Karlene Nation, famed CTV Toronto news reporter, sat down with UTM students last Friday to talk about her experiences as a journalist, and to offer advice to eager journalism enthusiasts.
“I knew with everything that I did, that I would be taking the path I am now,” said Nation, about her early beginnings in journalism. Through hard work and persistence, Nation became a one-woman powerhouse, establishing her reputation along the way and securing herself the position of highly respected broadcast journalists. But this strong, determined reporter came from humble beginnings.
In 1976, as a pregnant teenager, she came to Canada from Kingston, Jamaica, with her two younger sisters, to join her mother. After having her baby, Nation worked persistently at odd jobs to help her family and take care of her son. After finishing high school, Nation came to UTM, where she majored in political science. She worked at U of T, then at the Toronto Stock Exchange, but went back to school to complete a two-year journalism program at Humber.
She became a reporter for The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, and subsequently worked at CBC, Canada AM, CTV National, and CTV Toronto. Because of her connections with various cultural communities across the GTA, she was given the job of diversity producer, where she still works today.
She is the first person to hold this position in Canada, and because of her ties with numerous community leaders across the GTA, is well-known in various cultural groups.
Despite her accomplishments, Karlene remembered her humble beginnings; “I had a rough time in the beginning,” said Nation. “They bashed my first assignment; they were brutal!”
Persistence is key, explained Nation. “I kept bugging and calling the head of broadcasting at CFTO (now CTV Toronto). When I got him on the phone, he said, ‘Who the hell are you?’ ” Nation answered, “ ‘Sir, when you meet me, you’ll hire me on the spot.’ ”
To this day, her confidence and charisma is evident, and it’s no question that Karlene Nation has plenty of advice to give. “As a news reporter, you’re going to be thrown into all kinds of situations; you have to keep your wits about you through it all. You have to learn to deal with all kinds of news—hard news, touchy stories—and you have to learn to generate your own story ideas,” said Nation. “You have to show that you’ve done some work in journalism, you can’t be shy and tentative with people.”
After hearing her stories and her words of advice, the budding journalists were eager to ask their own questions. “Is Facebook a legitimate resource for today’s news reporter?” asked Rasheed Clarke, a fourth-year CCIT and PWC major.
“Facebook is a public entity, it’s out there, and we’re using it,” answered Nation. “If we find pictures on the site, we can use them without having to ask the family. But it’s still necessary to go to the family for the interview,” she added.
Adam Erb, a fourth-year English and PWC major, asked about technology: “Is it important to be versed in today’s technology to get ahead?” Nation answered enthusiastically, “It’s very important! If you know how to work with this new web of technology, you’ll have that much more advantage of getting yourself out there. If you can shoot, report, and edit, all by yourself, then your marketability really jumps,” explained Nation.
Karlene Nation spoke for an hour and a half, but had to get back to her busy life and the story she was working on. “Be well-read!” she said, as a last piece of advice. “Have a working knowledge of everything.
If you prove your worth, you can make it in this competitive field.”