Tag Archives: Reporting

CTV National Affairs Correspondent Lisa LaFlamme

2 Dec

Lunch with Mary 026

Date of lunch:
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The company:
Lisa LaFlamme is the national affairs correspondent on CTV National News. She also sometimes fills in at the anchor desk for Lloyd Robertson. She has covered stories all over the world from the war in Iraq to the war in Afghanistan, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami from Sri Lanka, Conrad Black’s trial in Chicago, Hurricane Katrina, on the ground after 9/11 and more. Pretty much every major news event that has happened in my adult life, Lisa was there reporting on it. She’s currently gearing up to anchor the daytime broadcasts of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I have always thought Lisa’s job was so cool. If you watch CTV National News regularly, I feel like every day she’s somewhere different and reporting on really important stories wherever she is. I’m glad this blog gave me the opportunity to meet her.

The food:
We actually met for an early morning coffee rather than lunch as Lisa has been extremely busy and this was the only way to get together. We met at the Starbucks at Yonge and Craighurst. I had a “grande” Christmas blend coffee but I ordered “medium” because I always forget the Starbucks lingo and I got some weird looks. Grande means big, not medium – I don’t get it. Lisa had a “venti” coffee which inexplicably means “large”. Confusing. Anyway, the coffee was tasty and the bill for both was under $5. Lisa actually paid for her own so I still owe her a lunch, or at least a coffee.

The lunch lesson:
Lisa and I started our coffee chat with me explaining my blog a bit. Lisa said she thought it was brave of me to have set off on this adventure and simply outreach to people and then meet up with them. Although I don’t know if I am actually brave, I do know that the whole process has been a big step out of my comfort zone. Lisa said that with her job she outreaches to people as well but she is always on a deadline and needs to speak with them right away. The timeliness of the story takes away any nervousness or hesitation as she needs to tell the story while it’s relevant. This got me to thinking that for me to break out of my nervousness, I need to approach this blog a bit like a journalist and see myself as someone with a story to tell. I’m not quite there yet but if I keep telling myself that, maybe eventually I’ll believe it.

The lunch:
I was a bit nervous to meet Lisa as I have watched her on the news so many times and I just wasn’t sure what to say to her. I was afraid I might be a bit star struck. But she is so nice, from the second I met her all my nervousness was gone.

Of all the stories that Lisa has covered, she said it is definitely her reporting from areas of conflict that stay with her the longest. Being in the refugee camps and seeing the people that so desperately want the conflict to end is something that stays with her long after the story has been filed and she has returned home. I can imagine that there would be a lot of feelings of helplessness after meeting the completely innocent people stuck in the middle.

She did say that she also really enjoyed covering the Michael Jackson funeral this year. She said once the shock of his death had faded, everyone was there honouring his life and you easily got caught up in it. She says there are few moments in our lives that everyone remembers where they were when they first heard – JFK’s assassination, Princess Di’s death, 9/11 and, I proved her right by remembering, Michael Jackson’s death.

We chatted about her upcoming anchor desk role at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. This is a completely new area of reporting for Lisa and she is really excited. I am a huge fan of the Olympics (and recently found out that I am going to the Olympics with my work – wahoo!) and think it would be amazing to interview the athletes after they have won a medal – basically moments after they achieved what they have dreamed of their entire lives.

Lisa also talked about her volunteer work with Plan Canada. For a number of years, Lisa has spent a vacation week a year traveling with Plan Canada to remote areas around the world where child poverty and hunger are rampant. The money raised through the organization is used to help build up communities with water wells, schools, hospitals and more. I am sure many of you have seen Lisa on the Plan Canada programs that run weekend mornings.

Lisa told me how her and her friends get together every year and fundraise together rather than exchange gifts. This year they were able to raise $2,000, which incredibly covers the yearly salary for two female teachers in Afghanistan. Watching the news about Afghanistan, I think the battle that girls are enduring to get an education is one of the saddest and bravest struggles in the world today. Lisa explained to me, having been to Afghanistan, that many women teachers sleep in the schools because it is too dangerous for them to travel back and forth from their homes, but they keep teaching. Such courage.

I really enjoyed my coffee with Lisa, too bad it couldn’t be longer. She is so friendly and great to talk to. She must have so many more amazing stories to tell. But hopefully I can take a little bit from Lisa and try to find that journalist hiding inside me.

