TORONTO, ONTARIO - It hasn't sunk in yet. Barbara Budd's last night as co-host of As It Happens, the flagship CBC Radio One newsmagazine on weeknights, was tonight. Never again will we get to hear her distinct voice telling us the distance to Reading or that we have reached the dance portion of the program.
When I moved to Canada, one of my new co-workers tried to tell me that the "CBC had no 'names' amongst its hosts." "Are you kidding me?" I replied, "Barbara Budd is not a 'name'?" She was certainly a name to public radio listeners in the United States, at least in the relatively few markets that ran "As It Happens." To us, the quirkiness of the show was embodied in Budd herself, especially as she lent stability to the broadcast as co-hosts moved on to other assignments.
As discussed previously, Budd didn't leave the show voluntarily after 17 years, she was fired by the CBC as they move to replace announcers with journalists. The problem with that philosophy is that good radio is all about story-telling. Journalists certainly can tell stories, but when the task is also about stringing disparate stories together, I'd rather have a actor take on the task.
The reason Barbara Budd is a 'name' and is so beloved to her listeners is that she guided us through the serious and absurd stories of the day, providing the glue throughout a presentation that was appointment radio, informing and entertaining a nation. Apparently, the CBC is so focused on quality journalism that it has discounted the role of an announcer like Budd in creating good radio.
I suppose we'll still get to hear Budd's voice on occasion on the broadcast. Much as predecessor Alan Maitland's "The Shepherd" is played each year on Christmas Eve, we'll likely be treated to several repeat Budd readings each year. It won't be the same, though. I hope Barbara Budd finds a more lucrative position where she is appreciated now. I may not have been listening for 17 years, but I have been listening long enough to understand what we are losing. Thank you, Barbara. You will be missed.