Heavy responsibility is nothing new in the life of Joan Donaldson, head of Newsworld, the CBC’s round-theclock cable TV news channel, which went on the air across the nation this week. When she was a pupil at John Fisher Public School in north Toronto, the director of the school’s orchestra recruited her to play the double bass because, she now recalls, “I was the only kid tall enough to hold one.”
In late 1987, the five-foot,
10-inch Donaldson was recruited again—that time by William Morgan, then head of CBC news and current affairs, who asked her to relinquish her job as the network’s coordinator of regional news programming and take charge of the all-news channel. Said Donaldson: “I thought long and hard about it for four or five days. I stewed.” After the channel received its licence, she assembled a production team of about 20 people to begin designing sets, studios, program formats and on-air schedules. And recently, her workdays have stretched to more than 15 hours as she prepared for this week’s launch. Still, Donaldson has taken the workload in stride. “It was complicated and hard and sometimes agonizing,” she admitted last week. “But it was never a nightmare.”
For Donaldson, 43, Newsworld is the most demanding assignment yet in the career of a selfadmitted “news junkie.” After graduating from
North Toronto Collegiate Institute in 1965, she got a night job on the switchboard at Toronto’s CHUM radio station at the age of 19—“it was the only skill I had because I couldn’t type.” Donaldson says that by spending all the time that she could in the CHUM newsroom, she “got the bug.” Then she got her first job as a reporter at another Toronto radio station, CKEY, and in 1967 was hired by CBC national radio news. Since then, she has worked at CBC Television, CTV’s current affairs program W5 and at Toronto’s Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, where she spent five years teaching broadcast journalism.
Like most journalists, she dislikes talking about herself. Sample exchange from her interview with Maclean’s: ‘What's your salary?”
‘I’d rather not talk about
‘Are you married, divorced, what?”
“Because CBC reporters ask this kind of question all the time.”
In fact, Donaldson is separated and lives in an apartment in midtown Toronto with two 16-year-old cats, Bandido and Junior. At present, she admits to be reading a book titled Information Anxiety and wishing she could find time to visit her favorite vacation spot—East Boothbay, Me—to “sit on the dock, eat clams and watch them build ships.” Asked what she will do if Newsworld fails, she replied, “It won’t.” In the event that it does, there is always the double bass.
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