TV host Kris Reyes’s advice to media professionals:
By Dyan Ruiz
The Morning Show host Kris Reyes. PHOTO: JOSEPH SMOOKE
Having the courage to make risky, “big moves” and being confident in her skills are two of the main sources of the success of Filipina-Canadian Kris Reyes, reporter and current host of GlobalTV’s The Morning Show.
At an event hosted by the Philippine Press Club of Ontario called “Behind the Lens with Kris Reyes” held at the OISE building on Bloor Street West, Reyes gave a presentation and fielded questions from ethnic press journalists, publishers and other community members. Her presentation focused on the three big moves in her life that enabled her to reach the level of success she has now as a host of the GlobalTV’s “The Morning Show.”
Her first risky move came when she was beginning her career and was hoping to get a full-time job. She applied for a job as an administrator at CTV Winnipeg and when she was told she didn’t get it and to “Keep in touch,” she decided to call back five minutes later. She offered to pay her own way to fly to Winnipeg and spend a week in the newsroom as an intern. She ended up getting a part time job that paid close to minimum wage being a producer and reporter. Not ideal, but she thought if she had to make a financial sacrifice, this was the time to do it, when she was 23 years old.
PHOTO: JOSEPH SMOOKE
Her sacrifice and first big move paid off, giving her the experience she needed to return to Toronto and worked for CityTV as a reporter, host and anchor. After a few years, she realized that she wasn’t growing anymore, so she decided to quit her job and travel for a few months with her husband. Another scary “big move.”
When returning, she decided she wasn’t ready to completely walk away from journalism and got a position at CBC working as an anchor and host for their news channel. Later she applied for a job as a host for “The Morning Show,” which was just launching.
Again the risk she took earlier paid off because the person who hired her liked that she had taken time off. “Everybody that was on the show had taken a career break. It was so ironic the fact that I quit my job a year earlier had helped me land this job,” she said. Although it was out of her comfort zone and requires her to be on the job at 3 a.m. everyday, Reyes saw hosting the daily talk show as a rare and fortunate opportunity to be a major player in building something new for Canada’s largest market.
She talked about guests that she had interviewed who have inspired her, risk-takers who have become extremely successful like primatologist Jane Goodall, and those with uncanny charisma like federal Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau and former longtime talk show host, Regis Philbin.
PHOTO: JOSEPH SMOOKE
As an audience member pointed out, there were other big moves in her life that she later talked about when fielding questions from the audience. She was born in the Philippines and moved to Canada when she was nine. She attended school in Canada and lived here until her dad made them move back to the Philippines. It was in Manila that she attended university as a Political Science major at De La Salle University.
The move ended up being one of the best things that her parents did for her because “for the first time, I was able to see Filipinos in different forms. When you immigrate to another country– and this is a sacrifice of our parents– you don’t always work in your industry. So you might only see one aspect of Filipinos,” she said. Reyes saw that often Filipinos in Canada work in hospitals or as nannies and thought that those were her only options for occupations.
“It was so eye-opening for me to go to the Philippines and meet Filipino poets, Filipino economists and Filipino professors, and businessmen and people who did every line of work. It really opened my eyes to the excellence Filipinos are capable of,” she said.
One piece of advice she wanted to impart to the members of the audience of mostly Philippine Press Club of Ontario members is to be confident. “If you’re doing anything, you have to really own it,” she said.
Members and guests of PPCO with Kris Reyes. PHOTO: JBCanchela
In Filipino culture, there’s an emphasis on showing “pakumbaba” or humility. To Reyes, this tendency can be both beautiful and a weakness. “Sometimes we use it as a crutch,” she said, “We never want to be looked at as someone who’s trying to take center stage or steal attention because we like to be in the background. I think that sometimes hurts our opportunity to have a voice and to add to the conversation.”
Every day she reminds herself to “to have confidence and believe that I deserve to be there,” Reyes said. She even writes notes to herself on the show to help encourage her confidence. This confidence should be based on the hard work put in to building your skills. “Know what you’re capable of and be proud of it,” she said.
PPCO President and editor of The Philippine Reporter, Hermie Garcia, asked about her challenges as someone coming from the ethnic community. Her career included writing for The Philippine Reporter while she was a journalism student at Ryerson University and an intern at CNN. Reyes talked about “insisting on your face,” as she puts it. She said when you get into mainstream media, there’s a lot of pressure to conform, and look and talk a certain way, “but you have to really insist on who you are.”
From left: Veronica Silva Cusi, Ariel Ramos, Jess Cabrias, Mercy Maliglig, Aida d’Orazio, Eva Agpaoa, Rose Tijam, Hermie Garcia, Kris Reyes, Mila Astorga-Garcia, Rachelle Cruz, Jonathan Canchela and Nelson Galvez. PHOTO: JOSEPH SMOOKE
She recalled an instance early in her career while working at CityTV. One of the directors told her she needed to work on how she read the script as a news anchor. She welcomed the criticism and prodded further. The director told her she should sound more authoritative, giving examples of mainstream news anchors, Leslie Roberts from CTV and Peter Mansbridge from CBC.
“I said to myself I will never sound like those white men. Never ever ever,” she said laughing as the audience also chuckled. “I’m a Filipino woman and I will never sound like that and I don’t want to apologize for it,” she continued.
To journalists starting out, she gave the advice of knowing exactly what you want to do. For instance the type of news you want to report on, your role in delivering it– whether it’s as a writer, an on-camera broadcast reporter, or an off-camera producer. Each type of reporting has its own way it operates and skills set, so the sooner you pursue an expertise in a field of journalism, the better.
Reyes said those trying to transition from being a print journalist to broadcast, can use their writing strengths– having organized thoughts and being able to see the narrative structure of stories– to their advantage. She used those skills to always meet her tight deadlines in broadcast.
She is the only one in her family who works in broadcast news. Her mom works at The Gap and her dad works for Canada Post. So when she was starting out, she knew that she had to really work hard on her skills and constantly improve because unlike other people she didn’t have connections to help her get ahead. She said that if you feel like you’re not getting the opportunities you want, don’t take it personally because that will prevent you from recognizing the skills that you’re missing.
She dared people to look up her first ever standup (when the reporter is in front of the camera, speaking from the field). “I look like I’m 12. It’s like a deer in the headlights and I can’t really talk,” she said. Now Reyes is an eloquent, personable TV host, who along with her co-hosts and guests, talks in front of the camera for a three and half hour show every weekday morning in Canada’s largest city for a major network.
She is the first of a series of speakers of Filipinos in the Canadian Mainstream Media. The Philippine Press Club of Ontario awarded Reyes with a certificate of appreciation and an honorary membership.
From left: Mila Astorga-Garcia, Hermie Garcia, Nelson Galvez, Kris Reyes, Jess Cabrias and May Cabrias. PHOTO: JOSEPH SMOOKE
Part of the audience at OISE, University of Toronto, Toronto. PHOTO: JBCanchela
From left:Joseph Smooke, Jonathan Canchela, Rachelle Cruz, Dyan Ruiz, Kris Reyes, Mila Astorga-Garcia and Hermie Garcia.