'Global National' names new anchor

Canadian Dawna Friesen to head Canwest newscast

TORONTO -- NBC News foreign correspondent Dawna Friesen has been named to replace Kevin Newman as anchor and executive editor of "Global National," Canwest Global Communications Corp.'s flagship newscast.

Canadian Friesen worked for both CTV and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. before joining NBC in 1999 as a London-based correspondent and anchor for NBC News, "Today" and MSNBC.

Friesen, who traveled to a host of international hot spots, including the Balkans, Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan, during her NBC stint, said she always knew she'd return to Canada.

"It's a lot to take on. Canadians take their news seriously," she said in Toronto as Canwest Global unveiled its new top anchor.

The Manitoba farm girl who earned a 2009 Emmy for her part in the NBC coverage of Barack Obama's U.S. presidential victory relishes the chance to bring world news to Canadians from outside the American orbit.

"Canadians have a less insular view of the world than our colleagues to the south," Friesen said of her experience working for a U.S. network.

She will debut with "Global National" in September, anchoring a nightly newscast from 5:30 p.m.

Given her lengthy resume and small-town Canadian roots, Global Television executives said Friesen was a natural choice to replace Kevin Newman and connect with Canadians.

Newman, a former ABC news anchor, helped launch "Global National" as a nationwide newscast on September 2, 2011, just days before the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in New York City.

Global Television executives recognized the comforting presence Newman brought to "Global National," and so looked beyond their own and rival Canadian newsrooms to approach Friesen in London to gauge her interest in the Canuck gig.

Friesen said returning home will enable her to raise her five year-old son, who was born in London, as a Canadian.

"He thinks of himself as British. That has to change," she said wryly.

Troy Reeb, senior vp of news and current affairs at Canwest Broadcasting, who led the search for Newman's replacement, poured water on the notion that a network news anchor matters less and less in an increasingly digital world.

"As much as people get information from broader sources today, they still need someone to put it together for them," Reeb insisted.

Friesen's hire by Global Television-parent Canwest Global Communications Corp. marks the second time in a week a Canadian network has chosen a woman as its top news anchor.

CTV last Thursday named Lisa LaFlamme to replace Lloyd Robertson as host of "CTV National News" in late 2011.

While Friesen appeared reticent about making too much about her gender, she welcomed CTV and Global Television following the U.S. lead where Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric fill network anchor chairs.

"It's about time. I'm surprised it hasn't happened before," she said of the sudden proliferation of major female news anchors on Canadian TV.