Katie Griffin – The Faces Interview
Born and raised in Pickering, Ontario, Katie Griffin is well-known for her professional air and efficient delivery of the news that has gained her the respect she deserves in being a CTV News Anchor. A journalist by trade, Katie delivers only the facts to the community in Ottawa and has a passion for her hometown to boot. From contributing to the Ottawa Citizen, to interning at CBC’s foreign bureau in London, England, Katie is becoming a pillar in the Ottawa community for current events.
Katie’s involvement in the community as an experienced journalist was the highlight of our discussions as she spoke about her early career, getting to know Ottawa and life inside the news-room.
FM: When you left your hometown of Pickering to attend Carleton for Journalism, did you always know that this was the career path you wanted to follow – if so, what was it about journalism and current affairs that appealed to you the most?
KG: I’ve always been curious and will always have questions to ask. The news was always on growing up and I was fascinated with knowing what was happening in the world and the way it was presented. I considered other careers briefly but always knew journalism was the one for me. I was drawn to television because of the way stories, through compelling characters and powerful images, have the ability to connect with viewers in a way other mediums may not.
FM: What do you find is the most rewarding part of your position – and how has your career changed you (if it has at all) through people you’ve met or stories you’ve told?
KG: It really is a privilege to come into someone’s home each night and be trusted with bringing them the news of the day. It’s a huge job and one we don’t take lightly. I love that journalism lets you delve into an issue and dig until you find an answer. If there isn’t one, you ask why. It’s rewarding when persistence pays off. On the other side, there is nothing like the rush when news breaks.
Our stories can make a difference, whether it’s in someone’s life or a policy change.
What they don’t prepare you for in j-school is the recognition that comes with the role. It does take some time getting used to, but I think it’s so great when a viewer takes the time to stop me at the grocery store or at the mall and say they enjoy the newscast. I really appreciate that people watch and it shows we’ve connected with them in some way.
FM: You are fluent in American Sign Language – at what point did you develop an interest in Deaf Culture and was there a moment that stands out to you that inspired you to learn sign language?
KG: During my first year at Carleton I had to go to the mailroom to pick up a shipping box and was told I’d have to write a note explaining what I needed because the man was Deaf. It was my first experience with someone who couldn’t hear. He was used to people writing notes but it was then that I knew I wanted to learn sign language.
I needed a language credit for my degree and I looked into whether ASL qualified. It did, so I was able to get the credit and just stuck with it. I’ve been able to use it in everyday life, for a story and I’ve also run into my in-structors at Carleton who are deaf and even after all these years I can still communicate using ASL. Lip-reading also comes in handy sometimes (laughs).
FM: Tell us about the road you took after graduating Carleton that eventually led to your career at CTV Ottawa. What were some of the places you worked at and what did you learn along the way that has helped you with your career now at CTV Ottawa?
KG: During school I did an internship with Global News in Toronto and at CTV Ottawa. I was also fortunate to land a summer internship with the CBC’s foreign bureau in London.
A few months after my internship with CTV Ottawa, I was hired as a part-time reporter and things just took off. Over the next three years, I worked every other weekend as a part-time reporter, I then became a full time reporter and shortly after that became the weekend anchor. In addition to reporting and anchoring, I’m also responsible, along with my co-anchor for weather, sports and online content during the weekend. It’s a business that is constantly changing and we have to keep up. The best way to learn is to do and be thrown right into the mix doing everything and anything! It’s really helped me become a better journalist.
FM: Your bio says that you enjoy figure skating, tell us a little about that – was it something you just did growing up, did you do it competitively and do you still do it today?
KG I was in skates at three years old and have loved skating ever since. While I’ve taught skating and enjoy lacing up for fun, I’ve never done it competitively.
FM: What do you enjoy most about working and living in Ottawa – and are there particular restaurants, sites or venues that you feel people should visit in order to get a full appreciation for the city?
KG: I love that this is a big city with a small town feel. I’ve lived here for 10 years and it really does feel like home now. A walk, bike ride or skate along the canal is a must-do and you should have a BeaverTail for good measure! I love being a tourist in my own city. While I go to a lot of different sites, festivals or museums for work, it’s great when people come to visit because it’s a chance for me to enjoy them too.
