Alumni Jonathan Pinto and Julia Caron have yet to see what their new CBC positions will look like in “normal” times. Mr. Pinto, the recently hired host of Up North, the regional afternoon program for Northern Ontario, and Julia Caron, the recently hired host of Quebec AM, both started on their current shows after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada.
They both took time from their busy schedules to appear on #TrentVoices, the Trent University Alumni Association Podcast.
Mr. Pinto has held numerous positions with CBC Radio, including on-air positions at CBC Radio in Toronto and Windsor. He holds a degree in Canadian Studies from Trent and was a recipient of the Trent CBC Peter Gzowski internship. Ms. Caron has also worn a few hats with CBC. She worked as a researcher/technician, producer, and guest host on both Breakaway and Quebec AM.
Both alumni feel honoured to be prominent on-air personalities.
Taking pride in holding the host’s chair
“In our station, there’s this caring idea that the host chair isn’t yours,” says Ms. Caron. “It’s something you share with the people who have been in it in the past and something you will pass on. And while you’re lucky enough to have that seat and have that microphone, you really have to make it your own, but be ready to share it and to share the warmth. There’s a real sense of pride. It’s an incredible opportunity.”
Mr. Pinto moved his family to Sudbury to take on hosting duties.
“We broadcast to this huge region,” he notes. “It’s a new community to me as well. But we have an amazing team at our station… It’s been so much fun. And a huge honour. Every day, when I go into work, I can’t believe I get to do this for a living. Getting to talk to people from across this entire region is just a joy.”
Starting these hosting duties during the pandemic has taken a great amount of understanding, compassion, and balancing of tone.
Lightening the mood for listeners
Mr. Pinto points out that, with COVID-19 touching on all aspects of society, it becomes necessary to consciously lighten the mood.
“When I was in Windsor, it was wall-to-wall COVID, every second of the show, because it was such an unprecedented situation. We still probably use the word “unprecedented” every day. But the balance is so important. Everyone was getting tired of the constant barrage of information – both our listeners and ourselves. I keep that in mind when it comes to balancing coverage of the pandemic – and even with stories that have nothing to do with the pandemic. But, frankly, everything we talk about has to do with the pandemic, because the pandemic touches every part of our lives. So, even a in a food segment, we talk about how the pandemic has affected the farm or the restaurant or whatever we’re covering. You can’t avoid that. But when we’re programming our show and planning what stories are going where, we do want to give listeners a sort of release or relief.”
For Ms. Caron, it comes down to both content and tone.
“I think one of the nicest interviews I’ve done [during the pandemic] was with Heather O’Neill and Patrick Watson and getting to talk to them about poetry and their ethereal art and how the need for poetry has been exacerbated by the pandemic. People are looking for meaning in books and art in ways they weren’t necessarily looking for before. So, instead of just booking an artist because they are touring through your city and you can have them in studio, you have to think about different ways to bring in arts and culture without it being only about lost income and how it is hurting artists. You have to find new ways to share music, to share art. And to remind listeners that there is still beauty in the world among all the chaos.”
At the same time, Ms. Caron recognizes how difficult broadcasting is during the pandemic, and looks forward her chance to host once there is a reprieve from COVID.
“When it comes to COVID-19, there was so much that changed so fast, and hearing from hosts who have been in the role for 10, 15, 20 years say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do as a broadcaster, reassures me that it’s not always going to feel this intense all the time.”
Utilizing interdisciplinary experiences, curiosity and critical thinking skills
Both hosts look back on their Trent experiences as informing the work they do today.
“My degree is in Women’s Studies and History,” says Ms. Caron. “And the word ‘interdisciplinary’ is key. In those studies, you could see the overlap and the links between things, and develop critical thinking, which comes in handy every single day in the work that we do. Every day. All day.”
For Mr. Pinto, it was the curiosity that he developed as a Trent student that most influences him. That and his participation in the Trent CBC Peter Gzowski internship. Gzowski interns are selected annually to receive a week of training in the basics of radio production at the CBC in Toronto and spend the remainder of the internship gaining first-hand experience in contributing to radio programming in a variety of ways.
“The curiosity that I developed, both inside academics and outside academics at Trent, sticks with me every day,” he explains. “Challenging assumptions, which is a big part of my job, was very much encouraged at Trent. And the Gzowski internship was a huge part of getting to where I am today.”
Listen to the full #TrentVoices interview.