When it comes to building relationships with journalists and newsrooms, there are no hard and fast rules. I don’t have a step-by-step process for you to follow: this is really about making the time to build a rapport and relationship. As such, this isn’t unlike any other strategic relationship you’ve built as a nonprofit leader, so apply the same principles you have in the past.
However, for those of you who might be new to this, here are 3 tips for building relationships with reporters in and out of season:
1. Start with your contact list. Who have you already worked with in the past?
2. Look for journalists telling stories about organizations like yours.
3. Reach out to news directors, assignment editors where they need to be telling these kinds of stories. I’d also encourage you to avoid taking a judgemental tone here. I remember receiving emails from folks who had a decent pitch, but it was buried beneath a lot of criticism of our coverage (“you guys never report on…” for example). When building a relationship with someone, criticism isn’t the way to go (this is true in our personal lives, so I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t think the same principle applies here!). Stick to your pitch and focus on the story you’d like to present. Stay positive: that always shines through.
One last piece of advice: don’t ignore smaller outlets (such as ethnic media stations or digital startups) who target a niche audience. While they might never admit it, sometimes the larger outlets will check out the stories being reported in the smaller ones and pick them up.
I still remember my first shoot with Rogers TV. It was about a runner who was blind but had participated in a record number of races. Truly an inspiring story.
And I was super nervous about telling it.
When it came time to shoot the on camera bridge, the cameraman and I were standing between the doors of the local YMCA. He waited (somewhat) patiently for me while I mustered up the courage to speak on camera. When I finally opened my mouth, what came out was somewhere between inside voice and barely above a whisper.
“That’s not how you sound when you talk normally,” said the cameraman, gently scolding me. It took several a few tries before I finally spit out something coherent. The same scene would play itself out again when I shot my first on camera while working for the CBC in St. John’s. However, by then I had learned how to ignore the voices of doubt screaming so loudly from within. From there, it only got easier.
Since I started mentoring young journalists, I hear so much about their desire to be more confident in everything they do: in their storytelling, writing, on camera presentation. The truth is there’s no miracle for confidence. It’s just one of those muscles we build over time–but we have to work that muscle in order to truly see results. Here are some reflections on how you can build confidence as you tell stories:
Just do it. Nike’s slogan should be your mantra in their early stages. The more you step out and do the things you want to build more confidence in, the better you’ll become at doing it. Practice really does make perfect…but you have to overcome that self-doubt and actually practice. The more you do it, the more confident you’ll feel as you do it.
Don’t just rely on courses to build your confidence. Listen, I love a good course. These days, I prefer to take bootcamp-style programs as they offer more targeted training. But gaining knowledge doesn’t always translate into gaining confidence. Confidence doesn’t come from a course: it comes from experience. By all means take the course but know that you’ll still have to take the next step and actually apply what you’ve just learned
Silence the voice of doubt. Part of the reason I’m not big on taking courses to build confidence is because, in my experience, I was the only thing hold me back. It wasn’t a lack of knowledge or skill. Analysis paralysis and fear will stunt anyone’s efforts–trust me, I’m a witness! What I’ve learned to do is to ignore or silence the voice of self-doubt and just do it. Breaking things down into actionable, manageable steps is hugely helpful. And when you get to that step you’ve been too scared to take, always remember there’s so much more to gain on the other side. Even if you fail, you’ve gained experience which will never fail you in the long run; in fact, it is all the lived experience you need to excel the next time you try.
Listen, my first standup was rough. But many years later, I found myself doing standups under pressure in interesting situations–on the side of a mountain after an avalanche, in a helicopter flying over an icy highway. The more I did them, the more my confidence in my ability to do them became unshakeable.
It has been seven months since I signed off from Global News. More specifically, that’s how long it’s been since I filed my last report, stepping away from the work I’ve known and loved for the last 17 years. While my departure took many I know by surprise, the truth is it’s been in the works since about 2017. I’ve known since then that it was time for a change.
A purpose-driven life
2017 was a pivotal year for me. Amidst some major shifts in my family, I spent the entire year soul-searching: what was my purpose? I knew there was so much more to me than the 6 o’clock news. Almost daily, I seemed to be wrestling with a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo: the routine of just going to work and filing stories. 2017 was also the year I stepped into a leadership role with the Canadian Association of Black Journalists (CABJ), the nonprofit organization I helped re-launch and still lead today. Between the deeply meaningful work of the CABJ, a growing hunger for a different kind of storytelling, family upheaval and a desire to know God more, 2017 became a year of purpose and self-discovery.
