On the road with Carla Robinson

Carla Robinson (Supplied publicity photo, CBC, 2007)

CBC Newsworld anchor Carla Robinson is on the road again. The 35-year-old veteran CBC journalist is travelling through downtown Toronto, heading out to interview Aboriginal actress Jennifer Podemski for Absolutely Canadian: First Peoples' Edition.

First Peoples' Edition re-packages Aboriginal-related CBC news stories into one half-hour program. As host, Robinson bridges the stories together and contributes the occasional interview.

Popjournalism caught up with Robinson at the end of her interview shoot to talk about working at the CBC, the pressures of being the first and still the only Aboriginal national TV anchor on the three major Canadian networks — plus her surprising desire to produce a comedy show.

(In the interest of disclosure, this writer is a casual employee of the CBC — but to paraphrase media journalist Antonia Zerbisias, the CBC may pay me, but they don't own me.)

Tell me about your latest project at the CBC. How are you enjoying it?
I'm working on the First Peoples' Edition and it's pretty good. I go out and I shoot outside a lot of the time, which is great in the summer, not so great in the wintertime. But I get to meet a lot of people and hear what's going on in the native community and the native scene.

And how long have you been with the CBC? Are you still happy to be there? And do you enjoy being part of the team?
(Laughs) Yeah. Let's see, I've been with the CBC for almost nine years now. It's good; I like it. It's nice to be part of the mainstream. Its not always easy being a pioneer in the mainstream, but it's like, what can you do? I'm looking forward to the day when there's a lot more native journalists surrounding me. Not only working at the CBC, but also working at CTV, Global, because I think we've got to build that critical mass before we can really make a huge difference on the Canadian journalism scene.

Why did you choose to go into the mainstream media instead of staying within the Aboriginal media?
At first, because they hired me (laughs). I kept getting jobs in the mainstream media. And then, APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) came on, I guess that was when I first started working for Newsworld… I had kind of settled into Toronto, so I didn't want to move all the way out to Winnipeg.

So where do you see yourself five years from now?
I'd still like to be working in television. I would love to sink my teeth into creative projects like documentaries, different types of dramatic series. I've never tried that. It's kind of outside my journalism background, but I could see a lot of different comedies, focusing on native people, 'cause I just get tired of really serious dramas all the time. It's like, ugh. Our people are so funny; they have such depth to them. We're survivors and we laugh about the crap that we've been put through. I'd love to see something on air that captures that.

I just want to explore media more. There are just so many different outlets now — especially with the Internet and how more people can do their own documentaries, their own films. It seems like there's a lot more opportunity out there than say, ten or fifteen years ago.

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About Robert J. Ballantyne

Robert J.Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star.

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