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Steadying the ship

 Megaphone (Canada) 01 November 2019

In the battle of Vancouver’s newscast anchors, CBC’s Gloria Macarenko has stood out from the crowd as much for her elegance as for her balanced brand of journalism. Twice nominated for a Gemini for “Best News Anchor” and the winner of Jack Webster and Leo awards, the Prince Rupert native has been helping Vancouver navigate through its news over the past decade with a style and intelligence that has made her a nightly institution. (1289 Words) - By Sean Condon

Last April, CBC dropped a bombshell when it announced that Macarenko's longtime co-host Ian Hanomansing was moving to The National and that the venerable Tony Parsons would be joining her behind the Vancouver news desk. While some applauded the brash move, others questioned whether the new co-hosts would have the necessary chemistry.

Megaphone recently caught up with Macarenko to see how she has adapted to the changes, and to get her perspectives on what it was like covering the Olympics, how she tries to report the Downtown Eastside, and why her own charity work is so important to her.

Megaphone: It was a big surprise when CBC announced that Tony Parsons was joining CBC News Vancouver. Were you just as surprised?

Gloria Macarenko: When I [found out], I have to say my jaw dropped. I couldn't believe, first of all, that Tony was interested in continuing in the Vancouver market. We were all quite aware of his rather high profile retirement from Global, but this was a huge opportunity. One of the biggest challenges we've had here at CBC Vancouver is getting out the word that we are very much in the local news business. And Tony Parsons is British Columbia news. So mission accomplished on that level. I've known Tony for years. I've been working in this market for 22 years I've always found him to be incredibly sincere, incredibly affable and just an all-round good guy. So I was really pleased to hear that he was even interested in joining our team at his stage of his career.

MP : You worked with Ian Hanomansing for quite some time. How have you found the transition to working with Tony every day?

GM: It's odd. I've been co-anchoring with Ian for more than 10 years. Any partner you've worked with for a long time, you read each other cue's, you pick up where the other leaves off-there's a certain comfort level that builds up over time. And one of my concerns was that Tony was kind of a one-man show. It was Tony's show on Global and other people kind of worked around him. So I was worried initially about how he would fit in. The Monday before he was going to start, we booked a couple of days off to bring together the whole team. We thought, 'Lets just bring everyone into the studios, sit down, see how it feels and get Tony comfortable with our way of doing things'. It was a great idea. We booked two days, Saturday and Sunday, and seriously, in less than an hour we were so comfortable it felt so natural. He's a pro, we're pros, but you can never predict how that chemistry is going to ultimately show on the air.

It's kind of strange after all these years of watching him from afar, or as the competition, and now he's right in my right ear. Live. So that's a bit surreal some days.

MP : You've covered a lot of major events during your time at CBC. What was it like covering the Olympics?

GM: I found the energy incredibly high. We had the national morning show here, so we had a lot of athletes coming into the building. Our challenge was to cover the Olympics with still photographs. You can do the interviews after the fact, but the challenge is trying to create that excitement, recreate the events without being able to show them.

What we decided to do with this great new studio that we have, right in the blocked-off party central zone, was to take advantage of that fact and do our newscasts from outside, down on the street level. So on one hand you had the screaming people behind you, which can for some people can be distracting, but I found it quite energizing-it gave a certain energy to the newscast.

MP : Mega-events, like Expo 86, tend to alter a city. How do you feel the Olympics will change Vancouver?

GM: Obviously the exposure has been worldwide, [but] I do worry about the fact that many people and families are getting priced out of Vancouver. I think that development is inevitable. I still hope and have enough trust in City Hall that social housing is going to be a component of the Millennium Project at the Athlete's Village. We still have to see how much social housing or quasi-social housing is going to be there. I believe they are going in with good intentions but it's still a worry-this is a very expensive city and I think an event like the Olympics only makes it more so.

MP : The Downtown Eastside is a neighbourhood that gets a lot of positive and negative attention. How do you try cover the neighbourhood in a way that explains what's really going on here?

GM: I think it's really important to remember that the Downtown Eastside is not an entity. It's not one single story. It's a series of individual stories. And every time I've had the opportunity to get out and meet individuals that give that area its character, its life, I've always found it incredibly inspirational.

When Phillip Owen was mayor and the whole four pillars approach was coming in, we decided to cover each of the pillars. I was in a detox centre interviewing people and one fellow in his 50s who had been in and out of rehab seemed very determined and earnest to fix it this time-he was so thoughtful and so articulate. After that whole special aired, I sent him a copy of the report I had done and he sent me back a card at his first-year-clean anniversary. And then his second year and then his third year and fourth year. I just got his seven-year-clean card and he's now helping other people, he manages a rehab centre himself.

That's a story that I felt is a success story. We can measure success in different ways but every year that warms my heart and reminds me about those individual stories from the Downtown Eastside.

MP : You're well known for your volunteer work. Why is it so important for you to work with charities?

GM: I don't want to blow it out of proportion. When you think about it, I go and emcee an event that volunteers have been working all year long to put together, so in some ways I get to go for the party. Having said that, there's certain causes like cystic fibrosis that you start to meet the families and get to know the people involved and it's exactly the same [as it is with the Downtown Eastside]; it isn't the cystic fibrosis story, it's a series of individual stories and individual families, each having their own struggles and own successes, and I really find that compelling. It's important to me because it connects you to the community, quite simply. I am in awe of the number of people that volunteer their time not just for that one event, but for all of the hours and weeks that it takes to lead up to that event. People that are involved in their community get my admiration tenfold.


Originally published by Megaphone. ©

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