Freelance Foreign Journalist and CBC Dispatches Producer Naheed Mustafa

26 Jul

Lunch with Mary 020

Date of lunch:
Friday, July 24, 2009

The company:
I first came across Naheed when listening to my favorite podcast/radio show CBC Dispatches. She was reporting from Afghanistan and telling a story about determining the “barometer of success”. She was speaking with shop keepers and business owners and reporting on things such as how long people were going without a power outage. First of all, any correspondent for Dispatches is someone I want to take for lunch – but secondly, I was intrigued by Naheed and how she was right in the midst of Afghanistan, getting to know the people and what life is really like over there – not what we hear on the daily news. So I Googled her, found her on Twitter and invited her with a Tweet. Aside from Dispatches, Naheed is a freelance journalist and has been working in radio for nearly nine years after ten years in print. She produces documentaries and is currently working on an online resource for the upcoming Afghanistan election. She also regularly covers Swat Valley in Pakistan and is planning an upcoming trip to Bosnia.

The food:
We ate at the Queen Mother Café on Queen Street West. It’s such a staple of this area and has a beautiful patio but the weather was being strange – sun then rain then sun then downpour (welcome to the summer of 2009). So we didn’t chance it and ate inside. Naheed had the cannelloni and I had a grilled vegetable wrap with goat cheese – both came with a small mixed green salad and we both drank water. I am in the midst of a personal experiment to go vegetarian for July (this is likely a blog post on its own). I have always enjoyed grilled veggie sandwiches and wraps so I didn’t mind but I am finding the lack of veggie options when I go out quite shocking. All in all though, the service was great and the food was delish. The total bill was $23 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
I think the lesson of this lunch was almost simple in its message but something that is difficult to always remember. The feeling I left the lunch with is that you cannot ever really know what a place and its people are like until you’ve been there. I consider myself to be pretty well informed. I am a news junkie and I always grab news and stories from multiple sources. Beyond reading and watching news regarding current events, I try to watch documentaries, read novels by international authors set in many other countries and just overall, try to learn as much as I can about what’s going on in the rest of the world. But the truth is, I have never really travelled far off the beaten path and have never met people living and surviving in a warzone or living in complete poverty. And no matter how much news I watch and read, I will never know, not only what their lives are like, but what they’re like – their dreams, passions – or, even more basic, their pastimes and hobbies. For example, did you know that Afghanistan culture is very family oriented and one of the most popular activities on a day off is to picnic? Naheed taught me that one.

The lunch:
Every so often throughout our lunch, Naheed would say something that was unbelievable to me, but for Naheed, it would be like me telling her that I watched ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ on TV last night. For instance “Ya, I had a couple of run-ins with Taliban.”

The experiences Naheed has had and the things she has seen and learned along the way are definitely more than what can be captured in one lunch. But I hope to have gotten a small glimpse.

Naheed talked a bit about being a journalist and reporting on the types of stories that she does. She says in order to be able to move on to the next story, she can’t stay emotionally connected. She says she always remains intellectually connected but has to find a way to keep her emotions out, in order to continue doing her job.

She even mentioned another journalist, Stephanie Nolen from the Globe and Mail, who is the South Asian correspondent currently based in New Delhi. Naheed read an article that Stephanie wrote while reporting on the people of Rwanda ten years after the genocide and she still wonders how Stephanie was able to move on from that story. Naheed says she often goes back and reads that same article and it still gets to her every time.

We talked about Iran and how it has been a progressive Middle East country in many ways, with a population that is extremely educated. This is another place that was mostly shown in the media as a reflection of its leader and, recently, we have seen this is definitely not the case.

I also wanted to ask Naheed, what is someone like me to do? I see horrible stories on the news of girls being attacked for going to school and I want to help but don’t know how. She said it’s not easy to help. This is a country that is extremely conservative, 80 per cent rural, with tribal and sectarian divides and women, at times, are still seen very much like property. She suggested donations to charities that have tangible results such as those offering medic al care. Women are dying in childbirth when they could be easily saved with proper medical care. Proper care for these mothers is very much a women’s rights issue and a way for us here in Canada to help.

I really enjoyed my lunch with Naheed. I feel like I always have follow-up questions after I watch the news and I was able to get some insightful answers from Naheed. I could honestly have talked to her, asked her questions and listened to her stories for hours. Hopefully we can meet up again one time. Now I think it’s time for me to start a secondary “lunch set up” blog because I think Stephanie Nolen and Naheed should get together.