I read a host of books that year, though none more impactful than The Purpose Driven Life, which really helped set me on the course I’m still on today. There’s something deeply profound about slowing down, resisting the urge to just fulfill the destiny others have charted for you and pursue purpose. For me, it marked a big shift: away from the life I was told I was meant to live to the one I’m actively pursuing today.
Passion meets purpose
The year 2020 started with me stepping well outside of my comfort zone and really embracing the work of advocacy. Alongside CJOC, the CABJ released our ‘Calls to Action‘. We spent months working on this document, tweaking and re-writing it, going back and forth between the two teams. I remember when we finally settled on the current version and, in early January, set a date for it’s release.
I was terrified.
I remember praying (HARD) in those days, waiting for some grand sign from God that we should or should not move ahead. I felt like my career was on the line and that sharing this document could bring it to an end. I specifically remember praying one morning and feeling, very deeply, like God was saying to me, “what are you waiting for? I brought you to this point. The time is now.” When we released the document, the response on social media was swift and very supportive. However, it wasn’t the same from my employer at the time: I didn’t receive any response. In fact, none of the major media outlets we sent the document to responded. Immediately, and despite the assurances I knew I was sensing from God, I thought my career was over.
But the murder of a Black man outside a Cup Foods convenience store in Minneapolis, Minnesota, changed everything.
Suddenly, every media organization wanted to talk about race and racism. Black journalists began sharing their stories of race and racism in the newsroom – in Canadian newsrooms – on social media and in interviews. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen in my career. For the CABJ, it meant our workload increased overnight: we were being called on by news leaders across the country who wanted to talk about the very same document they’d ignored at the beginning of the year…the same document I was almost too scared to release. Even now, things haven’t slowed down for the organization. We relaunched our membership, built four national programs, co-hosted our first conference – the list goes on. As we prepare to head into 2022, we’re focused now on internal structure, ensuring the necessary framework is in place for a new generation of CABJ leaders to step in. It’s deeply rewarding work, the kind some might call purpose-driven.
Time for a change
I’ve always loved the work of nonprofits. I’ve volunteered in various roles across Canada because I love that kind of community engagement. Deep down inside, I always wondered whether it was possible to do that kind of purpose-driven work for a living. At the time, I was still very much into news, moving to different cities and provinces before settling in BC in 2014. However, by 2021, I just knew it was time for a change: there was just this…internal inkling that something had shifted.
I remember sitting up one night in March of last year in our home office, writing in my journal. My entries are deep reflections that often become prayers and that night was no exception. I remember writing, and saying to God, that I felt like it was time for a change. The next morning, I woke up to a note in my LinkedIn inbox. A former colleague of mine was leaving his communications job at a local charity. He reached out to me, wondering whether or not I was interested in applying for it. Fastest answer to prayer ever.
Seven months into my new role at that charity here in Vancouver and I couldn’t be happier. I get to mix media and advocacy for a living, all while still pursuing my passions on the side, which include continuing to lead the CABJ. The change of pace has been welcome for a number of reasons. And working in a new industry continues to deepen my understanding of race and racism in Canada, how it manifests and how to address it (but we’ll save that for another blog post!).
For that entire time, this blog sat dormant. But I think this year marks a shift for the blog, too. One of the things I love to do is to share my knowledge and experience to help others. After all, it was a desire to help other female Black journalists that led me to the CABJ in the first place. I’m hoping to now use Black Girl Reporting to help young journalists just starting out in need of some advice on how to navigate the newsroom
This is important to me: I’m sure I
have the experience and perspective (and the heart!) to help make the journeys a little bit easier for someone else. You can catch the ‘Navigating the Newsroom’ posts the first Monday of every month.
My prayer for you in 2022 is that whatever might be holding you back from stepping into your purpose finally gives way. The world needs your voice/ideas/advocacy more than you know. Don’t let anything hold you back.
There is an entire drawer in my bedroom dedicated to my journals. There are about a dozen of them in there, all different shapes and sizes. Each entry a glimpse inside my heart and mind in different seasons of life.
