As a reporter for CBC Montreal’s morning radio show Daybreak, Shari Okeke’s days begin very, very early! But that’s a small trade-off for the opportunity to share Montreal’s diverse voices with the community. Here Shari shares how days are typically untypical, a few favourite stories she’s worked on recently and her top tip for PR pros.
Follow her @ShariOkeke.
What is it like to be a radio reporter and host on a morning show?
It’s exciting to work on a morning radio show because we get to start off the day with Montrealers. That moment when you’re just realizing it’s a new day, time to get up and get going – that’s the moment we get to share with our listeners. As a reporter, I try to bring new voices to Daybreak – people you may not have heard of before but who are making a real difference in their communities. That means I get to meet a lot of interesting people and I’m often amazed by how much they are willing to open up. Then I get to tell our host Mike Finnerty – and Daybreak listeners – about those interesting people and their stories. So. Much. Fun. As for hosting a morning show – Mike’s the expert on that one! But I can tell you hosting (and preparing for) three hours of live radio is a real adrenaline rush and I’m grateful for opportunities to fill in. It means working more closely with the whole – super talented – Daybreak team, setting several alarm clocks and drinking a lot of coffee!
How has social media changed the Canadian media landscape?
Social media has had a huge impact on how we find stories, how we tell stories and how we share stories. We now have more competitors than ever but also more opportunities. When I started working as a journalist no one was talking about Facebook or Twitter. Now we’re watching social media for story ideas and potential contacts every day. I am often reaching out to people through social media to get more information about a story I’m looking into – or even to book interviews. Also, when I first worked at CBC Television, my stories would appear on a TV newscast only. Now, stories we produce in Montreal at CBC Television and CBC Radio are also available online at cbc.ca or cbc.ca/montreal and we share them widely on social media. This means when I am covering stories I am not thinking about one medium at a time. I am gathering different elements for different media.
For example, while preparing my radio story about the natural hair movement in Montreal at Inhairitance salon, I also shot some video which appeared online and was shared on social media. It means working differently so that our work can reach more people in more places.
What does a typical day look like for you?
We have a Daybreak meeting every morning where we share our story ideas but sometimes I am already out at an interview and cannot attend. There is really no “typical” day for me – my schedule changes depending on the story I’m covering. Last fall, for example, the Black Students’ Network of McGill University held an evening vigil in memory of Michael Brown Jr. – an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson Missouri. It started around 7pm so I arrived a bit early to do some interviews ahead of time but most interviews happened afterward. It was an emotional evening so the interviews took time and I wanted to include as many voices as possible. That turned into a late night in the newsroom, editing and writing, getting home for what I will call a “nap” before showing up to tell my story in the Daybreak studio at 7:15am. When CBC Montreal hosted its first ever hackathon – #HackingCBCMTL – I did interviews each day through the weekend and worked late the Sunday night to be ready for Daybreak Monday morning. On the other hand, researching stories about patients affected by hospitals moving into the new superhospital took more than a week and did not include working into the wee hours of the night.
What’s your number one tip for PR people?
Know the journalist, know the program or website you’re approaching. So many PR people make pitches that clearly reveal they’ve never seen or listened to the program they want their story on. I still receive pitches for the national business program I worked for in 2006.
Favorite story you’ve ever worked on?
That’s a tough question. Too tough to pick just one. Over the past 17 years I’ve interviewed so many people and everyone has a story to tell. In the past two months alone I met a courageous 13-year-old, Bry Bitar, who convinced Royal West Academy to let them switch from wearing the boys’ school uniform to the girls’ uniform and a 101-year-old Armenian genocide survivor, Armenouhi Tenkerian-Piliguian, who is an inspiration to her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and her community.
Dream story that you’d love to work on?
Well if we’re talking dreams….I’d like to go back in time and interview my dad. He wasn’t a big talker but when he talked, I listened. My plan was to one day record one of those talks to preserve some family history. Unfortunately the interview didn’t happen before it was too late. He was a great dad and he taught me the power of listening. If we really listen, there are dream stories all around us.
First website you load in the morning?
cbc.ca of course!
Coffee or beer?
Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.