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The Ruttle Report - 'W5' exit makes for an unknown news landscape

"With its forced exit, the landscape of Canadian media just becomes even more unknown and raises even more questions..."
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On a weekend evening a few weeks ago, an institution of Canadian television news media held its final episode.

With its forced exit, the landscape of Canadian media just becomes even more unknown and raises even more questions about the trust and integrity that the media in our country should have when it comes to tackling the stories and issues that matter to readers and viewers.

I'm talking, of course, about the CTV consumer news program, 'W5'. Bell Media, who of course owns CTV, decided that 58 years of incredible research, captivating stories, and on-the-fence overseeing of a litany of consumer matters, personal life journeys, criminal investigations, and every sort of story in between was "enough", and W5's final episode aired on Saturday night, March 23, 2024.

The only thing that's been said about the future of the program is that a portion of similar content will run on CTV's news website and in the nightly national news programming from time to time.

But let's just call it for what it is, shall we?

W5 is gone. The last rites have been read, the flowers have been laid, and the shovel has just finished topping off the grave with one last haul of fresh soil.

Something that was trustworthy, without prejudice, and uniquely Canadian is now gone forever.

The stories of this final episode, at least, were enjoyable to watch.

The first story examined the 2023 double murder of talented animator/director Daniel Langlois and his partner Dominique Marchand on the island of Dominica. Their brutal deaths may have been related to, of all things, a dispute over an island road. The second story of the episode focused on Emily Nash, an 18-year-old from the Ottawa area who can recall just about every moment in her life with precise detail. This type of super-memory could potentially help advance medical and scientific research into finding a cure for dementia.

Taking a few minutes at the very end to highlight the show's history, there were scenes showed that spotlighted W5's impressive and award-winning investigations from over the years, as well as footage of Canadian celebrities that had been interviewed and showcased. As well, there was some footage of the farewells seen from past hosts such as Eric Malling, Ken Cavanagh, and Helen Hutchinson, as well as three more recent show hosts, Lloyd Robertson, Kevin Newman, and Avery Haines.

That was all she wrote, folks. It's a wrap. Cut to black, strike the sets, and cancel that last coffee order to Tim's.

Assigning blame with such a decision to end a show that was labeled as the "gold standard of Canadian broadcast journalism" certainly isn’t difficult. However, what will be incredibly difficult, and possibly even impossible, is finding new ways to continue producing the type of important work that W5 achieved since its first episode way back on September 11, 1966.

As a result of such an absence of reliable, fact-based work that's been carried out for decades, our country's news and media landscape just becomes even more questionable by all the talking heads online and those who choose to take a hard stance on the right or the left and refuse to see things from someone else's point of view. It also deals another blow to the system created by an unbiased, un-"bought", across-the-board world of journalists, reporters and broadcasters, further eroding the fair and balanced stance that the media must take on all matters that are important to our modern world's readers, listeners and viewers.

We in the media are already working in a world with basically one arm tied behind our backs as far as gaining and keeping the trust of our publics. Terminating something as credible and with as much reach as W5 only takes that proverbial rope and starts to move it over to the other arm for a lot of journalists in 2024.
I guess I'm just grateful that I've been doing what I do for as long as I have, and I'm happy that I still have the trust and faith of my readers.

Because for those who are only *starting* their careers in journalism today, I can only imagine that it's basically like waking up every day and having to put your arm in that rope.

And the reason that it happens is partly due to the cold and short-sighted decisions made by giant conglomerate media giants to essentially cut out the bottom of the ship and watch as the water overtakes everything, with no signs of a life boat seen anywhere in the distance.

Repeating the same level of success that W5 had and attaining those same high levels of trust and respect in today's news landscape in Canada is an impossibility, and in my opinion, it seems like as if it's designed to be that way. W5 was iconic, entertaining, unbiased, trustworthy, interesting, eye-opening, and a joy to watch.

For reasons known only to billionaires in glass towers, it will also turn out to be the last of its kind.

Why does it seem like we're always fighting against everyone else for some much-needed trust and basic respect?

For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.