I began journaling when I was a teen because my ideas, no matter how cluttered and jumbled they might be in my mind, always seemed clearer on paper (to date, there’s never been a misunderstanding between my journal and me). Of course, my entries have evolved over time, replacing angst with wisdom. Every now and then, I read through some of my older entries. The growth is real, sis!
Yet, whenever I read through old journals, I notice something from time to time: gaps. I can often trace those gaps to periods in my life when there was a lot going on inside…perhaps more than I wanted to face. Somehow, writing it all out meant accountability: I couldn’t deny it anymore, couldn’t lie to myself. I had to reconcile whatever was going on inside. Some of my most sincere and transformative entries happened when I was on vacation. There’s something about slowing down that helps bring things into focus so you can speed up and relaunch…
Of course, this trip was no exception. While there haven’t been lengthy gaps in recent weeks, there was (I discovered) a need to slow down and refocus. So, I did. There’s so much to be found in the quiet when the pace is the complete opposite of my everyday.
Have you ever been on a trip where the focus wasn’t so much on the destination, but on the journey? For me, that trip was Israel in February 2018. It was my first time in the country and it was amazing. There’s something invigorating about seeing all the places you’ve read about all your life: suddenly everything was alive in a way it had never been before.
But the trip wasn’t just about going to Israel. Rather, it was about everything I’d been through that lead to me being there. Up until late 2016, I’d spent nearly seven years searching for answers: what do I believe and why. I won’t get into the answers to those questions in this post. In the end, though, I returned to the faith of my childhood, but in a more meaningful way. This time, it was personal.
One of the key questions I grappled with as I moved into the next phase of my journey was purpose: why am I here? Why do I do what I do? What motivates me to get out of bed every morning? I remember taking part in a panel a few years ago and the question of purpose came up: why are you a journalist? One of the panelists (a journalist in Vancouver) said many people in news often talk about how much they love telling stories, they love meeting people, but, he said, the reason you’re in this business has to be–and likely is–deeper than that. The problem, he said, is we often don’t connect with that deeper meaning.
At the time, I remember feeling so offended by his response. How dare you criticize my shallow way of thinking, I thought. You don’t know me! Now, years later, I have to admit he was right.
I am still defining my why. The more I do the things that set my soul on fire, the clearer it becomes. The closer I get to my why, the less I care about money or status, the more my inner circle shrinks. The closer I get, the more I transform, becoming more of the person I want to be. The whole process is rather uncomfortable, but no less inspiring. The more I do the things that connect with that deeper sense of purpose, the more life comes into focus.
I don’t remember too many of the guest speakers who came to speak to my classmates and I when we were in high school. So, whenever I’m invited to a school, I seize the opportunity to give to them what I wished someone had given me: honest advice.
For the last couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at an all girls Catholic school in Vancouver. There’s something about speaking to a room full of smart, beautiful young girls: they’re at a critical stage when they need to hear nothing but support, encouragement and wisdom from the generation before them. My hope and prayer is to be one of those voices.
Life itself is full of ups and downs but, in this industry, the highs are high and the lows are low. Over the years, I’ve learned to enjoy the highs and survive the lows—but it hasn’t always been easy. Most of the students I speak to don’t plan on pursuing a career in journalism, but the principles I share with them are timeless and transcend the sector I’m in. I’ve boiled them down to my top 6 tips:
Be Good at Networking. Sometimes, it really is about who you know. Don’t be sleeping on that LinkedIn profile! Don’t ever let fear hold you back from introducing yourself to that person in the room who you think is at a level much higher than you! You never know who might be the divine connection to help you get from where you are now to where you need to be.
Be A Risk-taker. Step outside of your comfort zone. Do it early and do it often. So many people limit their success because they’re too afraid of the what if’s. Don’t be held back by a fear of the unknown.
Be Fearless. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Don’t shy away from change or challenge. Don’t dwell in mediocrity because you’re too afraid to go, to do or to be. Start something new. Do something no one else has done before…and do it boldly.
Be Focused. Most people don’t know this, but I begin my day with prayer. In this life, there are so many things thrown our way and I have no idea what tomorrow holds. My faith in God through Christ is my firm foundation: no matter how rough the storm, I know I will *always* come out better on the other side. Prayer keeps me focused on what matters: connecting me with my divine purpose and keeping me on the straight and narrow path.
