Journal's demise a sad story

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:24 PM ET


 The Canadian sports scene is losing one of its most tenacious media watchdogs.

 Say goodbye to Sports Journal, the critically acclaimed CBC Newsworld weekly show fronted by Tom Harrington. The series, which has dug its nose into sports issues untouched elsewhere on television, is the latest victim of the seemingly endless budgetary pressures at the CBC.

 "The whole corporation is under some financial pressures, and everybody is being asked to deal with it and reduce some expenditures," said CBC spokeswoman Ruth-Ellen Soles.

 "It's just an ongoing reality."

 Those pressures, Soles said, include a combination of "increased salary and pension costs, a directive to reduce travel expenses by 10%, and a $10-million reduction in the (federal government) allocation."

 Sports Journal is being "reconfigured" and will contribute feature material to a new, as-yet-untitled Newsworld signature show that launches in September.

 While the future for Harrington, a contract employee, and reporter Lisa Bowes is uncertain at the moment, Soles said "the (Sports Journal) unit is still intact."

 Repeats will be shown until the Athens Olympics, with six Sports Journal specials set to air on the road to the Games. A few more special editions are planned before the book is closed on the show in the fall.

 A show, it says here, that will surely be missed.

 PUCK DROPPINGS: The obligatory tirades have already started about the lack of Saturday night playoff hockey on CBC this weekend. But while it surely is an affront to a Canadian tradition, don't think for a minute folks in our fair land are less inclined toward playoff viewing. Consider that the two best audience figures for Hockey Night in Canada in the first round -- 3.9 million (Game 6, Senators-Leafs) and 3.679 million (Game 7, same series) -- were recorded on a Sunday and Tuesday, respectively. Bottom line: As long as Canadian teams remain in the Stanley Cup hunt (well, one in particular), then any night can qualify as hockey night in Canada ... CBC's Round 1 average of 1.987 million was the highest since the current "people meter" system of audience monitoring was first employed in 1989 ... Monday's Game 7 numbers: Canadiens-Bruins, 2.293 million; Flames-Canucks, 2.595 million ... CBC is moving Don Wittman and Glenn Healy to the Red Wings-Flames series, while Chris Cuthbert and Greg Millen work Canadiens-Lightning.

 FEELING THE AXE (PART DEUX): Also on the CBC chopping block in the wake of this week's cutbacks -- its sports documentary unit, which has been dismantled. The group, headed up by Paul Harrington (Tom's brother), has produced some fascinating work since being set up in 1999. Harrington, a 28-year network veteran and Carleton University journalism grad, will be reassigned elsewhere within the CBC.

 AROUND THE DIAL: NFL draftniks, take note. TSN offers three hours of coverage of your favourite event starting tomorrow at noon ... TSN's second-round NHL playoff preview show Tuesday night pulled in 209,000, slightly higher than Blue Jays baseball on the 'Net (182,000).


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