It’s been 40 years since CTV national news anchor Sandie Rinaldo first took a job answering phones in the CTV news department. In 1980, she became the first full-time female news anchor in Canadian history and since then she has covered wars, elections and even Bieber Fever. Here, the newswoman shares some of the secrets to her success.
Aim high, work hard
Before I got my start I did a lot of cold calling. I cold-called CTV and happened to get the head of promotions and he just happened to get a call from the director of news Don Cameron, who needed someone to answer phones and that sort of stuff. When I went in for the interview, Don asked me about what I wanted to do and, with the naive confidence of youth, I told him that one day I was going to be hosting Canada AM. He found that amusing and later on he told me that he liked the fact that I was brave and ambitious and that’s why he gave me a chance.
If you don’t fit the mould,
When I started my career, the industry was totally dominated by an older generation of gruff newsmen who had been there, done that. I realized early on that I wasn’t going to get anywhere trying to be like them and that I just had to be myself. There may have been times when being somewhat softer or more sensitive worked against me, but I think ultimately there was a realization that there was a whole half of society that was responding to what I was doing.
For a good ride,
pick the right co-pilot
The best advice I can give any woman or person who wants to have a family and have a career is choose your partner wisely. When my kids were young, I was able to walk out the door and go to work on the weekends knowing that my children were being taken care of by a father who loved them and provided physical and intellectual nourishment. He was also proud of me and encouraged my goals. It’s not always easy, but I don’t think there is any more important decision in terms of ensuring a quality of life.
Experience is a valuable experience
I remember when I first started at CTV, Don Cameron told me that before he could take me seriously I needed to get a few lines under my eyes. He meant that not just in the physical, literal way, but also in terms of getting out there and getting experience.
You don’t need to smash the glass ceiling to break it
I remember working with an assignment editor – it was me and two other male reporters – and he would always say, “Let’s put the broad on the consumer story,” and the men would get the news stories. This went on for a while and I finally had to go to him and lay out that I was just as capable of covering the more serious stories as my colleagues. It was challenging because there is that old stereotype about how aggression is viewed as a positive quality in men and negative in females. I didn’t want to get caught up in the politics, I just wanted to do the work, so I learned to be deliberate without pushing too hard.
When you’re the rock, you can’t crumble
It’s not easy to keep it together during a horrific situation, but I believe that that is my job. I liken it to being a doctor and having to deliver the bad news – I need to stay strong because other people are going to be grieving. Since we generally aren’t reporting live, I make sure to process and live with the more difficult stories in my own time, so that when I’m on camera I can be objective and professional. I remember covering the story of Jessica McClure who was the not-even-two-year-old baby who fell down a well. I had young children at the time and it was just such a scary situation. Let me tell you, keeping control of my emotions was tough.