Another in a series of postings on CBC captioning (also see the separate page on the topic)

Dedicated readers – surely the only kind I have – will of course recall my references to a blog (short for “Web log,” a form of online journal or diary) written by an heterosexualist captioner at CBC. Readers will have wondered why I didn’t simply link to it. First, it was a skill-testing question: Would readers be smart enough to look somewhere else? Second, I didn’t want to spook the author. Now, though, I no longer particularly care if I spook him, particularly given his recent postings.

Who am I talking about? Step right up, “Nugget,” author of Dignan and Anthony.

“Nugget” has to be the least plausible nickname of 2006, and it seems obvious to me that Nugget gave it to himself, sort of like “the bar-persona that will guarantee that girls will like [him].” It isn’t a real nickname if you come up with it yourself. In fact, the autosobriquet is surely a tragic call for help, a flare shot nerdily skyward in the hopes of being spotted by someone authentically cool. “Nugget.” Give me a break.

When not discussing captioning, his blog is surely the most boring in Canada. When he is discussing it, Nugget is a goldmine.

The accidental captioner

So: What is this guy’s story? Well, based on his published evidence (all the way down to his Blogger profile), Nugget is a teacher, or at least he is someone with a teaching degree locked in ongoing search of a teaching job. (I thought we had a shortage of teachers, particularly of males – and, for that matter, extra-particularly of straight males.)

How the hell does a teacher end up doing captioning at the CBC? Simple: He kept applying for jobs there and this is the only one they’d interview him for.

I got an interesting phone call this morning from the CBC. Over the past few months, I have been applying for jobs at the Corporation and I finally got a call asking for an interview. The job is for a closed captioner, which certainly isn’t an ideal position for me but one that I think wouldn’t be too difficult to handle. I need a job to keep myself busy and one that will last through the summer. I’ve come to the sad realization that I will have to take a summer job. […] I’m hoping that this job will lead to something better, and might be a stepping stone to a full-time position doing something a little more my style and interest.


I hope that the CBC gives me this job so I can stop this hideous search. Nevertheless, it was this application that seems to have stood out enough for a test, an interview, and, yes, an employment offer. I went in today, and it was one of those interviews that you know isn’t really an interview at all, but is an explanation of the job that they have, essentially, already given me. I’m not sure exactly why I was chosen over the other candidates, and it makes me a little nervous that I might be getting into something unpleasant. I mean, I couldn’t have been the only person who spelled “occasionally” right on the spelling test. I couldn’t have been the only one who noticed the you’re/your error on the grammar test. Still, I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t take this job, except for the fact that I will be working.

I will work from 1:00 pm until 9:00 pm with dinner and breaks. I will be working a maximum of 38.5 hours per week. The schedule is based on 14 days, which will involve 10 days on and four days off. Anything above 38.5 hours will pay time and a half. I will have dental and medical as well. I probably shouldn’t publish the salary, but it’s enough.

Actually, it couldn’t be less than $38,250.20, according to the union’s published salary figures (PDF).

The job will not be hugely intellectually stimulating, I don’t expect, as I will simply have to type all day. It sounds like there will be some very stressful times, but that’s why bars were invented. I will have work piled up on my desk and a lot of demands, but I don’t think that it will be anything that I can’t handle. At any rate, it will be nice to be out of the house and doing something. After all, I will be paid to watch television all day. I just have to make sure that I don’t type an “i” in [the] sentence: “Could you give me your pens, please?”

Adequacy of CBC captioner training

Nugget’s firsthand account of the CBC interview and testing experience pretty much demolishes the claimed adequacy of CBC’s “testing designed specifically to evaluate captioning abilities.” The way you test captioning abilities is through captioning, not on paper with a list of homonyms. Actually, the test is even easier than that:

I headed down to the CBC building today to have what I thought was an interview. It turns out that I only had to take a test. I had to proofread a two-page essay, and to correct 15 misspelled words. It was quite easy and I finished in 14 minutes. I just hope that I didn’t make any stupid mistakes. The essay was such a complete piece of garbage that wanted to completely rewrite it rather than simply correct the grammatical errors.