FM: Tell us a little about your co-workers at CTV Ottawa – how would you describe the relation-ship that you have with them and did anyone give you advice when you first started that really helped you on your way?
KG: Our newsroom is like a big family. We do what we can to help each other and get the best product to air. When I first started—and during my internship—Graham Richardson and Catherine Lathem both pulled me aside to offer advice and constructive criticism. It’s helped shape how I go about stories, how
I write and how I present the news. I’m so grateful for everyone’s support and the fact that they have my back.
FM: Who is the funniest person at Bell Media in your opinion?
KG: There are a lot of extremely funny people but because I work with him every weekend I’d have to say my co-anchor Matt Skube. He can be serious but when he’s not you can find him trying his best to scare us in the makeup room or cracking jokes during commercial.
FM: If you had to take four people with you from Bell Media to be dropped in the middle of a jungle with in order to help you find your way out – who would you take with you and what skill set does each person have that would come in handy?
KG: I’d have to take the entire weekend team (Matt Skube, Leah Larocque, Megan Shaw and Annie Bergeron-Oliver) because we are a small but mighty crew. Even in the jungle I feel that we could somehow work together and find our way out…and if we couldn’t, we’d find a way do a newscast or have fun trying (laughs).
FM: You have a passion for travelling. What is a city or country that you feel everyone needs to visit in their lifetime and why?
KG: Ireland. When I spent the summer in London, I did a quick trip to Dublin to visit friends. They took me everywhere they could and I loved that I was able to see the city from their perspective and go to local hotspots, instead of just the tourist ones. The scenery was beyond spectacular. There are so many other cities and counties to explore and I can’t wait to go back to see the rest of the country!
FM: What music do you enjoy the most and is there an upcoming concert that you are looking forward to – or what was the best one that you’ve seen live recently?
KG: I love country. It’s always on. It’s a good day when I can convince our camera ops to have it on in the car when we’re going to a shoot!
FM: If you had to talk to journalism student tomorrow at Carleton – or even high school students who aspire to get into broadcasting – what advice would you give them that perhaps you wish you’d been given at the start?
KG: Immerse yourself in news completely. Practice live hits or newscasts in front of a mirror. Get involved in your school/local paper.
Apply for internships that will give you newsroom experience and every job that you think would be a good fit. You may get ten no’s before you get a yes but it’s worth it. Never stop trying.
I was told this and it is still so true: get your foot in the door and don’t take it out.
FM: What does success mean to you?
KG: Everyone has a different marker for success. I think it comes in the small victories. We’ve been told—by someone…some-where—what we ‘should’ accomplish by certain dates or ages and I’ve kind of thrown that out the window.
I believe in running on your own timeline, calling your own shots and making it happen…whatever that is for you. Your goals or what you need to accomplish on a certain day/month/year may not be aligned with others but at the end of the day if you’re happy and doing something that you love then that’s a great place to be.
FM: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
KG: News doesn’t stop on a weekend and neither do we. I’ve worked almost every weekend for the last six years and that often means missing birthdays or BBQ’s. I’m lucky that I have many people in my life who are so supportive and will rearrange things so that I’m able to attend. One year it meant celebrating Christmas a week or so early be-cause I had to work. Journalism isn’t a 9—5 job but it’s a great one and very much worth the sometimes-wonky hours and schedule.
FM: If someone wanted to learn the basics about ASL, where should they start?
KG: You can teach yourself how to sign using online resources or cue cards but it’s best to take a class where you can interact with others, practice signing and learn about Deaf Culture.
FM: What does the world need more of? Less of?
KG: We could all use more kindness. We really have no idea what someone else is going through and we shouldn’t judge. I think the focus should be on building people up instead of tearing them down.
FM: What ritual could you not live without in your workday?
KG: Watching or reading the news. Even if I’m on vacation I’ll usually turn on the local news wherever I am just so I can feel like I have some idea of what’s going on in the world.