Graham Richardson needs no introduction in Ottawa. He’s been a preeminent face of CTV News Ottawa for over 12 years as the Chief News Anchor. Before establishing himself in Ottawa in 2010, Graham covered Parliament for over 4 years, reporting from Kandahar Afghanistan, G-8 meetings, and a NATO summit, among many other visits. His much earlier career included time in Alberta, Calgary, and Edmonton.
Graham balances his work both on-air and in the community with an active sub-career as a ‘dance dad’, and as a former hockey dad. Now, he spends much of his downtime as one of Ottawa’s avid cyclists. For our fall issue interview, Graham discusses professional and personal milestones, and shares his best advice for professionals of all ages and career paths.
You were born in Connecticut, USA, and raised in Toronto, ON. What was your childhood like?
I left the United States when I was a baby. My dad was there on business and I was born there, so I am a dual citizen, but I consider myself fully Canadian. I grew up in the west end of Toronto and spent a lot of time wondering what else was out there. In the 80s and 90s a lot of young people I knew spent time trying to escape the “big city” and live in other parts of Canada. I lived that too, moving east for school and west for work, ultimately leaving Ontario for nearly a decade. Growing up there was exciting. I was very interested in live music and spent all my time and limited funds going to concerts whenever I could.
You earned a Bachelors Degree from Queens U, and a postgraduate journalism degree from the University of King’s College in Halifax. What made you choose journalism?
I knew I wanted to be a broadcast journalist when I was about 15 years old. Watching news and political programs on my tiny tv in my little room, I was absolutely captivated. I was always interested in politics, devouring as many books as I could. I picked the shortest undergraduate degree I could get, and the shortest post-graduate degree too. I wanted to work. And managed to find a job in Calgary a few months after school. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was, to work in a real newsroom at 23 years old, in the profession I had been obsessed with since grade 9. Looking back you realize how much you didn’t know, and how much you leaned on senior people who were generous with their time and experience. I’ve always tried to do that too, later in my career. I’ve now been in this business for almost 30 years.
You’ve covered many stories over the years. What have been some of your most memorable stories?
Normally I would always answer this question with the fallout from 9/11, hurricane Katrina or the various national election campaigns I’ve covered. But the pandemic changed everything. It was the lead story in every country, in every city around the world for months. Each country handled it differently. It affected every aspect of our lives in profound ways. I don’t really think we have come to terms with how deeply it has impacted us. It will take years for us to fully understand what this terrible virus has taken from us. It is the biggest story of my life.
”Looking back you realize how much you didn’t know, and how much you leaned on senior people who were generous with their time and experience. I’ve always tried to do that too, later in my career.”
Tell us about your career path, and how you ended up with CTV Ottawa?
I started as an assignment editor/researcher at CBC Calgary…after four years, I moved north to cover Ralph Klein and the Alberta government for ITV News/Global Edmonton. In all, we spent eight years in Alberta and we loved it. We get back as much as we can. We have friends and family still there. My oldest son Jack was born in Edmonton. In 2001, we moved to Toronto, after I was hired as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief and host of Focus Ontario. I loved working there. Right downtown at the Ontario Legislature, covering politics in my hometown. After four years and a change in government, I joined CTV News Toronto, then moving again with CTV National News as Los Angeles Bureau Chief. California was overwhelming. Exciting. Intense. And big. Everything was big. I was only there for a year and a half. Politics called again, with the chance to come back to Canada and work with Robert Fife at CTV National News, covering parliament. After four intense years of minority parliaments, and one majority, I was asked to take over the anchor duties at CTV Ottawa from Max Keeping who retired in 2010. It is hard to believe that was nearly 13 years ago. But time is ticking on and here I am!
What is it like working alongside Patricia Boal?
It is absolutely fantastic and a privilege to work with Patricia every day. She is a leader in the newsroom, a friend to everyone and she makes me better on the air every night. It is at the point now, that when she is away and I’m anchoring solo, it doesn’t feel right. Like it is not the way things are supposed to be. Patricia reads everything. She is better prepared than anyone I know in the business, for every interview and story. She has a deep love of sports and an encyclopaedic memory for all of Ottawa’s sports franchises. She is also a mentor to our young women, and spends a lot of time building relationships with people outside of work. When she is not working, we all feel a very big void on and off the air. She also has a very dangerous sense of humour live on the air! Patricia is a riot.
You are an active cyclist. What made you get into cycling in the first place, and where are you go-to spots?
The job can be quite high pressure and it is very public. You can also work all the time. For me cycling is a release, physically and mentally. An addiction I’m happy to have. I was never an athlete growing up, I was more in to music. About ten years ago, my brother sold me his old road bike, he was trading up, and he really pushed me to get into the sport because of where I live, and the amazing cycling routes we have in Ottawa-Gatineau. I’m really grateful he did. Given my hours and the fact that I’m an early riser, I can ride early for several hours before work, and arrive ready to go. It is a very big part of my life.
My favourite ride is up to Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park…down to Chelsea…up to the covered bridge in Wakefield and back. About 110km of bliss!
Outside of work, what do you like to do on your time off?
Ride bikes. Time with family on the dock at Bobs Lake. In the winter, cross country skiing and a bit of downhill. Oh and Pickleball. But that’s a whole other story!
Tell us about your wife, Leigh Anne, how did you two meet?
We met at Queen’s in the student housing area. She was very responsible and attended every class, until she met me. We met at a pre-homecoming “breakfast” party at my house. We were 21 and that spark was there from the moment we saw each other. She was from Alberta and took great pride in that, and growing up in a resource town. After I finished journalism school we packed up her mother’s Civic sedan and drove west looking for work. Leigh Anne is the true rock of our family, an incredibly accomplished person who lights up the room when she walks in. She takes such joy in supporting our sons Jack and Bennett, but she is also a force at work. She works as a civilian member of the RCMP. Like every other job she has done, in every company or organization she joins, Leigh Anne becomes indispensable. She is also the CEO of keeping me in line, and has been doing it for more than 30 years now. We have been married for 27 years.
Lastly, what’s your best piece of advice for anyone looking to establish themselves in their career?
Read everything. Be curious. Speak to people in person. Don’t just text…meet them in person and make a connection. Work hard. Show up on time. Answer emails/work texts promptly. Say yes to extra work especially when you’re starting out. Do every job in the organization. Don’t be cynical. That’s easy. It is harder to be an optimist. And manage your own career. Nobody else is going to do it for you. You must kick down doors yourself.
Photography by Sean Sisk