Today wrapped up the series of Walk the Talk with local celebrity, Breanna Karstens-Smith, CTV Edmonton news reporter.
I didn’t meet Breanna through any journalistic connection. It was actually through November Project CAN as we ran hills, did stairs and other crazy early morning exercises with a group of people in downtown Edmonton. But it was a personal story that intrigued me that she shared with the November Project leaders and let them share it on the group’s blog. She mentioned how shy she is but for some reason can have one of the most public jobs possible. I found that interesting, wanted to know more and asked her to be a part of this program.
As with the other speakers, I wrote a bio or gathered one from websites or other write-ups about them and sent these out to parents to inform them of who was coming to speak to their children. Here is Breanna’s bio for Walk the Talk:
Breanna Karstens-Smith is a CTV News Edmonton Reporter. She was born and raised in Edmonton and knew she wanted to work for CTV one day so she went to Mount Royal College (now a University) in Calgary to study radio and television. She landed her first TV-related job after graduation with CHAT Television in Medicine Hat before being hired with CTV in late 2012. She is an Oilers fan and avid volunteer in the community for various charities like Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area, The Mustard Seed and Hope Mission.
Breanna didn’t hesitate for a second when asked to speak to Lakeland students and plans to share her journey to getting on TV and if it’s what she expected. She’ll also talk about the struggles to cover heart-wrenching stories like the Fort McMurray fires, along with work travel and irregular working hours but also how she overcame shyness in a very public career.
Breanna started her Walk the Talk presentation with a video to help show the kids what she does for a living. She described the video later as being her resume, which was a video montage of various news stories she was reporting on-site or as an anchor in the CTV news studio.
She reaffirmed that she’s actually quite shy and never expected to become a journalist and reporter when she was younger. That changed when someone mentioned to her that they thought she’d be good at it because she connects well with people and likes to hear their stories.
Her bio above explains her educational journey and then her career that led her away from Edmonton and then back home again. Working in Edmonton and reporting news on the TV was always her goal and she accomplished that roughly five years ago.
The Fort McMurray fires in May 2016 came up in the video Breanna showed the group, but also was a popular topic for the students to ask questions about. The students asked what was the most memorable story she ever worked on. Fort McMurray. The scariest assignment. Fort McMurray. The hardest one. Fort McMurray.
She reported the story from inside the town but then from the highway when everyone was evacuated. She said she was scared but her training, along with her team camera person’s, included being aware of safety measures. They were never to compromise their safety for a story.
Breanna was able to report about the fires on-site for CTV Edmonton and CTV National because her crew was the only one in and around FortMcMurray, which created opportunities for her that she didn’t realize at the time–there were a lot of people watching and admiring her reporting skills.
And so, by crushing her goal of becoming an Edmonton-based CTV news reporter years ago, she is thinking onward and upward sooner than expected. She was recently offered a position in Vancouver with the CTV news team there, and she moves next week!
“Fort McMurray changed everything,” she said. “I had that moment where I knew this is what I should be doing.”
And by “this” she means reporting all types of news and people–stories on TV.
She explained to the students that she started at the bottom in Medicine Hat, then again in Edmonton, and is ready to do the same in Vancouver, “But it’s worth it.”
She couldn’t think of any other career she’d do if she wasn’t a reporter. She laughed and said maybe a teacher but that seems too hard and she doesn’t like speaking to large groups. So to be in front of a this many kids every day was a bit too intimidating for her.
She explained the perks of her reporter job: her wardrobe, make-up and hair are paid for. And she explained the cons of the job: there are some assignments that require really long hours, or some scary assignments that involve heights or snakes, for example, but there are times when she receives unnecessary nasty comments from strangers.
Regarding the nasty comments, she said that she was bullied a lot growing up and is actually just used to it and able to brush it off. She knows that these people don’t know her or the goodness of her heart; they just didn’t like the story she reported or the dress she wore and she knows better than to take their comments too seriously. She’s confident in her abilities and knows she’s a good person–that’s what helps her not dwell on these things.
For me, as a mom and writer/editor, I was happy to hear that she said you need to be a good writer who uses proper grammar to be a good reporter. And you should read a lot–that always helps, too. Then, at least, I didn’t have to say it 😉
The questions were flowing from the kids with anything from, “Was it hard to become a reporter?” to “How much do you make?” It’s obvious these students were testing out the waters to see if reporting was a career they’d consider. I think some of them will at least be watching the news more intently now with their personal connection to a real reporter.
Thanks so much Breanna. The program wrapped up as a success with many students now considering a future career in news. I think it’s definitely a win-win for them and the journalism industry.