Profile: Gord Leclerc

This article was written in October 2010 for my first year journalism class. It was the first time I had ever set foot in a television studio, and I was so nervous to interview CTV senior anchor Gord Leclerc. Well, as you’ll find out, there was nothing at all to be nervous about – thanks Gord, for being a great role model, twitter pal and all-round good guy.

Profile: Gord Leclerc

He opens the main entrance door, locked for the night once reception leaves. The studio is dark, but the background newsroom has lighting enough to notice he is dressed in a suit jacket with a crisp white dress shirt, black tie and blue denim jeans.  He smiles, “yes, I wear these behind the desk.”

Gord Leclerc, the senior news anchor on CTV Winnipeg, walks ahead while showcasing the studio after hours. Some journalists and camera people are still filing out and he personally introduces each one.

“I have a great team. I’m not the best anchor, or the smoothest,” he laughs, before finding a spot on a nearby couch and slumping down casually.

The half-suited anchorman grew up in The Pas, Manitoba, where his parents owned a restaurant and gas station.  Even though the town was what Leclerc describes as “somewhat ignorant,” he enjoyed growing up in a place where “you could run around and be free.”  It didn’t hinder him professionally either: after walking by a booth at a job fair, Leclerc applied and was accepted into Western Academy Broadcasting College in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“I never refused an assignment,” says Leclerc, who worked in smaller markets such as Swift Current before joining the CTV Winnipeg news team in 1995. He got a job right out of college in what he calls, repeatedly, an “industry of egos.” But Leclerc’s varying tastes and interests set him apart and keep him grounded; “I like Motörhead and Judas Priest and, because of the girls, Justin Bieber.”

Leclerc’s girls are Rachel, 15, and Celina, 10, and the anchorman smiles when discussing them; “I’m definitely my kids’ dad first.”

Rachel, who just started high school, says that even though her dad seems serious on TV, “at home he is the complete opposite – super funny and jokes around a lot.” The teenager brings friends by the house often and even admits that her dad isn’t that bad of a clothes shopper.

“He took me to get my back-to-school clothes and probably picked out half of them.”

When asked about his fashion knowledge, Leclerc laughs and says, “the problem is, Rachel and I have such expensive taste.”

Many of Leclerc’s former co-anchors and college classmates have left the province or country for industry work. But the anchorman has no interest in doing so, despite a much larger paycheck.

“I live a comfortable life here,” he says. “And nothing beats a bike ride down Waverley Street.”

The father of two says people do recognize him while he’s out, and that it’s a welcome interaction since the community “invites [him] into their living rooms every night.”

Despite being in the public eye, Leclerc manages to maintain a certain level of privacy in regards to his personal life; “I don’t think people really care. Some people notice at events, but that’s all.”

What some have noticed is a newly solo Leclerc and a barren wedding ring finger. “I still get to see my girls though, we share them 50/50.”

Alan Biggar, 48, president of Big Country RV, is one of Leclerc’s new single friends.

“It’s crappy, but it’s another thing we have in common,” says the recent divorcee from a 27-year marriage. “He’s one of those guys, it doesn’t matter who the hell you are, he’ll have fun and get along with you.”

The two met accidentally, when their daughters were video calling through Skype. “I walked in and next thing you know, Gord and I are skyping,” says Biggar. “I’m there eating chips and Gord is drinking wine. We talk about our motorbikes.”

Leclerc discusses his love of bikes to close our interview; which has gone on long enough that the newsroom is almost deserted.  As Leclerc walks me out,  with hours-old make-up still on his face, giving him comically larger-than-life black eyebrows; we part with a solemn handshake.

“Take the job seriously, but never take yourself seriously.”

*

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A body in my backyard

It’s my first breaking news shift as an intern for the Winnipeg Free Press.

I wake up at 5:30 am, put on the coffee and have a long shower. Up next is writing a few stories for the web and then keeping my eyes and ears ready for news. My phone rings.

“Where do you live?” asks my editor.
“South side of Winnipeg, on Wilkes Avenue.”
“Are you kidding me? – there are reports of a body floating in a retention pond off Wilkes.”

