With a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience under her belt, Vassy Kapelos is one of the most-watched political journalists in the country. If you follow Canadian politics, then chances are you recognize Vassy from her current role as host on the widely popular CBC News: Power and Politics––but her strides in journalism go all the way back to her university years.
Vassy’s accomplishments in the industry range from the 2020 Canadian Screen Award to the Edward R. Murrow Award for her groundbreaking work on the Code Red series, which showcased the issues with the Edmonton emergency response system. She’s worked all across Canada, covering federal and provincial elections across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.
Between her work with the CBC and her busy day to day as a mom, Vassy balances the important things in her life with grace––and with enough time left over to enjoy the Centretown dining and entertainment scene (and the music of Celine Dion).
You grew up in Toronto. What was your childhood like?
Loud and chaotic and full of love. My dad still lives in the house we grew up in, not far from Greektown. My mom passed away nearly 12 years ago but she and my dad were parents who worked har king they were with me and my two sisters and we were all talking (fighting about) politics or living the downtown/city life.
What were some of your hobbies growing up? When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in journalism?
I loved to read, I played the alto sax and in high school I became a rower. I didn’t realize I wanted to pursue a career in journalism until I was well into university and basically realized I couldn’t cut it as a lawyer!
How instrumental were your parents during your early career and school years?
They were everything. My parents are without a doubt the biggest influence on my life––both
personally and professionally. Their work ethic, their values and their warmth and support––that’s the reason I am where I am.
Besides your parents, were there any other role models in your life that inspired you?
My dad’s first cousin, Thalia Assuras, is a very successful Canadian journalist who moved to the U.S. and was equally successful there – she’s a big role model for me.
You’ve done an extensive amount of traveling in your early career with your internship in South America. Can you tell us a bit about that experience and how it affected the scope of your career?
I think the fact I’ve lived in different countries and different cities in this country (everywhere from Halifax to Toronto to Swift Current, SK) is probably the best thing that could have happened to my career. It broadens my perspective and forces me to always consider how people who don’t live where I live might feel about political issues.
You’ve had such an interesting career that’s led you to a wide scope of different places and positions. How have you enjoyed your time in Ottawa as a city?
Ottawa has given me all the best things in my life. It’s where I met my husband and my step kids, it’s where I had my baby and where I work. I lived in Centretown for years and I loved every single second. I take full advantage of all the restaurants, patios and museums this amazing city has to offer.
You’ve had so many accomplishments in your professional life––from the 2020 Canadian Screen Award to the RTNDA Award for your work on the groundbreaking documentary “16X9: Wives of ISIS”. What would you say has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
To be honest it’s not an award or any specific accomplishment. When I was pregnant last year, I had hyperemesis, which meant I was sick as a dog 24/7. Getting through that is what I’m most proud of in my career––it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
CBC News: Power and Politics is one of Canada’s most-watched political news programs––what did it mean for you to become a part of it?
It meant the world! I had such big shoes to fill and the show has such a wonderful reputation that I felt a lot of pressure, but in a great way.
What have been some of the highlights or stand out moments during your work at CBC News?
Stand-out moments include election nights – both federally and provincially all across the country. Breaking stories like the NDP Liberal deal a few months ago, and covering the pandemic when it first started. I’ve never had so many viewers reach out on a daily basis with questions they wanted me to ask politicians at a time when the answers acutely affected their
lives. I felt very lucky to be able to do that.
What is a typical day like for you at work? Any special routines?
I wake up at 5:30am to make lunches for the family, and read all the news I can get my hands on. I send out an early note to our senior producers with what I think our big stories are and
what the corresponding chases should be. My baby wakes up at about 6:30am and I try to be ready to go by then so I can spend from 6:30-8am with him then I head to work. Once I’m there I prep for interviews, meet with producers, do my hair and makeup and then it’s on to the show from 5-7pm. It’s like this every day, because I’m a creature of habit.
What would a perfect day off look like to you?
This answer has drastically changed in the last year. Before my son was born I’d say a perfect day off was watching trashy tv with my husband, going out for dinner with him and watching
more trash tv when we got home. Now my dream day off is just spending the whole day with my son. I see him so little during the week that I grab every second I can when I’m off.
Outside of work, do you have any hobbies? What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I love to bake and to read. I wish I had time to exercise or the will to make the time. I think people would be surprised to know that I’m a goof.
What is your favourite book or movie of all time? Favourite artist?
My favourite book is A Confederacy of Dunces and my favourite artist in the entire world––of all time––is Celine Dion. My dad played a lot of Greek music when we were growing up and Celine was one of the first artists who didn’t sing in Greek that my sisters and I were exposed to. I’ve been obsessed ever since.
What advice would you give to your college-aged self, knowing what you know today?
Stop worrying about how you look and spend more time with your parents, you don’t know how long you’ll have them.
What’s your best piece of advice for anyone looking to begin a career in journalism?
Check your ego, start small and work your way up––and don’t let the haters get you down.