When a love for journalism led CTV’s Christina Succi away from a career in education and into the newsroom, she never looked back. Now a dynamic and dedicated face of CTV Ottawa, the Toronto Native continues to bring breaking news stories to a community she says is “like no other”.
Christina got her break into reporting when she was offered a position with Global News Alberta. At just 25, she moved across the country, by herself, to pursue it. Now, with years of experience reporting for news outlets in Alberta, Kitchener, and Ottawa under her belt, Christina continues to drive local news and impact stories in the Nation’s Capital.
We caught up with the CTV Ottawa Anchor to discuss her journey to journalism, her favourite hobbies off-camera, and her best advice on confidence and career.
Photography by Koko King
You grew up in Toronto. What are some of your favourite memories from your childhood?
Certainly the unrelenting buzz and contagious energy of downtown Toronto, one that I believe is truly unmatched by any other city in Canada. When your high school is located just outside of Yorkville, you quickly gain your independence by constantly traveling to and through that neighbourhood. Being immersed in its refined, posh culture does shape you, though I didn’t entirely realize it at the time, I find as I get older, there are traits I picked up in those teenage years, that now serve me well as an adult.
You attended Queen’s University for Arts & Education, and began your career as a writer for Sportscentre. It wasn’t until 2016 that you got into broadcasting. Tell us about the moment you knew you wanted to be in front of the camera?
It was in the final months of my postgraduate program at Queen’s University, closing in on my Bachelor of Education in 2013, when I began to feel unfilled by the field of education. Boredom, with a splash of uncertainty, had me contemplating other career paths. I was even in LSAT prep programs, bracing to write the LSATs to apply for law school. However, the education program did allow you a 3-week practicum (essentially an internship) where you could observe an unconventional learning environment’. I’ve always been drawn to sports, and being a huge fan of the Canadian sports talk show “Off The Record”. So doing my practicum at the Sports Network was truly a turning point. It changed my career path. I was enthralled with the chasing, the producing, the writing, the interviews, and of course, the brilliant mind that is Michael Landsberg. He took me under his wing and saw that I had a natural gift for the world of journalism and the fast-moving, thrilling television industry. I could only agree that it just felt right.
I then pursued an accelerated Bachelor of Journalism in Toronto. In my first year, I was offered the job of writer at TSN’s Sportscentre. I balanced classes during the day before zipping across the 401 to TSN for an evening shift, where I produced the highlight packages (you know, the 2 minute summary of the Leafs vs. Habs game that night) and handed it off to on-air talent. I knew I had to pay my dues, but I wanted more for myself. I wanted to be the one telling the city the news, not just writing the news. I began accepting any and every opportunity for any role in community television to build an on-air demo reel. I threw it up on YouTube. It wasn’t long until I was head-hunted for an on-camera reporter and anchor position for Global News in Alberta (a small market) and at age 25, I made the very necessary decision to move solo, across the country, to capitalize on this critical break into the industry. After less than a year, I was offered a position back in Ontario as an on-air reporter for CTV News in Kitchener (medium market), and within months, was made anchor there too.
You landed your role at CTV in 2018. Who was the first person you called when you found out you had gotten the job?
I called my agent in New York City first. When I received the offer, I had actually been interviewing with major American networks in NYC. I’ll never forget it. I was in a cab, on my way to JFK airport, wrapping up a week of interviews and meetings, still riding a high from my last one with CNN, and then my phone rang. I was torn. I had always deeply admired CTV Ottawa, which was known to be one of the best newsrooms in Canada. After spending one year in Kitchener, I was incredibly keen on a new challenge. But what would my agent say? He was fabulous and incredibly supportive, keen too, to see me succeed. After a brief conversation, we mutually decided CTV Ottawa was the right next step for me, and would allow me the opportunity to cover large-scale stories that impacted more people, and in more ways, while growing and refining my journalism alongside some of the best journalists in Canada.
What were your first impressions of Ottawa?
I honestly loved it. It was like all the best parts of Toronto were married together in a big city, albeit it felt and still does feel like a small town at times. If you’re not into politics, at the federal, provincial, and municipal level, though, you might find it dull. But the community of faithful CTV viewers is second to none. The Capital is full of educated, compassionate, and invigorated people who care more about their city than I’d ever observed anywhere else.