The same retention pond I could see as I looked out the window.

I get in my car and drive east a few buildings down. Only one police cruiser and an ambulance are at the scene. I arrived to see the non-descript body being placed on the stretcher with a white blanket over top. More police arrive and they pay no attention to the girl who looks like an uninformed neighbourhood resident.

No one’s saying anything so I head into the building that borders on the scene where the body was found, live tweeting as the event unfolds. I poke my head around a few more corners then “how did you slip by here?”  The area was secured inside and out, so I waited in my car for someone – anyone – to leave the locked building. Finally someone does: a veteran reporter from Nova Scotia on holiday to visit her aunt. She had poked around herself and filled me in: police are canvassing the building, asking if anyone’s seen anything. And it was the care taker who called in the floating body.

For all the intensity of a body in my backyard, the last word I received was the possibility of suicide – a story to go unreported in the media.

***

I’ve always said nothing beats being there and, as I’ve discovered recently, nothing beats the rush of getting to news first.

When I started my internship at the Free Press last week, the building itself was a little daunting; cubicles galore occupied by writers whose work I’ve followed for a long time.

But things get better and first day jitters calm down quickly. I’ve done three internships before and the great thing about them is you’re going to have some “tough love” lessons on the job – if you’re lucky. Some just don’t work out, while others have surprise endings:

Technical difficulty

It was the very first day in the newsroom and it’s painfully slow – Easter Monday and city hall, the legislature and the law courts are all closed. No streeters there, Duncan McMonagle. So instead I start perusing my social media networks while keeping in touch with other sources and writing web stories.

I land on an event happening at UW: a talk-back discussion with members from Invisible Children, the organization behind KONY 2012. The editors liked the idea and after filing some short pieces I head home to prep for the night. I go to the lecture, interview many intriguing people and get to writing. My deadline is 9:00 pm, I’m done at 8:30. Only problem: I have no internet.

I make the quick drive to the college. Start the computer and transfer my file over with a stick. It’s corrupt and won’t open. I have five minutes to deadline. I try different ways of pulling my file off the computer to no avail. With ten minutes past the deadline, I submit my file without being able to open it on the computer I’m sending from. Editor couldn’t open it and things were way behind- another one for the tough luck books.

Verbal interaction

Personality is what I want editors to get from me. At the end of the internship, I’m another student floating in and out; knowing who I am, how I interact with people in the newsroom is key to figuring out if this is the place for me – and vice versa.

One day the writers were preparing pieces for a feature on the Provincial Nominee Program reorganization (so to speak). I overheard my editor and a writer talking about finding people – so I mentioned my family used the program. Before the day was out, I wrote a personal piece about my family’s use of the PNP, and why it’s an asset for immigrants in all standings: Community kept us here.

It turned out to be a great way to share a story I’m proud to tell and try a different voice. Editors saw a different side to me and many people I knew responded positively to the story. The piece ran again in print this past Monday in the Brandon Sun.

 “I wish I could say have a good day, but I cannot find the words”

You’re not a journalist until you receive a letter of discontent.

Thankfully my first letter was, in my humble opinion, not too grave. A dignitary who attended the Transcona 100 sent me words of venom (ALL IN CAPS) for not specifically mentioning his name in the article. He was one of more than 10 dignitaries at the event, and while he is no less important than other dignitaries, I only mentioned the few key people who spoke early on in the presentation.

I responded to him respectively and hope that when I encounter him in person, there will be a mutual agreement to move forward professionally. It’s an important lesson to learn, that of pride. Dealing with your own and others can be a delicate balance.

No story is ever too small

And now I leave you on a positive note.

On my second day I was sent to cover a story about grade four to six students at a Winnipeg school who created original art work to auction off for sick kids.

While the adults and kids I met were terrific, I was worried there wasn’t much of a story. So I opened myself to taking a softer writing approach to a story I personally found touching. The piece didn’t run the next day, as it wasn’t time sensitive and there was enough content.

