Re-discovering Ontario

photo (6)

Growing up in Toronto/GTA is like existing in a bubble: everything you need is here, so why bother looking anywhere else? Having grown up in this world, I’m all too familiar with the downsides of ‘bubble-living’ and the narrow-minded city dwellers that kind of lifestyle produces. Its a big part of the reason why I was so keen on leaving Ontario to pursue my career in this industry.

It wasn’t until I left Toronto/GTA and made my way to other parts of the country–particularly western Canada–that I realized just how much Canadians *dislike* (hate is just so strong a word) Toronto (hereafter referred to as the ‘Centre of the Universe’). However, that feeling is also alive and well within the province too.

I have a number of friends/colleagues who proudly call Toronto home–and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Yet, this week, I also caught up with some of my girlfriends from University who happily call smaller, lesser known Ontario towns, home–Fergus, for example–and are just as happy as my city-dwelling friends. It’s worth noting that these country converts have also lived and worked in Toronto–they know very well what they’re leaving behind…

…The same things I was also all too eager to ditch back in 2010: unbearable traffic, a stressful commute, smog, an un-affordable housing market and, to be honest, a city that had begun to feel just a bit tired.

Being close to ‘The Centre of Universe’ means I’m closer to my family–and that’s a nice feeling–but I’ve only been back to Toronto 3 times in 2 months. In that time, I’ve noticed traffic has gotten worse, the commute even more stressful…and the people less patient. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, perhaps this return to Ontario is a chance to re-discover my home province–you know, see how the rest of the universe is living. My University girlfriends have given me a list of events that I *must* attend and I plan on taking them all in (suggestion are welcome!). The countdown to the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games 2015 has already begun.

 

Nadia

Questions for Toronto’s future mayor

 

justahead_bigbanner

Toronto hasn’t been home for me for the last few years, still I always keep an eye on the city’s municipal elections–particularly, the candidates vying for Toronto’s top job. Mayoral races in the city are always exciting: closely watched, hard fought and full of surprises. This year has been no exception.

There are just two months to go before Torontonians will choose their next mayor–October 27, 2014, to be exact. I’ve been poking around, asking friends of mine whether or not they’ve made up their minds. The short answer: some have, but many haven’t. I’ve had friends tell me they’re ready for change–that the city’s current leadership (Mayor Rob Ford) is overdue for removal. On the flipside, I’ve had friends tell me there’s nothing wrong with the status quo.

I also have friends who are still on the fence enjoying the view… 

…And over the last few days and weeks, there’s been lots too see: accusations of ‘dirty politics’ between candidates, dust-ups at other mayoral debates. The candidates have discussed heritage preservation and the all important topic of transit.

Also ahead on the agenda: diversity. Mayoral Debate

This week (Friday, August 29), the Diversity Advancement Network will host it’s own mayoral debate. I’m told the three leading candidates in the race–Olivia Chow, Rob Ford and John Tory–will all be there, along with Dewitt Lee, one of the mayoral long shots. I should point out that while she is on the poster, Karen Stintz won’t be there as she’s dropped out of the race.

Last week, I was contacted by Paul Ade with the DAN to help them come up with a few questions. As a voter, I think debates are key in helping people make up their minds. As a reporter, debates are exciting to cover… but are always a challenge: there are always more questions than there is time.

Still, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this debate. In addition to questions I have, I canvassed my Facebook friends for questions they also would like to have answered. Here are the 5 that made the list:

 
  1. TRANSPORTATION: What is your plan for transportation across the GTA? Will other municipalities play ball with Metrolinx? More importantly, for any of your proposed plans, how will it be paid for?
  2. YOUTH: What are your plans to help at risk youths in vulnerable communities?
  3. COMMUNITY AND POLICING: How will you work with law enforcement in Toronto to foster an open and healthy relationship between the city’s many diverse groups and Police?
  4. LEADERSHIP: The city of Toronto hasn’t always had a mayor who reflects the entire city. In the past, mayors have appealed to voters in the suburbs, but not in the inner-city–and vice versa. What makes you a leader whom all Torontonians should support?
  5. OFFICE OF THE MAYOR: Over the last few years, the office of the mayor has suffered a few blows to its reputation. While Toronto remains a well liked and popular city, it hasn’t always been cast in the best light. What will you do to bolster this city’s reputation?

So, what do you think–anything missing? There’s still time to get a few more questions in.

