Karen Owen is a broadcasting professor at Mount Royal University with years of experience in radio and television.
I was actually looking at a computer science course. I did not have the math I needed but then I found broadcast journalism [at the British Columbia Institute of Technology].
My first job was in Prince Albert, Sask. at a small radio TV station there — CKBI.
I got to do everything — news, weather, pull bingo numbers on the bingo show. You name it! That’s the beauty of going to a small station in a small town. You get loads of experience and it’s a great learning opportunity.
From Saskatchewan to Regina, Owen continued working for radio. She eventually came to Calgary after being scouted by a news director to work in a radio company in the city. Little did she know, he would later hire her for CTV — the news station Owen worked at for 26 years.
I stayed at CTV and then I got my master’s degree and I worked part time [in the broadcasting program at Mount Royal University].
I focused a lot of my career on health and medical-related stories. So you dealt with people when they were very vulnerable and there would often be tears and so you had to maintain your composure but also be human and recognize that you’re actually talking to them at a very vulnerable time.
There is that fine line of trying to be a journalist but also being a decent human being. That’s a challenge I think for a lot of people is that dance you do sometimes in getting the story but making sure you maintain your humanity.
Journalists as a whole, as a community, do some really important work. They hold people accountable. They uncover things. They reveal things that might not be known.
You can help with awareness. You can help certainly with trying to maybe right some wrongs.
Everybody has a story but you need to listen. Sometimes students want to go in with a list of questions, which is great, you should be prepared. You might have a brain freeze and you don’t know what to ask next, but you need to listen because they might actually tell you what the real story is if you’re listening.
When I was a reporter, I said I wanted to do many things so I made sure I trained as a producer. I was on-air obviously as a reporter and did a segment on the newscasts. Then when the web came along I said, ‘I want to train for web.’ So I just made those opportunities happen for myself because I put it out there that I was willing and able and ready to train.
Everybody [in the newsroom] is a reporter. You don’t have to be on the field to be a reporter. You could be a producer chasing a story. You could be an anchor chasing a story on the phone, right? Everyone’s a journalist. Just because you’re in front of the camera, doesn’t make you any more or less a journalist than the producer who produced the show.
When you’re in the thick of trying to get a story on the air at five and six, there’s not as much time perhaps for reflection but as a teacher you could dig around and you could look for ways that you could guide new journalists in their career paths.
I had a great time [at] CTV. I loved it. It was fun being a reporter. It’s fun being in news and I thought ‘Well I’ve done it.’ I’ve finished that portion of my career. I didn’t want to do it anymore but I really like teaching it and teaching it allows you to really reflect on what it is you were doing and had been doing in perhaps a deeper way.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had that ‘Oh I’ve made it!’ and I think that’s perhaps good because you always want to be hungry for the next story. You always want to be trying to improve. You’re never perfect.
It’s sort of like learning, you have to hopefully maintain some humility so that you’re open to new ideas and continue to improve and learn.
Reflect, assess, know what you are doing and why you are doing it.
Make sure you are ethical because at the end of the day, you have to look at yourself and be proud of who you are.
Make good choices!
As told to Rosemary De Souza. The interview has been edited and condensed for length.
Edited by Amy Simpson | firstname.lastname@example.org