Marcy Markusa has interviewed countless politicians and dignitaries — from Preston Manning to Brian Bowman — but ask her which interviews stand out the most, and she’s quick to recall conversations with regular members of the community.
“I think I remember [those] personal interviews more, because there is no reason that person has to talk to you,” says Markusa, the 41-year-old host of Information Radio on CBC Radio One Manitoba.
“[For example,] why does a 73-year-old woman have to tell the world that she can’t read? There’s nothing for her to gain by doing that — except she realizes that by sharing that story, she’ll inspire someone else who also happens to be illiterate and might want to learn to read.”
Community is a common thread throughout Markusa’s life, dating back to her days growing up in North Kildonan, when a natural curiosity for her home city and province led her to always be that “person in the crowd.”
“I just started to be that person who said, ‘Hey, what do you know about this area?’ ‘Hey, what do you know about that neighbourhood?’ ‘Did you know this is going on?’”
It’s fitting, then, that when Markusa made her way to Red River College’s Creative Communications program, she found she relished being in the middle of that eclectic mix of students and instructors that makes studying journalism so special.
“I think in a funny way, my classroom makeup — because of the people who [were] in there and the way the classes [were] run — did an excellent job of preparing me for what a newsroom is like,” says Markusa, a 1996 graduate and journalism major. “It’s loud, it’s opinionated, it’s constant … it’s focused — even in the face of chaos.”
Markusa landed her first broadcasting job with Golden West Radio in southern Manitoba, where she reported on one of her most memorable stories — the Manitoba flood of 1997. One experience, in particular — with a man facing the loss of his home, who couldn’t bear to be interviewed — challenged her to reconsider her future in journalism.
“I was upset by the fact that [he] was a human at his lowest, and I [had] asked him if I could put a mic in his face. But then I talked to my news director from the road, and he said to me that instead of being ashamed of that — and feeling like my becoming overwhelmed by that story [meant I’d failed at being] a tough, hard-nosed journalist — he said that would serve me well … and it has served me well.”
In 2001, following a stint on the television show CityScape, Markusa arrived at CBC, where she’s been involved with the radio morning show in some capacity — from live reporting to hosting — ever since. For Markusa, who grew up idolizing broadcasters like CBC stalwart Hana Gartner, it was a dream position.
“CBC to me, when I was a kid, was always community, and quality, and honesty.”
CBC is now a platform for Markusa to share those stories from the crowd, through programs like her Gabriel Award-winning series, Resolve, and through subjects that she brings her own personal perspective to — such as discussing the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“Radio is the original medium that speaks to community,” she says.
With journalism constantly changing, the path to a career isn’t as straightforward as it once was, and Markusa credits RRC for keeping new students up to speed. Social media, she says, is a “beautiful pairing with radio” that represents a shift in the industry, but not a replacement.
“My show is so much fun to do now, because all of our digital platforms for CBC are active and up and going first thing in the morning. So you’re no longer sitting there alone talking to people; you’re talking with people.”
However, Markusa advises new journalists not to be pigeonholed into any one trend, but to take every opportunity and lesson you’re afforded.
“Every generation has something different to say about the profession, but altogether those things are of great value. [Former CreComm instructor] Donald Benham is going to tell you not to spell a name wrong, and talk about old-school rules of print journalism. And somebody that’s just starting out might know everything about posting a story on the web. My generation is somewhere in the middle, and I think that’s why I’ve learned that lesson quickly.”
Learn more about RRC’s Creative Communications program.