The next day it ran I had a few emails waiting for me. A local gallery owner sent me a message saying a board member of his cooperative suggested donating an artistry book to the classes as a thank you for their community involvement. It was such a sweet gesture, it made me realize (once more) no story is ever too small.

And reminded me it’s for the community, and its betterment, that we write.

If you’d like to contact me with letters of discontent or happiness, please make my day by emailing them to daniella.ponticelli@freepress.mb.ca.

Aer Time: a cabaret for international dance day

It’s an escape, a passion and a painful art – and I keep on loving aerial dance. It is truly movement in three dimensions and has become a part of who I am.

While I love writing, finding the latest scoop, and singing pop songs with friends (looking at you, Ashley Wiebe); twisting, turning, dropping and rolling from 30 feet in the air using nothing but a piece of fabric is just awesome.

Sunday, April 29 is international dance day and to celebrate, Monica’s Danz Gym is hosting  the Aer Time Cabaret show at its 25 Scurfield Avenue studio. Momentum Aerial and Acrobatic performance troupe will be there – I was fortunate enough to dance with them in Lausanne, Switzerland in the summer of 2011, as well as in Dornbirn, Austria; Ottawa, Canada and Boulder, Colorado years before.

The talented Jennifer Roy, my personal friend and incredible acrobatic artist will perform, as well as senior aerial instructor Liz Cooper. Jordan Dock, who auditioned for Canada’s Got Talent judges, will also showcase his work.

I’m honoured to be a part of this event presenting my work in progress These are my hands performed to the Across the Universe version of  the Beatle’s classic, I want to hold your hand.

These are my hands refers to the opposite of what the song impresses: holding someone else’s hand.  Instead I’ve decided to reclaim and hold my own hand; forgiving myself and reaching out to my own hopes and dreams.

Far too often we reach out to others around us,taxing relationships and falling prey to life’s many demands – often to the detriment of our own health and happiness.

It’s with such generous extension we forget where our hands – where we – are.

So please come by Monica’s Danz Gym, 25 Scurfield Blvd, and celebrate international dance day on Sunday April 29 at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Writing to remember

It was a rainy April morning, when I arrived at Vimy Ridge, France. Our small group marched on the wet, marshy fields toward the hill. Some complained about the rain. When we reached the top, we didn’t have to fight or run or scream – we just had to remember.

I left the group and walked around the memorial site alone, trying to make sense of  the symbols embedded in the sculptures. The fallen were there as names carved inches deep into the stone, their bodies now lying in honourable graves. But no image haunted me more than the statue of Mother Canada.

She stood alone atop the front wall, holding a branch in her hand. There was a heaviness to the cloth draped around her body and she looked down. She was sad, mourning, remembering: forever immortalized in stone.

I don’t think I really got Remembrance Day until my trip to visit the battle sites of the first and second world war.  Being from South Africa, I didn’t grow up with the tradition of remembrance and pinning on a poppy. In fact I was horribly confused by the whole event when I first attended a school event in grade four.

But that trip, aside from being advertised as a history excursion, was an exercise in remembering.

Canadians gather annually to hold community ceremonies of remembrance, a standard of which is the playing of the last post. On a chilly April evening, a large group of people gathered at the Menin Gate in Ypres, France for a remembrance ceremony. While I was only there for one night to witness people crying wile the last post played, it is a ritual they do everyday. They never let themselves forget.

And there are many people who go through remembrance everyday, without ritual. Parents and children of the fallen, comrades, soldiers currently on deployment. The people whose lives are continually dependent on the service of soldiers and their sacrifice, or who owe their freedom to those in uniform.

I’d would be bold enough to say that’d all of us.  So what are my acts of remembrance?

Last year I wrote a story about my father and how he made a dear friend out of an enemy he fought during the Angolan war. It was hard to listen to his story, having been confused for so long by his depression and tirades, which it was diagnosed as post traumatic stress disorder. It was also hard for him to remember, recounting events of being a young man forced into combat.

