When the clock hits 6 and the lights come on, Patricia Boal is there to deliver your Ottawa News.
Born and raised in Canada’s Capital, Patricia grew up watching the news with her family, but now she gets to deliver it to the people of Ottawa. After attending Algonquin college, she has spent the last 27 years working at CFRA, The Score, and now with CTV Ottawa.
Married to TSN 1200’s Gord Wilson, together they have dominated the Ottawa media scene with their presence and work ethic. From raising their family, looking after their dogs Jackson and Levi, and balancing work schedules, it’s been a wild ride.
We sat down with Patricia to talk growing up in Ottawa, her journey to broadcasting, and her life off-screen.
Photography by Sean Sisk
Makeup by Corey Stone
Where did you grow up?
I’m an Ottawa girl through and through. I was born here and grew up in Riverside Park near Mooney’s Bay. I went to Glebe Collegiate and loved it. I had some teachers there who rivalled my university profs in terms of teaching ability. I also made an amazing group of friends who are still some of my best buds to this day. I should also mention I grew up watching CJOH-TV (now CTV Ottawa) every day, and remember gathering around the TV with the family at 6. So my first opportunity to be on the news desk here was certainly a meaningful, full-circle moment.
You went to McGill University before attending Algonquin College. What brought you back to Ottawa?
Honestly, a boyfriend. We were only together briefly, but my love affair with Canada’s capital remains strong (laughs).
Why did you want to get into broadcasting?
I didn’t originally. I wanted to write. I started doing articles for the McGill Tribune and thought about doing a master’s in journalism. I attended Algonquin’s print journalism program to test the waters and ended up thoroughly enjoying the broadcasting courses. Steve Winogron was the news director at CFRA at the time and one of my instructors. When he suggested doing an internship at CFRA at the end of my program, I was torn. I still dreamed of writing for a newspaper, but I loved the energy in the radio newsroom and decided it might be the right place for me. One of the best decisions I ever made.
You’ve worked in media since 1994. What’s one of the most memorable stories you’ve covered?
There are a few stories that stand out.
Our CFRA morning show was on location in Toronto for the final stages of the Paul Bernardo murder trial. I was in the courtroom for the verdict and in those pre-social media days, came running out to our location to get the news to Steve Madely and get it on the air as quickly as possible.
I was also in the NO camp for the referendum vote in Montreal in 1995. Perhaps due to my time at McGill, I feel incredibly attached to the province of Quebec. That was an emotional night and a very close vote.
The families who shared with CTV Ottawa their devastating experiences with flooding in 2017 and 2019 will never be forgotten.
I have been fortunate enough to cover a few Olympic Games, too. Those trips were incredible: Vancouver 2010, London 2012, and Rio 2016.
But I think the story that stands out the most was the ice storm of 1998. We all worked 16 hour days to cover the many, many families living without electricity, without heat, without access to phones. CFRA then was like a modern-day trading post. People calling in to say they had generators or extra wood. My parents took my one-year-old daughter and me in as we too were without power in rural Manotick. So I was living the story I was covering for several days. I felt exhausted but needed. We were part of a team doing something useful and providing a lifeline. I assumed that experience would never be duplicated, but I have to say that COVID has had similarities. Again we are living it and reporting on it. Everyday.
Who has been your most memorable interview?
I had a chance to interview the late, great Alex Trebek for CTV Ottawa in 2019. I am a longtime Jeopardy viewer and admired him for years. I was a bit nervous going in because he was well into his cancer battle at that point and I had been told the interview might not happen if he wasn’t feeling up to it. But he was a consummate pro. He did interviews. He spoke French and English. He emceed the launch of the Royal Canadian Geographical society’s new headquarters with aplomb. He was inspiring. When they say “don’t meet your heroes” they weren’t talking about Trebek.
And I should say, Corey Hart was a close runner-up. His concert at Lansdowne was my first. It was a thrill to interview him decades later. One of us still looks the same.
How have you enjoyed working alongside Graham Richardson?
