I have been working at the CBC since 2001. I started here as a research assistant days after the Sept. 11 attacks, fresh out of journalism school and excited to be part of the news organization I most wanted to work for. I got my degree in New York and was interning at ABC News at the time, but was still determined to come home and work for my country's public broadcaster because the network was such a big reason why I decided to pursue journalism in the first place.
After 13 years I've worked my way up to a staff position as a producer, but I still remember my early days very clearly. At 24, I tried desperately to find my place here and impress anyone who would give me a chance. Recently, I have been repeatedly grateful that the only thing I ever had to do here to get ahead was to actually do the work.
As the collective conversation in this country shifts from how one former host acted to the environment that young women may be subjected to at the CBC, and in broadcasting in general, I feel to the urge to say this has not been my experience.
I, too, started my career working for powerful men. My first executive producer was Stuart Coxe, who was at that time creating a new current affairs show called CBC News: Sunday. I was lucky enough to be brought in on. My first male host was Evan Solomon, who now hosts Power & Politics in Ottawa. Both were very good at their jobs. Both wielded a lot of power. Both were at the helm of a high-pressure show that was just being born and had much to prove, and both were running a team comprised mostly of young women. In my eight years with the show never once did I ever feel uncomfortable, threatened, attacked or even slightly maligned. On the contrary.
In my years on Sunday, I worked very closely with Mr. Solomon. There were ridiculously late nights in the edit suite cutting stories to deadline, where it seemed we were the only ones left in the building. There were many trips all over the U.S. alone for feature interviews and other stories. There was a host who could have made my life miserable if he wanted to, who could have created a power structure of intimidation and fear – he had that power and I had none. But, I can honestly say the opposite was true. I never once felt uncomfortable or disrespected working so closely with Mr. Solomon.
The opportunities I was given at Sunday, in hindsight were extraordinary. I had virtually no experience in broadcasting, but I was ambitious and wanted to be heard. Almost immediately I was encouraged to pitch story ideas. I was encouraged to give my thoughts on wider show concepts. I was assigned big interviews to produce and I was trusted with short and longer documentary pieces along with other producers on the show. And, I can comfortably say that my colleagues who started with me on that show – and are now bigger contributors to the CBC – would all recall the same experiences.
It makes me incredibly sad and angry that others inside this building might not have been afforded the same positive work environment. It also makes me incredibly sad and angry that others outside this building might think all men in power here abused it.
When I was a young woman starting my career I was part of a team on Sunday. We were given a sense of safety and support to feel like we could share our ideas in an environment that would not be intimidating. When we failed, we did so as a team and we all took responsibility. When we succeeded, the praise was shared evenly. It was the best kind of place to start a career in journalism, it was at the CBC.