From Calgary to Capitol Hill
SAIT Television, Stage and Radio alumni Jackson Proskow is known for asking tough questions.
Since graduating in 2003, he's been a reporter in Saskatoon, Lethbridge, Hamilton, and most recently, spent nine years at Global TV Toronto, several of those as the City Hall beat reporter. During that tenure, at an unscheduled press conference, he asked Toronto Mayor Rob Ford the question that resulted in Ford's controversial admission of drug use.
Now, Proskow is the Washington Bureau Chief for Global National News, where he's adapting a traditional network news role to meet the demands of a rapidly changing industry.
Proskow sat down with Link, SAIT's alumni magazine, to talk about the important role journalists play in uncovering the "why" of current events.
Learning to lead the news
"One of the best pieces of career advice I ever received was from Shelly Blore, a Journalism instructor at SAIT who used to drill into us that we needed to ‘get' the story. In other words, it's one thing to know what is happening, but it's more important to know why.
As journalists, we find out the ‘why' by asking tough questions. It's a skill, it's an art, it's a privilege and it's a responsibility.
I'm struck by how, even outside our work lives, reporters tend to be very direct and to the point — we know exactly how to get the information we're looking for. We can draw out answers from people, sometimes by being blunt and peppering them with questions, and sometimes times by spending time warming people up and making them feel comfortable so they will finally open up and tell us their story.
We have the responsibility to draw out answers that help people explain their position in life or the situation they're going through. That responsibility extends to not letting politicians off the hook or allowing them to stick to their talking points.
When the elevator doors opened in front of the Toronto mayor's office on Nov. 5, 2013, the rumours and unverified reports of Rob Ford's drug use were at a pinnacle. I was one of several journalists who had spent six months camped outside the office, asking Ford questions daily. He rarely stopped to talk to us. That day, we had a different plan.
Whether or not Ford had already decided to confess that morning was a matter of speculation, but the series of questions, planned in advance, that led up to the moment where I asked him the question and got the answer — ‘Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine' — was part of a strategy to get the mayor to do something other than his usual brisk walk past the cameras.
Without question, that single moment was memorable, but it was also part of a bigger story, the result of asking many questions and having a much larger plan.
Most of the time, making the story involves asking the right questions. But sometimes it means taking a calculated risk and seizing an opportunity.
Having great timing doesn't hurt either. More than once, I've found myself in front of a camera with a tornado swirling in the background. It may not have seemed like it at the time, but taking those risks was part of a greater career plan.
Having a game plan at the outset is really what it's all about — no matter what career or industry you're in. It's only when you understand the full picture that you can create the right strategy — and ‘make' your story, not just ‘get' it."
Jan. 21, 2015