For many Canadians, Anna Maria is the first voice heard in the morning and we consider her to be our voice of reason.
As we bumble around making coffee, Anna Maria introduces us to the relevant and poignant issues facing Canadians each day. We admire her perspective, journalistic integrity and are always in awe of the way she can steer an interview with tough questions, raising layers of discussion – some more difficult than others – but all the while maintaining ease and a level of comfort with her guests.
For her work as a journalist Anna Maria has won two Gemini awards, and an outstanding achievement award from Toronto Women in Film and Television. Here is some insight into her career and life with sound advice that can be applied to all industries.
What does a typical Thursday look like for you, starting from when you wake up – to heading to bed?
Thursdays are the most atypical of my days so may I go with Wednesday?
I’m up at 4:50am – I have two alarm clocks just in case one doesn’t work, so I jump out of bed and hit the other one before it rings. I jump in the shower, and get dressed, all the while listening to CBC News and then the BBC business program that runs immediately after the 5am news. It is my first indication of what might have changed overnight, and what I may have to change when I get into the office. The less I have to do in the early morning, I longer can sleep, so I already have my clothes laid out, and my “breakfast” is in the fridge, waiting for me to grab it on the way out the door. I don’t even think about coffee until I’m at work.
I drive to work shortly after 5:30am, stopping at the corner to pick up a newspaper, and since there’s no rush hour at that time, I’m in the office at about 5:45am. The coffee pot in the office is set to start at 5:40. I’m the only one who works early mornings on The Current who actually needs caffeine, go figure. By 6am, the tv in the corner of my office is on – alternating between CBC NN and CNN, CBC radio is playing on my desk, our studio director has handed me the scripts, and I’m going through everything one more time. I’m listening for updates on anything we might be putting on the program that morning, and also just making sure we aren’t missing any kind of breaking news that might be big enough to force a sudden change in our programming plans. I will have printed up all the background reading the night before, and marked it with a red pen and “stickies”, so I arrange all those notes for each interview and start marking up the actual scripts for the program. I’ll check at least one newspaper in hard copy, and another two online, and read any wire copy which might provide an update on things we’re working on.
Some days, we need to pre-tape an interview before the show starts, because of anticipated problems getting a connection, or just because of the schedule of a guest.
Those can start as early as 6am – and sometimes it means doing three interviews in a row starting that early. At 7am I wander down the hall to tape a short chat with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning on what we’re doing that day, and then I go over any loose ends for my own program.
We broadcast the show in 5 time zones, so that means I do the program for the Atlantic time zone at 7:37am Eastern (8:37am Atlantic). On a good day, the show from that first time zone continues to roll, on tape, through to all the other time zones. On a challenging day, we have to change part of the program to update as we move the broadcast west. So, though technically, I am finished putting that 90 minute show to air at 9am, I can’t leave until 1pm when we’re off the air in B.C.
After the show is finished for Atlantic Canada at 9am, I record some promos for later that day, and new introductions for The Current Review, which plays at night. I also have a short post-mortem with my executive producer, and get caught up on email, etc. We have a story meeting at 10am and the stories next day are nailed down at that time.
My schedule will vary, depending on what other interviews I need to do – we often pre-tape feature interviews, or interviews with people who can’t come in for a live interview the next day. That block of time after the show changes constantly, depending on what the producers of the program need from me.
I try to leave between 1pm and 1:30. On a Wednesday I’ll go to the gym for about 2 hours, run a few errands, and be ready to start working again by 6p. That’s the deadline for the background reading I’ll need for the next day’s interviews. I’ll spend the better part of three hours going over those notes. At 7:15p sharp, our senior producer based in Vancouver calls for what is a final editorial discussion on what we’re putting on the next day. Sometime around 9pm, after I’ve gone through all the background information, I write the beginning of the show, print it up and email it to myself in case I have to change it again in the morning.
I try to catch at least part of The National (even if it means turning up the sound and staying at my computer and working), I get my clothes ready for the next day. Ideally, I’m in bed before 10pm.
What was your first job out of school?
I was thrilled to get a job in the business right after graduating. I was a reporter and news reader at a private radio station in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. It was my first move away from home, and allowed me to discover a whole new part of the country. The station was small, so I got lots of experience doing everything.
What are the three skills you require most to do your job?
Curiosity .. humility .. skepticism. Those will lead you to doing your homework, asking questions that get to the truth, and to not being quick to judge.
What do you love most about your career?
Through journalism, I’ve been able to see the world and tell great stories. I’ve lived in four other countries, and worked in more than 30. I’ve met people at their most vulnerable and learned from their strengths and even their failures, and in turn, I have learned more about myself. In the job I do now, I feel tremendously lucky to be able to pursue serious journalism and be in a position to meet someone new every day whose own wisdom and experience can teach me something new.
Do you have any warnings?
There is nothing glamorous or quick about a career in broadcast journalism. Those in it for the long haul have to be persistent, willing to work punishing hours, and willing to do the homework. Be wary of anyone who wants to make you a “personality” or a “star” – the real personalities and stars in journalism are the people on whom you report.
If you could try a different career on for a year, what would it be?
For more info on CBC’s THE CURRENT, go to http://www.cbc.ca/programguide/program/the_current
Tune in weekdays at 8:30 – 10:00 AM on CBC Radio One