Be Prepared for Setbacks. They are going to come—I can guarantee it. Something will be thrown your way and, if you aren’t ready for it, it could destabilize you. One of my favourite Bible verses is Romans 8:28: “all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” All things—even the bad things—work out for my good. I learned this lesson firsthand after I lost my job, but got a new one that I didn’t even go looking for: they came looking for me. So, have faith in God: your setbacks could be setting you up for success.
Be Your Biggest Investor. Your teachers will invest in you, your parents will pour into you…but make sure you are investing in yourself. Upgrade your skills by taking a few courses, go back to school for that degree, or take that much needed break you’ve been postponing (because resting is investing!). Spend the time, money and energy needed to ensure you’re the best you can be.
It was an unbelievably busy week covering the Royal Visit in BC this past week. In just 8 days, I traveled from Vancouver to Victoria to Vancouver to Victoria before *finally* returning home late Saturday night. While I’m immensely grateful to Global BC for giving me this opportunity, I’m kinda glad things have settled down and returned to normal (though, in news, normal is relative).
Each day of the Royal Visit meant a different experience for each reporter assigned. I was based in Victoria. The big day for me was Thursday: the day of the children’s party. I’ll never forget the pre-party briefing the media was given: ‘behave yourselves-or else.’ You can read more about it in our Reporter’s Notebook.
You roll up on a street, hoping you can find a spot, only to have to circle the block and settle for a spot that’s *relatively* close to your destination. Thankfully, I have commercial plates on my news truck and–believe me–sometimes it really gets me out of a jam…
…and sometimes, it gets me into one. Such was the case on Wednesday morning, when I decided to park in a downtown commercial parking zone:
I don’t know why someone would park THAT CLOSE. It’s just ridiculous.
There wasn’t much room between my truck and the van in front, so I was really hooped. With the help of two passing strangers I got out of this mess, but it got me thinking about #ParkingWars and some of the crazy things drivers do, all in the name of a convenient parking spot. We can do better, folks.
FOLK FEST FRIDAY
In every one of the Canadian cities I’ve lived in, the Folk Festival always has a loyal following. The music lovers who reminisce about the days of vinyl and when music was really, you know, music–not the stuff kids listen to today.
…but my colleagues told me my best opportunity for video would be the (so-called) Birkenstock 500. Apparently, when the gates open on the festival there’s a mini-stampede of devoted festival goers who race to the main stage, all of them eager to claim a coveted front row seat.
That wasn’t the case this year, though. The team at the gate told me they wanted to avoid the mini-stampede this year, so they decided to let folks in one at a time. Unfortunately, the electronic ticketing system decided to grind to a halt right as the clock struck 1:00pm.
The Birkenstock 500? More like The Birkenstock Walk.
After about 20 minutes or so, the ticketing system decided to cooperate and they were able to get these eager festival goers streaming in at a faster pace. For the most part, they were all pretty zen about having to wait in line–only one man lost his cool (which was immediately frowned upon by many in line).
THE RED BULL 400
This was probably the most fun, interesting and visual story of the week.
In what is truly a race unlike any other I’ve seen, 400 uber-fit men and women set out to climb–as fast as they can–to the top of the Whistler ski jump. This is what it looks like from down below:
I cannot imagine how grueling this must have been on their bodies. They dug their hands and feet into the parched grass. I’m convinced the only things propelling these competitors forward was sheer will and a thirst for glory–is there anything better than getting to the top with a record-setting qualifying time?
The fastest time of the day? 3:53.
I can do a few things in 3 minutes and 53 seconds. Among them:
Walk to Starbucks
Eat breakfast (after all, it IS only oatmeal)
That’s about it. (NB: climbing to the top of a ski jump isn’t on the list).
The race’s co-director joked that, next year, there might be a media climb. I wonder how many of my colleagues would be willing to huff and puff up that hill…
More often than not, I send them to my producer, who uses them to build graphics for the News Hour (the images that appear behind or over the anchor’s shoulder when they’re introducing my story). Some of these pictures also end up on social media–Twitter or Instagram.
However, some images never see the light of day…UNTIL NOW! (cue triumphant music).
At the end of my work week (which runs Wednesday to Sunday), I’m going to try and post the images and videos that never make it to air, but give you a sense of what happened that day. Let me know what you think…or, if there’s something more ‘behind-the-scenes’ that you’d like to see.