And indeed, CBC seems to phase in its training of captioning techniques:

Yesterday, I used a captioning style called Pop On [sic], and I practised on what might be the worst part of my job: Children’s programming. One of the obvious drawbacks of captioning work is the repetition. Throughout all the different stages, you have to watch the same source material over and over again in order to get it done right. The problem with the show that I was working on yesterday, is that it was a show for preschoolers and was non-stop sugary singing. I captioned 12 episodes, and by the end of the day I thought that I was certifiably insane.

When you work on shows like that, you really want to make sure that you get it right the first time, so that you don’t have to go back and fix things up later, and have to watch it a few more times.

Today was totally relaxed. There were two 15-second promos that needed to be done. That translates into about six minutes of work, so I spent the day catching up on other shows. We are working on a British drama series and it isn’t half bad.

Pop-on captions are, of course, reserved for high-glamour programming like Godzilla movies. (2006.05.30: “I did manage to work on Gidrah: The Three-Headed Monster, which has easily become one of the bad-funniest movies I’ve ever seen.”) According to Nugget’s transcript, even Clint Eastwood gets scrollup.

Captioning plus subtitling

My persistent complaints about uncaptioned subtitled programming (a concept inexpressible in U.K. and Irish English) is partially addressed:

I got to work 10 minutes early and started captioning. I was working on the Jet Li movie Hero. Subtitled movies are the best to caption. It’s only sound effects and music which makes it very efficient. That movie, though, was quite disappointing. I found it so boring. It was beautiful to look at and the cinematography was great, but I found the gratuitous fight scenes cumbersome and uninteresting. Now I’m on to a Quebecois [sic] movie and it looks decent so far. Again, it’s subtitled.

“Some satisfaction”

Nugget is not entirely without pride in his work: “If you watched [a certain movie,] you would have seen George Stroumboulopoulos hosting. I captioned all of his segments. I took some satisfaction from seeing my work on national television.”

Staff & turnover

There is certainly a bit of turnover in CBC captioning jobs. In fact, the person he replaced had put in for a transfer.

It turns out that Nugget is not the only male captioner there. There’s at least one other (also heterosexualist?). This is unusual, as most captioners in Canada are women in their 20s with next to no life experience and with liberal-arts degrees they can’t use. (A female-dominated workforce is just as undesirable as a male-dominated one.)

But surely the question of the hour is: Which of his coworkers is the “controlling” one and which is the “loudmouth”?

Meanwhile, in Nugget’s métier

Our man Nugget here really wants to be a teacher. Commendable, really, though that does imply that he shouldn’t be doing captioning. Once, he went into work on his day off to complete some online Ministry of Education courses. (He has elsewhere complained about his neighbours’ weak wifi, which seems to be his only net connection at home.)

He’s actually been through a few interviews for teaching positions, usually on scheduled days off:


I was called yesterday about a job, and I’ve arranged to have an interview on April 4. I’m not sure how I’m going to get there (lendy, lendy?), or how I’m going to get off work for the day, but I will have to think of something. I was encouraged that I’ve, at least, had some interest, and, while the position isn’t “the dream job,” I won’t know until I go and visit. It might be something that I take as a stepping stone to something better next year.


I have a job interview on Tuesday, and I have to create a lesson plan so that I can teach a class and show them what an innovative and creative teacher I am. I can do that for 45 minutes. I will have to spend most of Monday preparing for that and getting psyched.


The CBC is a good thing, but the closed captioning thing needs work.


I guess I’m just not sure where I’m going. I should be working hard to find a teaching job, but I am so disillusioned about the profession that I am very seriously considering binning the whole career. I know that the longer I stay at the CBC the longer I will be working in a job that really doesn’t challenge me. It was a job I took short term, and the longer I stay, the better the chance that I will never leave. No one wants to work for 35 years in a job that they took simply because it was short term.

[There will still be captioning in 2041? Will it still be in scrollup?]


Second interview on Friday morning! The only problem now is that I’m even closer to actually getting a real job.

