Robert’s column

Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Some of us not meant to be TV stars

Our bosses decided they could save money if they combined television and newspaper reporters

There is a reason why news people like me chose to get into print media rather than television or radio.

When I first entered this field many years ago, I liked the idea of doing the necessary research into a story, conducting interviews and then doing my best to put it all together into an informative and balanced news piece.

I didn’t see any need to even have my mugshot attached to the story, and I initially resisted when my bosses first insisted that I attach my face to columns like this one.

I didn’t relish the idea of being recognized on the street and having people wanting to talk to me about a story I might have written, or giving me ideas for more stories, while I was busy on my own time trying to complete personal projects.

I’ve always preferred for people who wanted to talk to me to contact me in my office during working hours.

It’s been my experience that my colleagues in the newsrooms I worked in during my career have felt the same way.

Television reporters are a different breed than us in that, while our goals are the same in providing information to the public, they accept and even like life in the limelight.

There are any number of reasons why print reporters don’t want to be on TV, including having a voice that doesn’t really sound right when recorded, being a little shy or just not being particularly pleasant to look at (unfortunately I fit all three categories).

That’s why when I was a reporter with the Nanaimo Daily News and the newspaper’s new owners at the time wanted to combine operations with the recently acquired television news station next door, most of us in the newpaper’s newsroom balked at the idea.

Our bosses, who were mostly from accounting backgrounds and had no idea how newsrooms worked, decided they could save a lot of money if they combined the jobs of television and newspaper reporters.

Instead of hiring news anchors to read the news on television during set times in the day, they figured they could just bring in us newspaper reporters and we could read from the stories we were writing.

I guess that idea worked well on an accountant sheet, but it was doomed from the start in reality.

In preparation to implementing this fantastic new plan, each of us was required to sit in front of a camera in the television news room and read from our stories while trainers would help us hone our TV skills.

I was the first, and also the last, one of my colleagues to be put through this process.

I was so awful that they shut down the whole plan and it never came up again.

I remember while I was reading my story, the trainers were giving me all kinds of signals to look into the camera, which I found hard to do at the same time as reading and my eyes would dart all over the place.

I was also nervous and so I was talking much faster than I normally would, which only served to make my east coast accent even harder to understand.

Add in a couple of coughing fits and my face getting increasingly more red as the torturous event went on, and it wasn’t long before the trainers called it a day, packed up and went on their way.

My colleagues who were anxiously awaiting their turn under the spotlight were delighted when they discovered that the training day had been called off.

We didn’t think it was over; just postponed until the bosses figured out a new approach.

But that was the last we ever heard of it, and we continued on working as we always had.

I, for one, was pleased that it didn’t work out.

Some people are just not meant to be the centre of attention.

Robert Barron is a reporter with the Cowichan Valley Citizen.

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