An Interview with Robin Gill, Global National, BC Correspondent/Weekend Anchor
Fusia:What is it like working as a woman for Global News and more specifically as a South Asian woman for Global News?
Robin: I’ve always been fortunate in that I’ve worked in newsrooms where there are just as many female reporters as male ones so I don’t put myself into a slot of “woman in news.”
The management side tends to be more male-dominated but I’m starting to see more women move into management. For example, at Global in BC, Jill Krop recently became News Director after a long stint as a respected reporter and anchor. It made a lot of the female staff really happy to see someone in that position who’s been where we are.
As far as being South Asian, it’s been very useful in covering stories where I understand the culture or the politics. For example, almost 18 years ago, I covered the debate over tables and chairs at Sikh temples in BC. I turned to my folks to ask them about the history/culture/politics behind it.
Fusia: Can you give a brief summary of your career ups and downs and what it has taken for you to get to your current career position?
Robin: I started my career as a writer and researcher at BCTV (it is now Global BC). I was hoping that I would be able to work my way up the ranks and stay in Vancouver. A senior reporter advised me that it would be better to go to a small market and cut my teeth. He was right.
I moved to Yorkton, Saskatchewan, which had a population of 15,000 at the time, to work for CICC. While I wasn’t making a lot of money, I gained a lot of experience. I did just about every job there –anchoring, reporting, producing, shooting, editing. I was also away from my family and closest friends so it was isolating. I worked at a station with a lot of young people so we made an effort to hang out. To this day, I’m still in touch with many of them.
In this business, we all strive to get to the bigger markets so we can cover the big stories. I had to jump around for a bit. I freelanced at CBC in Vancouver for a year. I was a junior reporter so I covered a lot of school board and city council meetings.
Then I made my way to Calgary to launch a new station. I worked as a morning show anchor while reporting for the evening news. It was a slog – working 12 hour days and then heading to charity events/appearances at night. I was completely exhausted after three years. But I met some amazing men and women who are my closest friends to this day. They’ve taught me a lot and really helped me mature. Over the years, I’ve had to compete with these same friends as we’ve moved onto different companies. Today, I work with a few of them at the Global network and it feels like a sense of family.
After Calgary, I moved to Toronto where I spent more than eight years working as a reporter and eventually an anchor in Canada’s largest market. It was an amazing experience because so many big stories happen in the Big Smoke.
What I’ve learned over the years is that this business is competitive. People have put me down. Bosses have tried to get away with paying me less than my predecessors at jobs to save money in their budgets. I have learned to develop a very thick skin. It took me a really long time. The key has been to surround myself with supportive producers who are really good at their jobs. I find that work is not “work” – it’s actually fun.
Fusia: What is the story that you have covered that you are most proud of to date? What kind of story do you most hope to cover in the future?
Robin: There are so many stories that I can’t just narrow it down to one.
I have a passion for breaking news. I just tune out the rest of the world and focus on what’s happening. When I covered the Air France crash at Pearson Airport, I was just so determined to find passengers to hear their accounts. When I was in Japan post-tsunami, I emailed everyone I knew to find Canadians living in the region so I could find a Canadian perspective on what was happening. When the shootings took place at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, I looked to see what security measures were taken in other parts of the country (at legislative buildings and military bases). At the end of the day, I want to tell a story and time is of the essence to get it to you, the viewer.
As for the future, I would love to cover a US presidential election because American politics are just so fascinating and polarizing. There are probably so many nuggets that would make for a million interesting stories.
Fusia: How do you measure success and how do you imagine your future in your career as a journalist? What are the biggest goals that you are hoping to achieve?
I measure success by achieving respect from my colleagues (both the people I work with and those I compete against at other stations). I hope that I have that. If not, I’m still working on it.
I’ve been in the business for 20 years. I feel pretty content where I am right now.
Fusia: What does being a journalist mean to you?
Robin: My mom says I’m a civil servant. I think I’m a storyteller. Perhaps somewhere in between?
Fusia: What does being a recognizable Canadian icon mean to you?
Robin: I’m very proud to be Canadian. I don’t consider myself an icon! I’m just a reporter!
Fusia: Can you tell me a little bit about your trip in India in February to March 2009, and about the five-part special series on Canadians in the region? What motivated you to be a part of this project, what was the experience like, and what did you take away from it?
Robin: I received a fellowship from the Asia-Pacific Foundation at the time. I always wanted to do some international storytelling and I figured that this was the way I was going to do it. It wasn’t easy; it was ambitious of me to cover such a huge territory! Traffic and logistics were a nightmare!
I fortunately had a lot of help from the Canada India Foundation and friends who introduced me to contacts living in India. Everyone just had such a fascinating story to tell – from the two Canadian women who went to Bollywood – to the finance whiz who was working for a major corporation – to the tennis pro who was helping find the next Indian Eugenie Bouchard. They all had interesting perspectives on India and felt strongly that it was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Look at India today! They were bang on.
I highly recommend that journalists look for these opportunities. Broadcast corporations and newspapers today are cutting back on travel for stories. This is an excellent way to get some travel in but make no mistake – it’s not a vacation