My father thanked me for writing it and sent an email copy to Jorge, his “Cuban brother.” This was the letter I received back (he used a translator):

“Daniella my Sister I am very happy for you and see that you are very intelligent and have ease of words when writing. Everything is well written in your article and you honor me, with the sheer reality of our pure dispair, you seem to understand the sincerity of our souls during this damaging time in our lives. God offered us and I met your father, thank you for your sentimental words about his life […] all my gratitude and my hugs to you, merry Christmas..”

I was overwhelmed by his thanks. Even though I thought I had just written another story – it was an act of remembrance.

It was from writing his story that I realized I wanted to work with the Canadian Forces for my Independent Professional Project. I am happy to be in charge of the 38 Brigade newsletter, and play a number of communications roles. I have had the opportunity to meet many reserves soldiers, who do great work in the community and help out on the home front; most recently during the spring flood.

The theme for our November newsletter is how do you remember. I attended the Valour Road ceremony today, and as I’m waiting for the crowd to disperse, I see a man standing with his dog; watching people as they lay wreaths. I go up to him with a smile and ask him how he is, if he’d like to share with me how he remembers.

“I remember everyday, my father was killed right before I was born.”

Without saying me saying a word, the man continued to tell me about all the members in his family affected by the war. His father was a Canadian soldier in South East Asia. His mother lost both of  her brothers. His stepdad had tried to get overseas to no avail while his stepdad’s twin brother was a thousand miles away,  working on a map when a sniper bullet shot off part of his ear. An inch difference would have meant his life.

Or another gentleman I asked, who was donning a beret. It was his fathers, the man in the picture wearing the same hat. The photo was taken a few days after he married the woman beside him, while on a few weeks leave. The two lovebirds lived together until they were 95, passing away within months of each other. Today their son thanked them on Remembrance Day by putting their picture on the memorial.

I think I finally get Remembrance Day. It doesn’t matter who you are, or whether you attend a ceremony (be nice if you did). What matters are the stories. Memorials, like the one at Vimy Ridge that moved me to tears, bear the names – but we bear the people, their histories and legacies.

My way of remembering is telling stories. All the while Mother Canada mourns and soldiers lie in wait. When it one days ends, and until then, we will never forget.

Aquatic Escape

I realized something absolutely scary. Not only am I a slave to the clock, but also a diagnosed zombie.

I have spent most of the week running around, skipping lunch for mac lab magazine work, driving to and from Brandon Manitoba within less than an evening, and waking up the next day to do it all again. By no means is this complaining, this is merely indicating how little time I have to write creatively. I miss it, the few cereal posts I’ve done are my only escape.

And that’s when opportunity came. My wonderful creative writing instructor Karen Press invited me to do a reading of some of my creative work, most likely a short story, along with poet, memoir writer, and international author Jonathan Garfinkel (I’m really excited to hear him read!).

The reading will be held on
Wednesday, April 6
7 pm
Aqua Books 274 Garry.

If you can’t make it to our duo reading, please consider taking in Garfinkel at noon the following day, April 7, at RRC Roblin Centre at the Exchange District Campus Room A104.

If you are interested in knowing more, and showing your attendance, there is a Facebook event here. I’ll be posting more on my creative project adventures – as soon as I remember what six hours of sleep feels like.

Some Mayo’r for that Sandwich?

You look like journalism students.

"I love this City"

That was our quick introduction to Chuck Davidson, the coordinator for the Chamber of Commerce. My colleagues, Jennifer David  and Tristan Field Jones , and I were shown to the media table while speakers did their technical rehearsal.

“Welcome on this, February 4th 2010… I mean, uh, 2011.”

The occasion –  Mayor Sam Katz’ State of the City address. Over 1100 people attended; “a sold out crowd” said the introductory speaker. The cost was $75 as a Chamber member, and $200 non-member, proceeds going to Osborne House and the North End Hockey Program . Before we could settle into our back wall seats, complete with VIP sandwich platters, the CreComm crew took a moment to mingle outside.

I took a picture for a business woman on her BlackBerry, “I just don’t know how to work this camera.” Hmmm, the mobile CreComm is paying off.