I’m about to say nice things so I hope he never sees this! (Laughs). Quite honestly, I once said it’s like winning the colleague lottery and it’s true. While we both took very different paths to the news desk, we somehow seem to connect beautifully when we sit side by side. Graham is one of the smartest people I know, and passionate about every aspect of the news business. He loves to break a story himself but is equally happy to mentor a younger reporter on how best to deliver their material. He is interested in everything. He has a wonderful sense of humour, he’s become an incredible friend, and we have a blast at the many events we emcee together. Graham is a transplant to Ottawa but is madly in love with this city. He is the biggest proponent of the Capital as a recreational athlete’s dream, with bike and ski trails through incredibly scenic vistas just minutes from where we work and live. I should note, he can be as intense about his recreation as he is about his work. This means we all get dragged out for pickleball with colleagues and bike rides to breweries on occasion. There are worse things.
Who would be your dream interview?
Oprah. I watched her show for years and listened to her ask the exact questions I would have asked had I been in her position. It was always a very satisfying experience. I love her energy, her strength, and her light.
Michelle Obama would be a close second. I thought I might get a chance to interview her when she was in Ottawa but I ended up doing a brief introduction to her Q and A instead. I read her book a couple of times. Once to myself, once to my son. I had all kinds of questions percolating in my head which I never got to use. I would love the opportunity to sit down with her one day.
How did you meet your husband, Gord Wilson?
We met at CFRA. We actually met first over the phone. I was very shy and had just started working there. He called in from the road and I must have picked up the phone in a very tentative manner. He barked “Who’s this? You sound like you’re answering the phone in a morgue”. I disliked him instantly. It was a much better impression when he first walked into the newsroom, smiling, making jokes, and brightening the place. He has good energy and a much louder voice than I do.
How hard is it when both you and Gord work in media and have abnormal schedules?
It’s much easier now that our kids are older and my schedule is more stable. When he was traveling with the Sens and my job as a sports reporter for the Score also involved significant travel, it was much more difficult. My parents were life-savers, often stepping in to take my older daughter. We would not both have been able to do what we were doing without their constant support. In later years, my daughter and step-daughter both put in lots of time looking after their younger siblings while we were at games or when I was working until midnight at CTV Ottawa. We’ve both had wonderful, interesting careers in media but it certainly takes a village to make it happen!
What’s a memorable Valentine’s Day that you two were able to celebrate?
Valentine’s Day has typically been more of a family celebration in our house (Kids: Lindsay, Jess, and Jake, Stepdaughter Kristin). We did go out just the two of us for dinner in 2020. The next day he had heart palpitations and suffered a heart attack two days later. I’m not sure if there is a connection…But once again we found ourselves extremely happy to live in Ottawa. He received incredible care at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. He tried desperately to get out early to emcee Chris Phillips’ jersey retirement celebration but ended up just missing it.
How hard was it for your family to go through Gord’s health scares in 2020, including a heart attack and COVID?
Everyone suffered in some way through 2020, but yes, it was particularly tough for Gord and the family by extension. Just weeks after that February heart attack he picked up COVID on the Sens final road trip to California. The team returned from California early when the NHL season paused. Several people on that flight home became ill. It was early days and there were many unknowns. It took 11 days for Gord to get his test results. While waiting, I ended up broadcasting our CTV Ottawa newscasts from the backyard. Never thought I had a job where I could work from home! Gord got quite sick but fortunately was never hospitalized. He’s finally feeling himself again but it was certainly a long haul recovering. It was very scary for the kids in the early days. Health officials kept repeating that if you stayed home you’d be safe from the virus and we would look at each other thinking “But it’s in our home…” Lots of scrubbing, disinfecting, and distancing. Fortunately, no one else got sick. Oh, and Wayne Gretzky called one night to see how Gord was doing. That was very sweet of him. And very cool for the kids. (And Gord)
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself before you started in media?
Relax. Be yourself. Seize every opportunity. Enjoy the ride and appreciate the experience.
The biggest thrill of this job is meeting a wide variety of people who are go-getters in their field. From the doctors at CHEO to the Sens and Redblacks players to the politicians, they are people who are passionate about what they do and they share a little bit of that with us. We get to share it with all of you and that is a wonderful privilege.