“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.