The best-laid plans

A few years ago, I remember going to speak at a school and the teacher telling me her students were stressed out. They were in grade 10 and many of them were already dealing with the pressure of what to do and where to go next: what university to apply to (university, not college. Never college), what program to study, their career path. Their teacher told me the pressure they were feeling was driven by both external and internal forces.

I’m grateful for parents who were always supportive of my decision to pursue a job in journalism–which is kind of a big deal when you consider I was raised by two hard-working immigrant parents. They were both willing to look beyond the popular options of accountant, doctor and lawyer to see there was a storyteller in me. However, that didn’t stop me from applying unnecessary pressure on myself to perform. I had my one, three, five and ten year plans all worked out…

…but those plans never seem to take into account one oft-overlooked fact: life happens. My plan didn’t factor in multiple moves across the country or layoffs or delays–the unforeseen things that *seemed* to slow me down. Eventually, I learned I didn’t have to have it all figured out–no one does. Anyone who says they do have it all figured out is lying to you (and themselves, for that matter).

My faith also helps me cope with the ups and downs, valleys and peaks. Knowing God’s plans for me are–and have always been–good means I don’t have to worry (Jer. 29:11). The delays and disappointments become opportunities to grow and gain perspective. It’s what I tell students now when we talk about life after school: it’s about the journey, not the destination. So, I’m rejecting perfectionism for processing, because this process I’m going through is a beautiful thing, and choosing faith over fear so I don’t succumb to the pressure of thinking I need to have every step all figured out.

What sets your soul on fire

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.

“Did a man bring you out here?” and other awkward questions.

I love my job. I love asking questions, getting answers and sharing them with the public. However, sometimes, I find myself answering questions, but not the kind you’d expect…

Questions from viewers are never meant to offend…but sometimes they’re just terribly awkward. I remember meeting a viewer for the first time when I lived out east. They were curious as to why I would want to move to eastern Canada (Newfoundland, of all places!) for work. “Did a man bring you out here?,” they asked.

Now, if someone had asked me this question back in–oh, I dunno–the 1940s, it probably would have been fair. But in 2012?? I couldn’t help but laugh before, politely, answering.

Over the years there have been more questions–and sometimes puzzling statements–that I’m still at a loss for words over.

“Are you single?”

“Is that your real hair?”

“You’re prettier in person.” (Well, what do I look like on TV then?!)

“I love your tan. It’s just such a lovely shade!” (NB: The viewer was talking about my skin tone…)

“Are you from Africa?” (See my earlier post about this FAQ)

In my defense, there is no appropriate response for some of these questions/statements (#3 is a perfect example). Often when I return to the newsroom and share these stories, the only thing my colleagues and I can do is laugh. The viewers are sincere and this is just their way of letting you know that they like you (they really like you!).

I’ll be honest, I don’t entirely mind these encounters. Awkwardness aside, it confirms an important fact: people are still watching local news. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.