retired. I'm retiring, too," Parnaby said wryly.

"It's clear, I think, that CFRB is suffering from a declining audience and, in these difficult circumstances, declining revenue," he said.

"It's my understanding ... that CFRB will undergo a fairly substantial reformatting or refocusing in the coming weeks."

Kowch said there were no plans for a new format, "just a readjustment in the newsroom and some staffing shifts."

Kowch wouldn't say how many news staff remain at the station. But on the day the cuts were made, CFRB had a team of about six reporters and producers in Washington to cover President Barack Obama's inauguration, he said.

"And we have a full team in Ottawa reporting on the budget and Canada's national political scene. We have more than enough people to do the job. These changes will have no impact on the Toronto radio operation."