Filipino-Canadian broadcast journalist takes pride in ‘unique’ Pinoy roots
By Veronica C. Silva
For broadcast journalist Zuraidah Alman, being a visible minority in a multicultural big city such as Toronto is more of an advantage than a disadvantage.
Born in the Philippines but raised in Canada, Alman considers her Filipino roots a unique advantage that allows her to offer her audience something different.
Alman was a guest speaker at a recent talk in a series called “Filipinos in the Canadian Mainstream Media” sponsored by the Philippine Press Club of Ontario. The series has also previously featured other Filipinas, including Kris Reyes of Global TV and Marivel Taruc of CBC.
Alman, a field reporter and anchor for CTV News, is also a product of a J-school, but this didn’t excuse her from going the way of new immigrants in the country – that is, doing volunteer work.
Alman volunteered in a community TV station for years when she was a student in J-school. She credited this volunteer work for helping her land a job as a weather reporter in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) while other journalists had to gain experience in smaller market before getting a break in a big metropolitan area such as the GTA.
“I didn’t even realize that I was already gaining experience … because in this local station they were producing a lot of community programming, ethnic programming,” said Alman. It was also in this volunteer work where she said she also gained experience in other facets of TV production, being on air and behind the scenes such as being in a control room, and she got to meet a lot of people.
The path to J-school was a natural for her as she said she has always been a curious cat ever since.
“I guess ever since high school, I always I have an aptitude in writing and telling stories. I always had a natural curiosity – asking questions and finding out what’s happening and asking ‘Why?’,” she recounted. “A few of my high school teachers actually suggested to me to try journalism.”
Visible minorities in the media
When Alman left J-school for real-life work in the mid-1990s, she noted that Filipinos in the media were underrepresented, unlike in recent times. But this didn’t stop her from moving forward. In fact, she turned this reality into an opportunity to present her community in mainstream TV.
“I never let my being a visible minority … become a conscious barrier for me, because I firmly believe that news stations, especially local news, should reflect the communities that they serve,” said Alman.
She added that believing in oneself, including in one’s skills set and talent, and persistence make up a good formula to help any newcomer to Canada pursue careers in the country.
In her case, she considers her Philippine roots as her advantage over peers in the industry.
“As far as who I am and where I came from, I try to see it in a more positive light. I try to see that I have something unique and something different that I can bring to the table,” she said. “Being a Filipina and having a Filipino heritage as well as being raised here in Canada, I have a unique perspective of being both … For me, I see it as an advantage. I am able to report news for a mainstream audience yet at the same time I can bring my own personal experiences – my upbringing and my family experiences – to my stories and that makes me unique and enables me to see things from a different perspective than some of my colleagues.”
To aspiring journalists, she urged them to remain persistent as they continue to harness opportunities available to them, such as new technologies.
Armed with some of the latest digital technologies, including resources from the Internet, Alman noted that young people are becoming more enterprising these days. Not finding a job immediately, some fresh graduates are making their own news websites, she noted.
She encourages such relevant endeavors so that aspiring journalists can gain experience to get noticed in the industry.