Senior VP Michael Clemente of Fox “News” made the rumors official today when he announced John Roberts, former-anchor of CNN and CBS, will be joining the so-called “news” network as a senior national correspondent based in Atlanta.
I know John Roberts personally and, I have to say, I am highly disappointed.
John & I once worked for the same television station in Toronto: Citytv. One day the definitive, book-length history of Citytv will be written. When it is the rest of the world will come to know that many of the innovations in broadcasting we now take for granted were invented at Citytv. Two examples: 1). Citytv was the first station to use video-tape for news. Prior to that news was shot on film and had to be developed before it could be edited. Now the entire industry is known as ENG or Electronic News Gathering; 2). The newsroom doubling as the set where the anchor delivers the news. Both of these developments were actually born of necessity. Citytv started off with a shoe-string budget and these were cheaper alternatives than either buying a film processor or building a newsroom set. But that is all history is for another day.
Back when I knew John Roberts he was known as J.D. Roberts. He was a VJ, a newly-minted nomenclature for a new kind of programming: a video jockey playing newly-minted videos for teenagers. “Toronto Rocks” was just a one-hour show on weekday afternoons, but J.D. Roberts was just getting started. When the CRTC (Canada’s equivalent of the FCC) awarded a license for an all-video channel, MuchMusic (Canada’s MTV) was born and J.D. Roberts became Canada’s national VJ.
in the video below, he is interviewing The Spoons, one of Canada’s big hair bands of the ‘80s.
Skip ahead a number of years and J.D. was getting restless. He was telegenic and smart, and the monotony of introducing videos must have been draining. He obviously wanted something better—just as he was obviously capable of something better—and pushed station management to give him a new opportunity. He wanted to move into hard news. He was granted this wish and he paid his dues, starting as a general assignment reporter. However, as I say, he was telegenic and smart and quickly moved up the ranks. Eventually he became weekend anchor of CityPulse.
But J.D. became restless again.
Obviously he was looking for wider horizons and that meant a move to the United States, where many Canadians feel validated. Changing his name to John Roberts, J.D. never looked back. At one point he was in the south Florida market. It was always gratifying, when I visited my parents, to see John anchoring the local CBS Miami newscast.
As I say, John was telegenic and smart. Skip ahead a few more years and John became CBS News’ White House Correspondent. A few years later he was tapped to be Dan Rather’s sit-in on the CBS national newscast. It was rumored that when Rather retired John would be given the anchor chair. However, all that changed when Dan Rather was fired over the George W. Bush service records fiasco and Roberts found himself on the outs, as CBS News wanted to distance itself from the old, discredited, regime.
However, John landed on his feet at CNN because he’s telegenic and smart. In fact, John is a very good newsman and has moved light years away from his humble beginnings as a Video Jockey for teenagers.
That’s why this move to Fox “News” is so inexplicable to me. From my conversations with J.D., and what else I know of him, I would have put him as slightly left of center on the political scale, as are most average Canadians. To be fair, it’s been almost 2 decades since I’ve exchanged any conversation with J.D. and people do change over time. Maybe John Roberts is more Right Wing than the J.D. Roberts of MuchMusic fame.
However, I plan to be on the lookout for John Roberts pushing the “death panels” meme and hope he never makes a negative comparison to the Canadian Health Care System.
Oh, John!!! What has happened to you? This feels like such a "Luke, I am your father" moment.
(image via screen grab)
(Note: This post was originally published on January 3, 2011 but was lost after our site moved to our current host. It is being republished, with its original date, on July 10, 2022. The original post had a second video from one of Roberts' early newscasts but the YouTube associated with that account has been terminated. Also, in the original post, both videos were in the body of the post, which is not possible on our current site. )