Week 3- CTV Calgary

It is I, Sean Marks, back at it again to give you the up and up on how my third week of practicum has been. I can’t believe how quickly it’s flown by, geez. It feels like just yesterday I was calling in to the first morning meeting all nervous and now it’s just part of my normal, everyday routine. This week was a pretty busy one for the most part though. I got the chance to do a few more CVO’s, write more copy and even go out and help shoot a story that I pitched (obviously keeping with the social distancing measures of course). It was a pretty good week…. so lets get into it.

Day 1- Monday

Monday was pretty uneventful to be honest. Kevin told me on Sunday about the story he would be doing and just needed me to write the web copy the next day. However, he ended up writing it the night before so it was ready to be published Monday morning as it turned out to be time sensitive and he wanted to be the first to break the story. He then asked me to set up some interviews for him for Tuesday for another story about a dog sled company in Canmore. I wasn’t able to get the interviews set up (probably because it was Easter Monday) but it didn’t end up making a difference as he came down with something and ended up not working the next day anyways.

Day 2- Tuesday

With Kevin being sick on Tuesday, I offered my help to anyone who needed it at the station. The assignment editor, Kevin Nimmock, ended up giving me two jobs to do that day. I ended up interviewing the CEO of the Calgary Counselling Centre, Dr. Robbie Babins-Wagner, and putting together a CVO on how they’ve been doing since resorting to online sessions with their clients. I also interviewed a volunteer for the Distress Centre Calgary who was organizing their 50 year anniversary and did a CVO for that as well. I wrote copies for both stories but they didn’t end up going to web. It was a super productive and fulfilling day and probably one of the busiest ones I’d had to date.

You can watch both CVO’s at the following link. Distress is at 12:48 and Counselling at 30:57.


Day 3- Wednesday

Kevin and I were back at it again on Wednesday and were assigned a story on Post-secondary schools in Calgary. It came from a tip off that the U of C was preparing to go online for the fall semester but nothing was confirmed. We were both unsure of whether the story would work or not since we couldn’t get a straight answer but ended up focusing on contingency plans that were in place for not only U of C but also MRU and SAIT. I transcribed Kevin’s interviews and wrote the web copy for the story. I was also in charge of setting up a possible interview with an administrator at SAIT. I contacted Chris Gerritsen but was unable to get an interview that day. He did give us a statement that we used in the story and the web copy.

Here’s a link to both the pack and the web copy.


Day 4- Thursday

On Thursday, Kevin asked if I would like to join him in shooting the story that I had pitched to him the previous week. It was on a Calgary company called YYC Princesses that normally attends children’s birthday parties as princesses from Disney movies. However, with COVID-19 and social distancing they were forced to make some changes. They are now doing what they call Princess Trains where they visit kids at home and on their birthdays and sing and chat with them from the street. They also have an online presence now with something called Princess TV which you can watch on their Facebook page.

Kevin had me conduct the interviews and gave me a copy of the footage to cut my own pack to use for my demo. The story will air on CTV next Tuesday.

Day 5- Friday

Friday was another somewhat slow day as Kevin usually has Fridays off. I did the usual call in to the morning meeting and offered my help but didn’t hear anything for a few hours.

I ended up helping Timm Bruch with a story he was doing on Jason Kenney and the pipeline. He wanted me to find a clip of Kenney from a press conference he did talking about how Alberta needs north of $20 billion to get back on track. I had some difficulty finding the exact clip he was talking about and when I finally did, one of the web editors had tracked it down for him. I did end up finding another clip from a phone interview Kenney did with BNN Bloomberg where he said something similar which I sent to Timm as well.

And there you have it. Three weeks in the bag, one to go! I didn’t get a chance to do a sit-down with Kevin this week so we’re going to go over the back half of the practicum for my fourth and final blog post! As always, thanks again for reading along and seeing how things are going with this lad. Catch you next time!

-Sean Marks

Dawson – Practicum: Week 1

Cab·in fe·ver


irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.

“a great energy-burning game for exuberant Cubs with midwinter cabin fever”

There is currently no definition for “pandemic fever” aside from what that obviously actually means. I’ve left the house once in the last 2 weeks, and since then the world has become even more strict on travel outside. If the world weren’t wrought to it’s current state by the COVID-19 crisis I would be doing my practicum in Lloydminster, but with most reporters working from home it was too difficult for the station to supervise any practicum students–and the place I had planned to stay had to cancel for safety reasons.

Currently I am learning from Global News Calgary producer Joanne Reid, which I am both grateful for and excited about. Production behind the scenes is one of my passions and hearing about what goes on in the production room in industry is really enlightening–especially in circumstances like this one.

Reporting is considered an essential service right now, which means reporters are given paperwork to avoid fines if they are found out and about currently. With employees and workers in such short supply, Global Calgary even had to purpose the Edmonton show as an Alberta update for the weekend of March 21/22. Calgary anchors and reporters still did cut-ins with local news, but Joanne said that there were still complaints. She added that this is the first time in her career that they haven’t had a show to put together.

Joanne says that the Coronavirus has caused a phenomenon where the news seems to be covering a single ongoing story with several angles each day–akin to press coverage of 9/11. Trying to come up with story ideas to help has been difficult, and the schedule that Joanne works on adds some complications–but depending how this next week goes I could possibly catch meetings if I rework my sleep schedule. It needs some re-ordering anyway.

I was unable to do a video call with Joanne and on top of that there has been an issue with my video editing software so I have no blog project to show for this week, however I’ve had time to absorb and assess information on media coverage during the crisis.

The last few weeks have seen a lot of projects done from home for reporters, and with a short amount of staff in production there are instances where the workload becomes a bit more difficult–whether you see it or not. Sometimes the prompter doesn’t work, and an anchor will have to be more reliant on paper scripts. Sometimes an interview will need to be changed to be more topical, something that Global News had to do Thursday in order to remain relevant with COVID-19 information: a nutritionist was going to be on the show, but now, via skype, she was giving tips regarding eating healthy in quarantine. The restrictions on live interviews seem to limit them to being done on the porch of houses rather than inside–speaking to people on the street requires handing them the microphone (a practice not often recommended) or coming up with a method of holding it like a makeshift boom mic.

The city is much quieter, making events like crime suddenly an even bigger story to cover in news because it’s local. It’s an event. Otherwise stories tend to focus much more on personal experiences of individuals trying to make a difference, or those effected by the pandemic’s change.

It’s been stressful for workers. When some of us convened to speak about our practicum experience we talked about how our locations and supervisors were dealing with the experience. Reporters suddenly have a lot more difficulty trying to make B-Roll, and students under them especially so as they are advised not to leave home. Anchors need to stretch material for longer with more to say in order to fill the same timeframe that would normally be filled by much more diverse news. Producers need to extend the bounds of local stories more. Burn-out is a much more prevalent issue than before.

Currently, my “homework” has been to rewrite scripts and type up web-copy as a demonstration of what I can do, as well as put together story ideas for the upcoming week. Hopefully I haven’t bombed that.