Newsman - er, Newman, visits Fanshawe ‘newsies'
Some of the audience wasn't initially thrilled, expecting a more egotistical, stuck-up veteran news anchor; after all, he is one of the top three newscasters in Canada, but the crowd instead received a humble, personable reporter.
Shamelessly, he began his speech with what his first steps were in the industry, in which students learned that Newman made a fake fan club for a reporter he had a crush on. He used this ploy to try to get in contact with the “cute” reporter. No luck, until the Toronto Sun picked his idea up and PR people went nuts. He ended up with a free tour of Global and an invitation back.
Newman began his career cutting a lot of tape and doing extra menial labour to get his name out there and boy is it out there now.
“People who stand out make it,” advised Newman. “Don't make being on air your ambition. You have to focus on skills. There's no bigger turn off than asking me, ‘How do I be an anchor?,' because the business is about good writing, good photography, and good story telling...if you've got a pretty face, you've only got a shelf life of about five years.”
Newman has been around the industry - from working for some of the glamorous American news-networks, to the more venerable CBC.
“I'm a big fan of the CBC...it keeps journalism grounded,” Newman said. “It's one of the reasons Canadian broadcasting isn't what it is in the United States.”
After reviewing the differences between the private and public sector, with some examples of shoddy American entertainment news, he also mentioned that as far as broadcasting goes, there's not much difference in the end between the three major Canadian stations.
“There're differences of philosophy, but you could switch any reporters and anchors and get the same thing,” Newman said about Canada's top three national news stations, Global, CTV and CBC.
If you've never watched Global National, perhaps the largest difference between it and competitors is that it's dynamic. Global National often goes live on location and when asked why, Newman was content to respond.
“I get very bored [being in the newsroom]. It's really important to get out and meet people. You sit in the studio; you get an ego. You need to break out and meet people for yourself. ...I believe as a result of the trips and being on location, my reporting, the inflection in my voice, [and] the words I choose to represent the country, are far different then they were before.”
Newman also shared with Fanshawe students some of his more memorable moments in the field. A favourite, perhaps, was about a hectic deadline. Newman had to produce a documentary on John F. Kennedy Jr's death in less than a day, and he wasn't given a cameraman until the day was half over.
“I'm standing there...I got tired because the camera still wasn't there...so I started observing,” Newman said. “When I looked longer, I began to see...people who were there not to pay tribute to JFK Jr., but people who were there to be on TV.”
He then had an epiphany.
“It came to be a doc on the circus of grief, and when people who are famous die, they draw to that death people who also want to be famous for that moment, and bask in the moment of fame of being on TV. The whole thing became bizarre...there were tour busses driving by,” he continued.
He had even captured a woman with children and a bouquet of flowers, who very obviously positioned herself in front of the camera.
“I had been recording for 12 years, turning out sausages for a lot of them [stories],” he said, reminding the students that even he loses sight of the real story at hand. “Note to self: observe, rather than just story tell.”