Plan C

Nugget certainly merits sympathy for his position as breadwinner in his extended family, something he has glancingly explained on his blog. Though it isn’t the job he wants, working as a captioner at CBC fulfills his responsibilities, and that too is commendable. Nonetheless, if captioning doesn’t work out and, unfortunately, teaching doesn’t, either, Nugget has a minor Plan C at the ready: He’s already pitched a radio show.

Captioning schedule

Weekends and weekdays have different schedules: “The weekends are our catch-up days where we don’t have a huge amount of daily work, but instead work on series and individual programming. I was working on an excellent British crime series called Hustle. It is thoroughly entertaining, and that makes the job a million times more enjoyable” (than kids’ shows, presumably).

Painful memories of teenage crushes

And on that topic, what happens if you have a crush on a woman in a show you’re captioning? Or had one, at least? And what if you also cannot stand the show?

The… show was an exercise in torture: An hour-long concert of big-band music that was in 1940s style…. [T]he cringe factor was off the chart. Another thing that was really disturbing is that used to have a crush on the woman singing. She used to host a kids’ TV program that I used to watch…. I couldn’t help but think as I captioned the show how foolish I had been. Though she had aged, she still looked much the same. Each second that I watched of her performance, the more embarrassed, sad, and just plain upset I became. Numerous times I shouted at the computer screen pleading for this to be over. The hour-long show was so unabashedly annoying that I could hardly stand to watch it…. They would have had to pay me to watch this show, and fortunately, they did.

It made me think a lot about why I was so angered by someone who clearly loved what she was doing. I think that it all boils down to respect. I can respect someone who cares about their job, or their hobbies, a charity, or their house. I just couldn’t respect this woman’s passion, because of the cold, hard fact that she just wasn’t very good.

Words to live by, Nugget?

This is what “publishing” means, people

You may be concerned that I am shining undue light on Nugget’s griping and insubordination, to use uncharitable descriptions. Well, I’m not doing that: He posted it on a public blog and I am critiquing it publicly. I just hadn’t done so until now, save for that obvious precedent nobody looked up. I had, moreover, sent him two E-mails inviting him out for coffee. That too was a skill-testing question: Could he follow a link in an E-mail .sig or simply Google?

Policy lessons

Some lessons in corporate blogging can be drawn from the Nugget example.

This is what happens…

  • when an old company hires young people who live online: They blog!
  • to a company with no blogging policy: People blog anyway, and say what they really think. They control the agenda.
  • when you do not, in fact, care enough to hire the very best: Their blogs become bitch sessions, however discreet and genteel.

In short, this is what happens when you’re the national public broadcaster, you don’t have a blogging policy, and somebody else has to write one for you.

Do not dooce Nugget

I can just imagine Peggy Zulauf or Brigitte Ouellet eventually finding out about this posting (I envisage them as too clueless to keep up) and then demanding a meeting with Nugget, presumably behind closed doors. (I’ve visited the offices of both Zulauf and Ouellet.) Can you just imagine the interrogation that will result, conducted with CBC management’s renowned grace and tact?

Surely they will try to induce Nugget to delete either his blog or any reference to CBC or captioning. He will probably just roll over (I don’t give him much credit), but he should stand his ground. It’s his blog and his life; he can write what he wants. He’s also a union member, and he should keep that in mind if CBC tries to fuck him over, as is their wont.

Additionally, I have retained all postings of interest and excerpted them here, with attribution and for the purposes of criticism and review. He can delete them in one place if he wants, but they’ll still exist somewhere else. To burn down one’s own library of Alexandria is pointless and is, moreover, as harmful to oneself as it is to
one’s readers.

Dedicated workers are the preferred kind

If you think I’m picking on poor Nugget, I’m not, save for his ridiculous nickname. We’ve all had stopgap jobs. I think he should continue applying for, and interviewing for, teaching jobs even while captioning at CBC.

My issue is merely this. It’s my experience that nearly all the nondisabled people who work in accessibility either have disabled family or friends or fell into the field accidentally. But if you do not actually like the work or are unsuited to it, you really should leave. The rights of people with disabilities are too important to entrust to amateurs, charlatans, ingrates, or anyone who simply does not like what they’re doing. Nugget, this may mean you. It likely also means nearly everyone else in Canadian captioning.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.08.13 23:16. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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