Obviously, COVID19 has impacted the way you bring news to our community. What has been the most challenging part of the COVID transitions for you in your job?
There are no words that could ever properly convey the massive transition of reporting and the endless challenges we were met with along the way this year. The suffocating uncertainty of what started as an unknown, foreign virus, was perhaps the most terrifying, as we attempted to compile as much accurate information as possible. We understood the absolute importance of having an entire city rely on you. It was crucial to decipher all the he-said-she-said and quell community-wide fears of the coronavirus. During these critically sensitive and fluctuating times, I have never been more driven. I have never worked harder in my life to seek truth and ensure accuracy and precision in my reporting, anchoring, and journalism.
What is the most memorable story you’ve reported on so far?
Without a doubt, the Westboro Bus Crash is the most memorable story I have ever reported on. I will never forget that day or that night. It was the coldest day of 2019 yet, and that was originally my assignment that day. Around 4 p.m. on Friday, January 20th, everything changed. I received a call as I was on the road, and immediately turned the vehicle around and took a back route before arriving at one of the most shocking scenes I had ever seen. I had been a breaking news reporter for 2 years now, so I was accustomed to witnessing frightening scenes, most of which are collisions or fires. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw and heard that night. It was the beginning of 8 hours of non-stop news coverage at one of the biggest tragedies Ottawa has ever seen. The story, nor the trauma or the suffering ends there, though. It lives with the reporters, witnesses, and first responders there that night. The memories forever ingrained in our heads, absolutely pale in comparison to the shattered families who lost innocent lives of loved ones that afternoon.
What is it like working alongside Stefan Keyes?
Stefan is such a deeply talented and incredible individual both in and outside of the newsroom, and I am eternally grateful for his mentorship and partnership in both business and personal life. What I admire most about Stefan, aside from his remarkable writing, is the very high expectations he upholds for himself, and as do I, and so together, we consistently raise the bar of our weekend newscasts. It comes together in a very harmonious, natural way.
What is one piece of advice you can give to people who are camera shy? How do you overcome being nervous on live television?
Confidence is everything. If you don’t have it, fake it until you make it. And many of the minor or mild mistakes or flubs are forgettable – but that does not apply to misinformation or reporting falsities, as that is quite serious and should be corrected immediately. Viewers can be forgiving, but not all of them, so you’d do yourself good to grow a thicker skin, as the keyboard in 2021, tends to give some people a pass to be very cruel.
Outside of work, what do you like to do on your time off?
I love to cook. I find the process cathartic, and a way to detach from work and covering what is often very heavy content. My guilty pleasure is certainly reality television. It helps in the detaching and unwinding process, as it gives you something to not really “have to think” about. I also find fitness and working out to be the main channel for outletting any stress, pressure, and frustration. I have never regretted a workout. It’s an instant mood-lifter.
What are some of your favourite places to go (restaurants, coffee shops, salons) in Ottawa?
This is a tough one, because I certainly would like to think I am an avid supporter of local businesses.
Restaurants: Riviera, Giovanni’s, Shore Club, North & Navy, Mati, Wellington Diner (best breakfast in the city) and honestly, if you’re a sucker for a Cobb salad like myself, the one at Joey Rideau or The Brig in the Byward Market, is what dreams are made of.
For more quick bites or pizza, DeRienzo’s, Greek on Wheels, Lorenzo’s Pizza.
Salons: Fiorella, Pure Beauty Studio, Refined Image, La Crystal Nail Salon.
What kind of music do you listen to? Who are some of your favourite artists?
I listen to everything. Honestly. Even country. Actually, more recently, it’s been only country on replay. During the one year I spent living in Alberta, I was immersed in the undying love for the country and culture there, I will forever be a fan. Favourite artists in the overall picture, though, are Luke Combs, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Drake, Billie Eilish, Sam Smith, and too many deep house DJ’s to name.
Lastly, what’s your best piece of advice for anyone looking to establish themselves in their career?
Succeeding in a cutthroat television industry comes down to one simple concept: work hard. There is no room for laziness here. When you’re not practicing, someone else is. And regardless of how hard you work, there is someone else out there, working harder. Yes, you are on your own path, and the only person you should compare yourself to, is yourself (block out the rest), but always remember, your work yesterday, becomes the current benchmark to beat, so constantly upholding yourself to higher standards will ultimately be your key to success.
You’re only as good as your last story.