by Stella Shepard
Louise Martin is the host of PEI’s popular newscast CBC Compass and has a passion for telling people’s stories. She was a guest speaker at the 2021 Career Development Association of PEI Virtual Conference.
Louise was born in Scotland and immigrated to Canada in 1981. She has anchored news shows across Canada, starting at CKLQ Radio and CKX TV in Brandon Manitoba, and moving on to RDTV in Red Deer, Alberta, CBC News World business, and CBC Breaking News.
“I knew I wanted to be a journalist by the time I was ten years old,” says Louise. “It was my ultimate career.”
Her career road map
Manitoba to Alberta – “My career began in Brandon, Manitoba with telling local news in a small community, and now I’ve gone full circle back to local news on PEI, where news matters.
“How did I get here? What took me on that career path? It was a lot of hard work. I was willing to say yes to more overtime and challenging assignments. But it was also a time for others to see my potential and learn from the mentors I had along the way.
“If you are going to mentor someone, you lead by example. I had a lot of mentors early in my career. While working in Brandon, Manitoba, the news director was a woman. I realized that I could achieve my dreams because of female role models in my life.
“Working in radio was an amazing start, because the experience helps hone your voice skills and teaches you how to turn around stories very quickly. As a young journalist in my early twenties, I was sent out to report on stories and then ran back to the station, editing and quickly putting it on the air.
“Broadcasting has changed so much over the years but the one thing that has not changed is news gathering – hearing people’s stories and telling those stories.”
Louise mentioned the broadcasting stations she worked at in Manitoba and Alberta are now closed. “Smaller stations have disappeared, which narrows career opportunities, especially for those coming out of journalism school.
“These days, there are fewer employment options, so it is more important to find ways to stand out and to meet people. I think the new generation of career seekers needs to know how to get out there and speak to people face-to-face.
“It has been hard doing this during the pandemic, but I have gone back to having coffee with people in the community, to talk and hear their stories, and to listen to what they are doing. Listening to people’s stories is how we get local news.”
Red Deer to Toronto – “When I left Red Deer and moved to Toronto, it was the first time in my career path that I put love ahead of work.
“I fell in love with a person who had a job offer in Ontario. That was a really tough decision, and I was at a crossroad. I have always made decisions with my head so to change that course was difficult.
“I quit my journalism job in Red Deer and moved to Toronto, where I was a tadpole in an ocean in Ontario. My then boyfriend, now husband, had a job in broadcasting as well. It was a critical moment in my career journey, and I met with everybody I could.”
Louise recalls a sobering meeting with the news director at CTV, who questioned her experience with only local news. “I replied that local news is the foundation of all news. I said I knew how to tell a story and I am passionate. She suggested I do a writing test.
“I was disappointed because I considered myself to be a seasoned journalist, but I did the writing test and passed. I started freelancing at CTV at a writing job, and I was okay with it because it was about stories being told.
“I worked with a lot of young people, new people, and a lot of veterans at CTV and learned so much from the experience.
“I applied to work at an online business news company, interviewing business leaders on Bay Street, a job that was full-time with benefits. I worked there for three months but was let go from there when the dot com bubble burst. It was there I met someone who had worked at CBC and he connected me with the right people to reach out to at CBC.”
Louise says once she was in the door, it was about proving herself, working hard, having a good work ethic and a go-getter attitude with a smile.
“When I celebrated my 20th anniversary, the HR person said, ‘I knew you were going to be a shining light in this red bubble we call CBC.’ That was one of the greatest compliments I could have received.”
To Prince Edward Island – With family connections on PEI and extended family living in Nova Scotia, Louise welcomed the opportunity to host CBC Compass in August of 2017. She moved to PEI with her husband, Ken and their children, Sophie and Hallie.
“I feel I am in the best place in the world. I worked at CBC headquarters in Toronto, in a variety of roles, for 17 years. It was very rewarding, but what I get every night on PEI is so much more.
“I feel a connection to our viewers and to my colleagues. I get to do events like this virtual Conference, which is a gift. I wanted to share people’s stories, to uncover truth, and I wanted to be a voice for the voiceless. Those are the main reasons why I choose a career in journalism.
“Now nearly three decades later, I am doing what I love, in a province I adore, for an employer I respect. Of all the places that I have lived, PEI is one of the most magical.”
“My advice to anyone considering a communications job is to have passion, share your passion, and being your true authentic self on the job. I also tell them to consider jobs in smaller markets outside Toronto. That is where you can learn so much.
“When I say ‘goodnight PEI’ at the end of each Compass broadcast, I say it with a twinkle in my eye and love in my heart, and I hope that come across to viewers.”
For more information about CBC Compass, visit www.cbc.ca/player/news/canada/pei