THURSDAY: OUTLET MALL MADNESS!
Hand to heart, when my Assignment Editor told me I’d be covering the opening of Metro Vancouver’s newest outlet, I told him this wasn’t a story. Seriously–a mall opening!? In my mind this hardly seemed like a big deal.
I was so wrong. So, so wrong.
The event began like any other: with a ribbon cutting.
At first, this is how I thought my story would open–with some wild sound from this. In the end, the video I shot of the ribbon cutting never saw the light of day. Moments after the ribbon was cut, shoppers crowded around the nearby Coach store, some of them pushing to get to the front of the line. I shared a shorter version of this video on Twitter. Here’s the full version:
It was like Black Friday in the middle of July. What’s more–the traffic jams commuters were dealing with because of everyone trying to get to the mall was unreal. Travellers were having trouble getting to the nearby airport–one flight was delayed! Needless to say, this became one of the top stories of the day.
SATURDAY: LNG PROTEST NEAR SQUAMISH
A small group of protesters organized a demonstration against a proposed LNG plant. The biggest difference for me with this story was, for the first time, the protest wasn’t on land.
A flotilla was organized in Howe Sound. Using horns, they made as much noise as they could to express their feelings about the proposed project.
Saturday was also the first time I tried Periscope. For those not familiar with the app, it’s used for live streaming. You can, essentially, broadcast from anywhere. I’ll be trying it more in the days and weeks to come, depending on my assignment. I think it could be a great tool for breaking news and developing story coverage.
SUNDAY: BABY BIRDS AND FIESTY FROGS
Over the last several weeks, it seems all anyone can talk about in BC has been the scorching heat and devastating wildfires. It’s unbelievable to think that, right now, there are nearly 200 fires buring in the province. Unreal.
On Sunday, I made my way to a wildlife sanctuary: Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta.
In recent weeks, they’d been receiving baby Hawks and owls forced out of their homes by smoke and fire. Not surprisingly, when I tweeted a picture.
I also came across this little guy while filming:
At first, he seemed cool with me taking his picture…but then he was all like:
I’ve always been curious: always wanting to know whatever it is I don’t know, see what I haven’t yet seen, do what I haven’t yet done. It’s part of the reason why I chose the career path I have. That said, I never anticipated that desire for adventure, insatiable curiosity and love of news would lead to as many moves as it has over the past 5 years…
Since January 2010, I’ve lived or worked in five cities. Five cities in almost 5 years. This is not something I’d planned for–at all…and yet I have no regrets.
My first move–to Newfoundland–is still the most memorable. I remember packing two suitcases and venturing off to a province I’d only ever read about. When the plane landed that night in January 2010, I couldn’t see a thing out the window for the fog (pea soup is how the locals described it). My boss at the time (a woman I both respect and will never forget) picked me up from the airport and drove me to the B&B where I’d be staying until I found an apartment. She was the only person I knew–not just at CBC NL, but in the entire province.
Over the course of the next 2.5 years, St. John’s became my home; the people I met there, my family. I still believe it’s the best move I ever made.
After that came a short stint in Edmonton, followed by a longer stay in Calgary–a city I never thought I’d love, but can’t seem to get enough of (except when it snows. I’ve had enough of that). There’s something about life in Calgary–life in western Canada that’s grown on me…
Regardless of what part of the country I’ve found myself in, there’s one thing that’s always been the same: Canadians are indeed a friendly bunch. Despite having moved to cities where I haven’t known a soul, I’ve never felt alone: I’ve had more orphan Thanksgivings/Christmases/New Years with complete strangers than anyone should have! Over the past five years, my birthday has never gone uncelebrated (one year, my friends bought me three cakes. Three cakes!). Gifts from friends in NL always appear in my mailbox come Christmas time. And there are still regular phone calls with my cross-country network of friends to discuss work, stories, news (and, of course, all the other “important topics” women in their 30s talk about).
Now, there are only a few things I dislike about all this moving. Chief among them? Packing. It gets easier the more you do it, but it will never be fun. You wanna know what else isn’t fun? Unpacking. The only thing that trumps both of those torturous tasks is having to say goodbye. That never gets easier.
That said, I always look forward to what comes after the ‘goodbye’: the ups and downs of a new city, a new adventure. For someone as curious as me, the change and challenge that comes with a new city has made my cross-country moving all worthwhile.