Touria Izri, School of Journalism ‘13, is Videojournalist with CTV Edmonton.
This Q&A was conducted when Touria was with CTV Edmonton. She is now with CTV News Montreal as a videojournalist.
What did you originally see yourself doing when you first enrolled in journalism school?
I’ve always wanted to be a foreign correspondent. I knew I’d have to earn my stripes and get to know my own country first. I thought I would be a local TV reporter right out of school, but things didn’t go as planned.
When did you know you wanted to work as a broadcast journalist?
I knew I wanted to be a reporter from a young age. My grandpa (or Dampy as I call him) nicknamed me “hawk” as a kid because I was always watching and listening, which got on the grown ups’ nerves sometimes.
How did you arrive at your current position?
My path to reporting is different than most TV journalists. I started out behind the scenes. My first job out of school was as a freelance writer on CTV News Channel. I moved over to CTV National News and was eventually offered a permanent position as producer. Fulltime journalism jobs in Toronto are hard to come by, so I decided to put my dream of reporting on hold and explore producing instead. I loved the job, but that nagging voice inside my head kept saying “you’re meant to report.” After six years in the same newsroom, I worked up the courage to make the jump. I started applying for reporter/videojournalist (VJ) jobs. In November 2019, I packed up my life in Toronto and moved to Winnipeg.
Can you talk a little about what your job entails day to day?
The day-to-day of a VJ is jam packed. We have a story meeting every morning. Once we’re assigned, we chase voices, shoot interviews, gather visuals, write a TV script and web copy, edit our package and be ready in time for a live hit at 6 p.m.
What was it like covering big events like the Winter Olympics or the 75th Anniversary of D-Day? What is something people don’t realize about doing that kind of coverage?
It was a privilege. Here I am, 27 at the time and still starting out, producing next to Lisa LaFlamme, a journalist I’ve looked up to since I was a kid. Those assignments were an introduction to working overseas, which is my ultimate goal. They were also once in a lifetime experiences, especially seeing Canadian vets return to the beaches they liberated for what was almost certainly the last time.
What people may not realize is that months of planning go into producing just a few hours of television. It’s a massive undertaking. Every detail is meticulously planned by a dedicated team of camera operators and engineers, who often run on instant coffee, adrenaline and a love of journalism.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
I have a few favourites, but what I love most is writing; the power of creating something out of nothing, staring at a blank page and filling it with lines that hopefully inform and inspire.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part has always been time management. In daily news you’re always up against the clock. It’s a constant struggle between what you want to include and what you can realistically achieve before show time. As my former boss used to say, “time waits for no one.”
What has been your biggest accomplishment as a journalist?
My biggest accomplishment was diving into a new career as a VJ in the middle of a pandemic. I hadn’t picked up a camera or edited video since my days at [the university]. I had also never reported for TV. The learning curve was steep. It became steeper once COVID-19 hit. VJs started working remotely, which meant my bedroom (and often my truck) became my offices. I found myself having to navigate a new province, troubleshoot technology and cover COVID-19, the biggest story of our lifetime, all at the same time. I am grateful to my bosses for their patience, my coworkers for answering my panicked phone calls, and Manitobans who have shared their stories of pain and perseverance during this public health disaster.
You worked in the Toronto Star Radio Room during your time at School of Journalism. What was that experience like?
I interned in the Toronto Star Radio Room during my last year of j-school. My time in the “box” was a crash course in reporting. I learned the power of cold calling and how to stay up during overnight shifts (tea and sunflower seeds were my best friends.) Most of our stories revolved around crime, but when big stories broke we all pitched in and started making calls. I was in the newsroom the day of the Boston Marathon Bombing. I was also working the day a monkey in a diaper strolled into Ikea. That was my first front page story at the Star. My mom still has the newspaper clipping.
What’s one of your favourite memories from j-school?
I don’t have a favourite memory, I have favourite people. I forged lifelong friendships in those halls, classrooms and edit suites. I count some of my former classmates as extended family. They’re the ultimate hype men and hype women who give me the confidence I don’t always have in myself.
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
Learn how to shoot and edit. The reality of being a TV reporter in 2021 is that it’s usually a one woman or one man show. Another piece of advice, is to focus on good writing. Avoid clichés, it makes writing sound lazy. Also, be patient, especially with yourself. This can be an unforgiving job, but it’s also rewarding. What other gig gives you a front-row seat to history? Lastly, if you make a mistake learn from it and move on. Tomorrow is a new broadcast.
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