(1937 - 1992)
Frum was one of Canada's most respected and influential woman journalists.
She began her career in journalism as a freelance writer and commentator
for various CBC radio programs soon after graduating from the University
of Toronto. She quickly branched out into the print media writing
various columns for national newspapers such as the Globe and
Mail, The Toronto Star and a television column for the Saturday
Night magazine. In 1967, she made a brief foray into television
as a co-host for an information program The Way It Is but
it was in radio that she first gained notoriety.
In the fall of 1971, she took on the co-hosting duties of As
It Happens, a new innovative newsmagazine show on CBC radio
which followed the 6:00 P.M. news. At a time when the national broadcaster
was struggling to develop programs that would keep its listeners
beyond the supper-hour newscast, the show's young producer, Mark
Starowicz, proposed a format based largely on newsmaker interviews
that would provide an in-depth examination of the stories behind
the headlines. Through the use of long distance telephone and radio,
listeners were connected to world events. In this format, Frum shone.
She quickly gained the reputation as a tough, incisive and well-informed
interviewer. For ten years, she interviewed numerous world leaders,
national politicians and other newsmakers as well as those affected
by the news and was soon respected as one of Canada's foremost woman
journalists. She was honoured with numerous awards during her tenure,
most notably the National Press Club of Canada Award for Outstanding
Contribution to Canadian Journalism in 1975; Woman of the Year in
literature, arts and education category of the Canadian Press in
1976; and the Order of Canada in l979.
In the 1980s CBC Television decided to move its national newscast, The National, from its traditional 11:00 P.M. timeslot to 10:00
P.M. The news division of CBC television had long been considering
such a move hoping to capture a larger audience since studies had
shown that a large number of viewers retired to bed prior to 11:00
P.M. Realizing that it was a huge gamble, CBC executives appointed
Starowicz, the producer of As It Happens to translate his
radio success to the newsmagazine program, The Journal. He,
in turn, looked to Frum who had been instrumental in the success
of As It Happens. After months of preparation, the new current
affairs program, The Journal was launched on 11 January 1982.
In the weeks that followed it became the most-watched and highly
respected newsmagazine show in Canada.
It featured many innovations and made use
of the latest electronic news gathering technology. Features,
such as field reports and short documentaries, public forums
and debates as well as a series of reports on business, sports,
arts and entertainment, and science news were interwoven
with the interview portion of the program. The show featured
two female hosts. Barbara Frum was joined by Mary Lou Finley
in the hosting duties and a higher profile was assigned to
women reporters and journalists than on most other stations.
the show relied heavily on Frum's skill as an interviewer. The interview
portion of The Journal accounted for 60% of the program.
She remained the dominant and permanent presence on a show which
saw many new co-hosts. All of Canada was deeply saddened by the
news of her sudden death on 26 March 1992 from complications of
chronic leukemia. Tributes poured in from colleagues, co-workers
and the public at large. Months following her passing, the CBC announced
that it would move its newscast and newsmagazine program, The
National and the Journal, from 10:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.
Once again, executives argued that studies showed that aging babyboomers
were retiring to bed at an earlier time. This move proved to be
less successful than the first endeavour and two years later the
CBC was forced to reverse itself after ratings had fallen off by
half. Amid these changes and reversals The Journal was transformed
into the present Primetime News. As It Happens continues
its run, having celebrated its 25th year on the air.
Sources: Article written by Manon Lamontagne, courtesy of The Museum of Broadcast Communications