My Challenges and Triumphs

Community Opinion & Analysis Nov 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm
PHOTO: JOSEPH SMOOKE

MARIVEL TARUC  (PHOTO: JOSEPH SMOOKE)

CBC’s Marivel Taruc speaks on her 20 years in Journalism

(Text of the speech delivered on Nov. 16, 2013 in the second of the series”Filipinos in Canadian Mainstream Media” by Philippine Press Club of Ontario)

This is why journalists become journalists…to tell stories…good and bad…to bring attention to hopeless situations…this is what journalists have been doing every day for the last seven days…since the devastating typhoon Haiyan hit our home country – the Philippines.
Sometimes the stories are hard to hear. But it’s vitally important that they’re told. This is when I am most proud to be a journalist – when our stories make a difference. Partly because of the media coverage of the devastation in the Philippines – millions of dollars in aid from around the world is being donated – and broader awareness of climate change is being raised. But most importantly…journalists are giving a voice to those who have none…

I’m supposed to be talking about the challenges and triumphs in my career in journalism. And there have been many of both. But all of it has been a blessing that I am grateful for.

Some members of PPCO and the audience pose for a picture with Marivel Taruc and her daughters. (3 PHOTOS: JOSEPH SMOOKE)

Some members of PPCO and the audience pose for a picture with Marivel Taruc and her daughters. (PHOTO: JOSEPH SMOOKE)

When I think about the journey that led me to journalism – I think about how it was my parents who set me on that path. My dad, was a teacher in the Philippines – so education is revered in my family. My mom, made things beautiful – she hand made our clothes and did our hair perfectly. They, like so many Filipinos, wanted their children to grow up with opportunities. They left everything behind back home – so their daughters could have a chance at a better life. And even though they were very protective and very strict – they also managed to instil in me, a sense of unlimited possibility.

This is a building block of journalism. The belief that anything is possible.

Another blessing was coming to this country. So many immigrants choose Canada because Canada makes people feel welcome – no matter where you come from. And with hard work, you can achieve anything in this country.

Another key to journalism. Hard work.

I was raised on news. My parents watched newscasts every night. And as a little girl, I remember watching The National on CBC with my family – just like other families would watch dramas or comedies on tv. So from a young age…I was unknowingly charting my life course.

Edgar Gonzales of Gateway Centre and World Vision

Edgar Gonzales of Gateway Centre and World Vision. (PHOTO: J. SMOOKE)

I did decide that I wanted to be a journalist very early on. I watched Connie Chung anchor the CBS Evening News – she was the first Asian to anchor a US network newscast. She was the closest thing to me – a Filipina – on TV. And I thought – if she can do it, so can I.

Knowing that I wanted to be a reporter, I geared my studies towards journalism. I attended Ryerson University and earned my journalism degree in 1993. A time when our profession was in a downturn. Our instructors told us, be prepared to work in small towns likely up north, or not to work in the business at all.

So I went back to Winnipeg. I thought, at least I know this city, it’s not huge like Toronto, so maybe I have a better chance of getting a job there.

Turns out, it was the exact right thing to do.

I knocked on the door of the executive producer of CBC Winnipeg. I told her, I know you probably aren’t hiring, all I want to do is hang out in the newsroom.

Frank Villanueva of FCT speaks from the audience

Frank Villanueva of FCT speaks from the audience. (PHOTO: J. SMOOKE)

So they let me do that. I went every day. I attended the morning story meetings and suggested story ideas. I volunteered to make phone calls, and found people to interview. And when a reporter was working on a story connected to the Philippines – I volunteered to stay late to make phone calls to Manila because of the time difference.

And when I went back to Toronto to attend my graduation – I got the best call ever – it was CBC Winnipeg calling me – to offer me a job.
So once I got over the joy of landing a job at the best news organization in the country – I realized I better deliver. On my very first day on the job, I was sent out do a story about the weather. No on the job training, no shadowing a more seasoned reporter, it was sink or swim. So I choose to swim. That first story about cold weather in Winnipeg is probably the worst story I’ve ever done – because it was the very first story I did in my career.

And I know that hiring a young journalist, fresh out of university, raised some eyebrows in the newsroom. I was constantly aware that people may think I was just hired because I was a visible minority. It always motivated me to work harder – to show that I earned my position. What I’m grateful for is that the people who hired me saw a young, aspiring journalist who was dedicated to learning and showed some potential. They did take a chance hiring me – and I like to think that I didn’t let them down.

Fe Bisuna of Philippine Solidarity Group asks why  Canadian media don’t report enough on the Philippines where many important events are happening. Why mainly only during disasters? Beside her is Lina Taruc.   PHOTO: HG

Fe Bisuna of Philippine Solidarity Group asks why
Canadian media don’t report enough on the Philippines where many important events are happening. Why mainly only during disasters? Beside her is Lina Taruc.
PHOTO: HG

I spent five years covering everything there is to cover in a small city. From school boards, to city hall, to the legislature – CBC Winnipeg gave me all kinds of opportunities. And then in 1997 – one of the highlights of my career – Manitoba was hit with “The Flood of the Century”. Our newsroom probably worked for three weeks straight, no days off, constantly out in the field covering the rising flood waters in the area around Winnipeg even in the United States where the flood was coming from. I covered many communities that were hit by the disaster. And I learned many things about covering a natural disaster – being able to adapt to less than ideal conditions and still be able to tell the story you want to tell. But mostly I learned that people are genuinely kind and want to help their fellow humans.

Shortly after that, I left Winnipeg for Toronto. It was here that I expanded my skills to business and economics. It was during a time when business news was becoming mainstream. I realized it would be a great opportunity to grow as a journalist. I took the Canadian Securities Course – which was immensely useful in helping me understand the complex world of finance and economics. I spent the next few years as part of the CBC’s business reporting unit – and what a great time it was to be a business reporter. The dot-com boom went bust, the terror attacks on 9/11 triggered a global economic downturn and two of the big three auto companies went into bankruptcy.

Fred Yuson of Philippine Press Club of Ontario. (PHOTO: J. SMOOKE)

Fred Yuson of Philippine Press Club of Ontario. (PHOTO: J. SMOOKE)

After my stint in business news, I went back to local reporting. It’s one of the most challenging areas of journalism. Being a local news reporter now, means researching and making phone calls in a hurry, trying to find people to interview and locations to shoot. And bringing it all back to the news room in time to edit the story and often head right back out to be live on location during the newscast. All the while, tweeting, updating your story on the web and often doing reports for CBC Radio news throughout the day. It is hectic and filled with stress – and sometimes disappointing because you spend all day gathering the news – and you only have 2 minutes to tell the full story. But, most days, I love it. Because I get to meet people and go to parts of the city I normally wouldn’t have a chance to if it wasn’t for my job.

My newest endeavour is a weekend news magazine program called Our Toronto. We do longer features on issues and people that have made the news during the week. It’s a wonderful forum for being able to gain insight into different issues. And I look forward to profiling more stories about the wonderful community I am proud to be part of – the Filipino community.

Veteran broadcast journalist Marivel Taruc with emerging Filipino female broadcast and print journalists, from left: Dyan Ruiz (Philippine Reporter and people.power.media), Veronica Silva (ABS-CBN), Taruc, and Rachelle Cruz (Philippine Reporter). PHOTO: MG

Veteran broadcast journalist Marivel Taruc with emerging Filipino female broadcast and print journalists, from left: Dyan Ruiz (Philippine Reporter and people.power.media), Veronica Silva (ABS-CBN), Taruc, and Rachelle Cruz (Philippine Reporter). PHOTO: MG