Barbara Frum

From Academic Kids

Barbara Frum (September 8, 1937-March 26, 1992) was one of Canada's most respected and influential journalists, a legendary news anchor for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Born in Niagara Falls, New York, Frum pursued studies in History at the University of Toronto. She married real estate developer Murray Frum in 1957.

After her graduation, Frum worked as a radio commentator and magazine writer. In 1971, she joined CBC Radio as one of the first hosts of As It Happens, a newsmagazine program which used the telephone to conduct live interviews with newsmakers and other witnesses to news events, as well as quirky human interest stories. Frum's skills as a tough, incisive and well-informed interviewer quickly made the program one of CBC Radio's most popular and enduring programs (it still airs today, in virtually the same format), and she continued to host until 1981.

Frum was named to the Order of Canada in 1979.

In 1981, CBC Television created The Journal, a newsmagazine series which would follow The National each night at 10:22 p.m., and Frum and Mary Lou Finlay were hired as the show's hosts. On January 11, 1982, The Journal debutted as a showcase for features which delved more deeply into the day's news than the traditional newscast format of The National.

The show included field reports, short documentaries, public forums, debates, business, sports, and arts and science news, but Frum's exceptional interview skills were the show's centrepiece, and made it one of Canadian television's most popular programs. After the first year, Frum became the sole host of the program, although Finlay continued to be associated with the program as a reporter and documentarian.

Frum was frequently parodied on CODCO by Greg Malone, whose portrayal involved the recurring catchphrase "But are you bitter?" One of the most memorable moments in the history of the Gemini Awards came when Frum and Malone (in his Frum drag) presented an award together. She was also parodied on Sesame Park (the Canadian version of Sesame Street), with a muppet named "Barbara Plum", host of "The Notebook".

Frum died of leukemia on March 26, 1992. Canadians were shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of one of Canadian television's most beloved broadcasters, and virtually the entire broadcast of both The National and The Journal that evening was a tribute to her and a retrospective of her career. Although some cultural commentators have suggested that the CBC using an entire newscast to pay tribute to one of its own hosts could be seen as a bit excessive, it was in fact one of the highest-rated individual programs in Canadian television history.

Frum was so influential and well-loved, in fact, that following her death, it was actually easier for the CBC to revamp its entire approach to news programming than to hire a new host for The Journal. In the fall of 1992, Prime Time News debutted with Peter Mansbridge and Pamela Wallin as equal cohosts of a package which replaced both The National and The Journal, combining news and Journal-style features into a single integrated program. However, this approach was not successful, and in 1995, The National returned to its old format, and was paired with The National Magazine.

The atrium ( in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto was named in Frum's honour.

Frum was the mother of journalists David Frum and Linda Frum.


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