Robert Hurst, the president of CTV News and Current Affairs, is leaving the network after 38 illustrious years.
The veteran newsman, who has held the top news job at CTV since September 2002, announced the decision Wednesday morning to staff gathered in CTV National newsroom, who offered him a standing ovation.
With an Olympics behind him and a federal election and a royal wedding still months away, the timing was right for him to step down from his position in an organization where he’d spent his entire career.
Hurst’s departure comes five months after journalist Lisa LaFlamme was chosen to succeed Lloyd Robertson, who is retiring as the anchor of CTV National News, the country’s most-watched newscast.
It also comes three months after Bell Canada parent company BCE announced plans to buy CTV Inc.
He is also leaving at a pivotal time for CTV News as an organization. With BCE in the process of acquiring full ownership of CTV and with Bell executive Kevin Crull named to take over from long-time CTV president and chief executive officer Ivan Fecan once that deal goes through, Hurst is leaving before the new boss arrives.
“I’ve been through three or four ownership changes and senior management changes,” Hurst said. “It’s a clear business cycle. And you know what? If I can choose my moment and my time to go out at the top, why wouldn’t I do that?”
Hurst also noted the heavy demands of his job as a reason to leave. “Me and my senior staff, we carry a burden on our shoulders. Last week, when I told my bosses [about my decision], I had three crews in war zones. I had somebody on the island off North Korea, who was locked down for a day. And I had people in Afghanistan, and [anchor] Lisa LaFlamme was in Haiti.”
Two reporters died during Hurst’s years on the job. One was a helicopter cameraman, who died in an accident Montreal. The other was a news stringer in Afghanistan (who wasn’t working for CTV at that time) who was murdered. “Those things take it out of you,” he said.
… It was his 15 years in executive jobs – in a suit, as he says – which may be his most prominent mark on CTV News, known for its populist take on the evening news.
“That’s a word we all use. We’re going to do populist stories. We don’t do long think pieces. My first interest in news is world affairs, because I spent so much time overseas. But I know that people in this country want their Canadian news first. And they want to downplay federal political news.”