TFJ

Tristan decided to unload his high-tech audio equipment, setting up a tripod the size of my hand and grumbled as it didn’t withstand the weight of the microphone.

Men and women formed a growing sea of grey, black and white tones in the lobby. Business suits, trench coats, and high school blazers – over 50 high school students were invited to the event, their plate sponsored by the Convention Centre.

Once inside, there was media from the Uniter, CBC, and CJOB 68, sitting beside us. Mr. Policy Frog was seen walking around the tables. Seated at a table in front of us was Coun. Thomas Steen, proving to be far more talkative than at the previous city council meeting.

 Judy Murphy, the Chamber of Commerce Chair introduced a few guest speakers and a Chamber promotional video was aired, created by Tripwire Media Group. It was a very well-produced video – you know you’re a CreComm nerd when a promo vid increases your heart rate – and all I could think was I can’t wait to start my video IPP…

Interruption while Bartley Kives serves the media table with the aforementioned sandwich platter.

But, let’s get to the State of the City.
We were provided with a news release of the address, written in past tense, and the mayor’s entire speech (also available online at www.winnipeg.ca). The mayor discussed – very optimistically! – his vision for the upcoming year, nay, decade. I will now present you with my

AWESOME top ten highlights

“Mr. Mayor, over here!”

1. The Mayor giving mad props to the city councillors, starting with those new to office.
Why do I enjoy Coun. Steen’s reactions so much?

2.The mayor saying that he believed some Winnipeggers settled into feeling that they live “in a great city, but maybe just not quite as good as others.”
As a student, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I hear others say they are going to leave this city as soon as they’re done school. Whereas I will be lucky to get a journalistic start in rural community – that is my NYC.  I agree, it’s time to give our city some credit (even though my tweets about Transit say otherwise)…

3.“Our downtown population will increase by more than 10%.”
Hope that’s not just parking lot attendants Mr. Katz.

4. A 2014 Grey Cup in the new stadium. Giddy up.

5. OH OH OH – DID YOU HEAR?
WE’RE GETTING A TARGET! (tar-jay) AND AN IKEA! (eye-key-yaaa).
Now we’re finally as hip as Fargo.

6. The first class of police cadets is graduating today. This just makes me happy; they are such a welcomed presence in the downtown area.

7.WHAT IS THAT IN THE SKY?!
“A big, shiny, crime-busting new police helicopter.”  I feel like I’m living in L.A.!
But hey, if you’re worried about gas emissions, the “largest green building ever built in Manitoba” (Canadian Museum for Human Rights) will balance it all out. Right?

8.Oh he mentioned something about a waterpark…  How about dem Jets?

9. The province wants the city to spend $350 million on removing nitrogen in the water. Sam Katz opposes with the magic reason:
BUT WE COULD BUILD A WAVERLEY UNDERPASS!

10. “And we will certainly never get it done if we ever stop believing it can happen.”

Roll it Journey

Crown our Queen

Let’s talk creativity – I need your help!

For school, we’ve been assigned groups in which we will create a full print magazine on the subject of our choice –  it had to go through a rigorous approval process. Thankfully, that phase is done and our group  (Laura, Judy, and Chuka) has decided to do something new for us all …

A local Transgender lifestyle magazine.

I’m absolutely thrilled to be working on this project, especially since we’re all constantly learning new things. Tomorrow evening I’m heading out to photograph performances in action and meet some of the stars themselves. I’m ectatic, if you know me well you know I’ve been looking forward to this for a while!

The only issue is finding a name for our magazine – we have come up with a few potentials, only to find they have been used as a title elsewhere. It’s gotten so bad that in a recent brainstorm I blurted out “Xena!” simply because I had seen the name that day.

So if you have an idea – one that will no doubt trump Xena – please comment, I want to stir up some discussion and finally crown our queen.

We need help – seriously. This is the Feed, the forum for my creative shenanigans so I implore you to fire away. I really like this one transgender mag called Candy – they managed to get James Franco in drag! So us ladies in the group have made a conserted effort to get some lashes and shimmer dust on Chuka. We’ll get him! Here’s some inspiration…

Foxy Lady

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