 

Nadia

“Reporting LIVE, from the top of this box…”

standing on two boxes
“Reporting LIVE, from the top of this box…”

I still remember one of my first live hits in Newfoundland–a story about Kathy Dunderdale not too long before she became Premier–and nervously going over my script, while my camera man shuffled around me. Everything was in place–the monitor behind me, the lights, my mic was on–but there was just one problem: I was too short.

Since 2010, this has been the story of my reporter life. No matter what city I find myself in, live truck operators, directors, shooters have to break out the box–sometimes multiple boxes–to compensate for my vertical challenges.

standing on a box in edmonton

I’ve been doing this long enough now to know that a few times a week, I will find myself reporting live from the top of a box. For some reason, elections seem to highlight just how short some of us are (see below).

So far at CTV Kitchener, I haven’t had to stand on a box (give it time), but I have had to…modify the anchor chair…slightly. Over the course of my first few days on the anchor desk, I could tell that something was different, but I just couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was. After watching the show (twice), it finally hit me: I was too short for the anchor desk. The only problem was that the height of the chair couldn’t be adjusted.

The solution: a stack of papers and a pillow.

"Coming to you LIVE, from atop this pillow..."
“Coming to you LIVE, from atop this cushion…”

 

I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as I’m in television news, I will always be perched atop something for the purposes of the camera. I’ll also forever get a chuckle out of the viewers who remark how I look so much taller on television…

 

While interviewing Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil on election night, a Sun News reporter needed quite the boost.
While interviewing Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil on election night, a Sun News reporter needed quite the boost.
During last year's municipal election in Calgary, I too needed a boost.
During last year’s municipal election in Calgary, I too needed a boost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off-Air Adventure: (finally) meeting Catherine of Kaela Kay

Kaela Kay Meetup 004

Twitter is an amazing thing.

Last summer, I came across Catherine Addai on the Twitterverse. She was promoting her new line, Kaela Kay, on social media…and I was smitten at first click.

Off-camera, I love wearing prints, bold jewelry and statement pieces, but those fashion choices often don’t work well in my day-to-day world of news. So, when the opportunity presents itself–events, functions at the station or just socially–I dig out those pieces that reflect another side of my personal style.

So, last summer when looking for something to wear to the Black Gold Awards in Calgary, a piece by Kaela Kay seemed like a great idea…and it was.

This week, after more than a year of interacting via social media, I finally got the chance to meet Catherine. In her humble basement studio we chatted (for 90 minutes!) about everything from fashion, to life on-air, life off-air and about the joys (and sometimes challenges) of being a Black woman in Canada. It was great.

Very much looking forward to this fashionable friendship.

Kaela Kay Meetup 009

“You must be from Africa!”

I’m always blown away (and, I’ll admit, entertained) when viewers try to figure out where I’m from. Personally, I’m not sure why it matters–it doesn’t really. However, no matter what city I’ve found myself working in, there’s no shortage of people who like to guess.

So, when another viewer set about guessing my origins recently, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before. The viewer saw me shooting and excitedly proclaimed, “You must be from Africa!”

This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened…and Lord knows it won’t be the last! Here are the top 5 countries people have guessed over the years:

  1. Nigeria
  2. Zimbabwe
  3. Cambodia (This one I’ll never understand!)
  4. Trinidad
  5. Scotland

I’ve had this same conversation with viewers so many times over the years that I’m not at all taken aback by their comments. In this case, I just smiled and told them that I was born and raised in Toronto, but my parents are from the Caribbean.

I have to say, this “Guess the Homeland” phenomenon is only one that I’ve experienced since I moved away from Toronto/GTA in 2006. When I lived on the east coast, this happened frequently–a few times a week. I thought it would die down when I moved out west…but that didn’t happen at all!

I’m never offended by these comments, however I do often find myself feeling just a little disappointed. Its impossible to look at someone and know exactly where they’re from or what their backstory is–and yet people do it. Everyday. Coming to conclusions based on what they see.

In my case, it’s totally harmless: there’s never any malice behind the comments.  That said, I’m sure what happens to me also happens to others in Canadian cities…and sometimes, it’s not so harmless. Rather than guessing and coming to conclusions, what people are really missing out on is an opportunity to get to know someone: find out where they’re *really* from and what they’re all about.

I don’t think I’ll ever work in a city where this won’t happen. To some extent, I think when you work in the media, this sort of thing is just par for the course.

I just wonder what country (or continent) a viewer will guess next…

Off-Air Adventure: St. Jacobs

 

August 3 194

 

Last weekend, I decided to head to the Village of St. Jacobs to check it out. After passing through 4 cities in 4 years, I’ve learned the only way to get to know the market is to get out and explore the market.

I grew up in Ontario–spent the first 26 years of my life here–and yet I have to admit that I still know little about it beyond Toronto and the GTA. Sadly, I think this is true for most people who grew up in Toronto/GTA. It can feel like a bubble and everyone who lives outside that bubble simply doesn’t exist. Now, I was never THAT closed-minded, but I do admit to minimal exploration. My time in Newfoundland and Labrador is what really prompted me to change my ways: when there’s so much to explore in your own backyard, why not explore it?

So, St. Jacobs. It wasn’t a busy Sunday in the Village, but there were plenty of tourists like me. It felt like what I imagine much of small-town Ontario feels like: quaint, quiet, a simple life. The shops were all inviting, the people friendly and the selection of unique products sometimes overwhelming. I will certainly be heading back to St. Jacobs Country because I MUST check out the farmer’s market. Perhaps that will be next Saturday’s adventure…

 

Fought the urge to buy everything in this store...
Fought the urge to not buy everything in this store…

August 3 190

Best jam I've had in a LONG time!
Best jam I’ve had in a LONG time!

 

For some reason, this reminded me of Alberta...
For some reason, this reminded me of Alberta…

August 3 197

Something else that reminded me of Alberta. One of the many truly unique products I spotted in the Village.
Something else that reminded me of Alberta. One of the many truly unique products I spotted in the Village.

August 3 204

Banter with Strangers

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…

This time last year, I was getting ready to mark my one year anniversary with CBC Calgary…and there was lots to celebrate. I had a great job, with great friends in a great city. Though I knew someday (soon), I’d be ready for change, I didn’t think that change would come by force…

…but it did. On May 1st, 2014. When the axe fell at the CBC, I wasn’t on the right side of it. If you’ve ever been laid off, then you know what a wave of emotions that experience is like: shock, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion. The CBC had decided to consolidate it’s weekend newscasts in Alberta. Rather than having a show in Calgary and Edmonton, it was decided that the show would be done out of Edmonton and the team in Calgary would be no more.

My bosses assured all of us there would be work and, for me, there were offers of work in Calgary, Ottawa and beyond. However, with the CBC taking a new (and very unclear) path towards a predominantly digital strategy, I decided that maybe it was time for change.

So, when CTV Kitchener came knocking, I answered.

ctv live hit

I’m very happy I did, for the record.

It has been almost a month into my time here and the experience has been wonderful… and eyeopening. After spending 4.5 years with the public broadcaster, this adventure into news with a private broadcaster is just that–a new and exciting adventure. There are similarities…but I can’t even begin to list the differences between the two…I wouldn’t even know where to start.

There is one change, though, that does stand out: Anchoring.

Up until I crossed-over, I’d always believed that reporting was tougher than anchoring. You have to chase, gather, battle with PR reps and (if you’re a CBC reporter) edit your own stories. It was a straight up, full on hustle. As for anchoring, I’d become so used to the style, that I don’t think I realized how tough it actually was. The shows were so tightly scripted: throws to and from the Weather Anchor were the only real opportunity to showcase your personality, but those moments were brief.

ctv kitchener anchor desk

Enter CTV and their not-so-tightly scripted approach to newscasts. There’s lots of news…and plenty of opportunities to just loosen up and let your personality shine through. Plus, there’s a SPORTS ANCHOR! I haven’t worked on a newscast with a Sports Anchor in 4.5 years!

For this first week of anchoring, every moment–every throw–felt awkward. The directors voices in my ear were different, the show formats were different, the co-anchors were different, the anchor desk felt different (My boss tells me everything looked good to him, so I guess I’m doing something right!). Even though I personally knew the weather anchor, she might as well have been a complete stranger on that first day. Interacting with her and everyone else felt like banter with strangers.

However, as my days on the desk continue, that feeling is slowly starting to dissipate.  Sitting  at the anchor desk still feels weird, but its a ‘good’ weird. An ‘I’m happy to be here’ kinda weird. The people I work with are starting to feel less like strangers and more like co-workers…some of them, more like friends.

In the long run, this move will prove to be good for me in more ways than one. CTV Kitchener is definitely committed to local news and the local audience, so they’re a great station to cut my teeth at…and I do feel like I’m working with a company where growth and progress won’t at all be a problem. I also have a new found appreciation for change and a renewed love for news and anchoring.

Change is, indeed, good.