A Storyteller Finds A New Home

LJI Journalist Name
LJI Partner Name
Telile Community Televison
Arichat NS

By: Adam Cooke - PORT HAWKESBURY - Since I became obsessed with the local and national CBC at the age of nine, I have yearned to be a broadcaster. Because of the Local Journalism Initiative, that dream is becoming a reality. As a result of working on this program, I am adding new skills to my CV, and discovering that being a video journalist is also enhancing my skills in radio and text based storytelling. 

I make the distinction between "broadcaster" and "journalist" or even "reporter" because I consider these to be separate vocations. I trained as a journalist at the University of King's College in Halifax, graduating with honours in 1995. And I worked full-time as a journalist from 1993 to 2001, and again from 2007 to 2017. I took pride in my work and considered myself good at what I did, but I was never comfortable with the title of "reporter." (Which comes with some irony considering that I worked a cumulative 12 years for a weekly newspaper named The Reporter.)

You see, I always wanted to be a broadcaster. As a child and then a teenager in the '80s, I looked up to the likes of Knowlton Nash, Peter Mansbridge, Peter Gzowski, Barbara Frum, Anne Medina and - closer to home - Jim Nunn and even youth-TV host Stan Johnson because they used the medium of television so effectively to connect with viewers and get the message out. Whether they sought to enlighten, educate or even entertain, these people were storytellers. And growing up in Cape Breton, where oral history is so critical to the Acadian, Scottish and Mi'kmaq cultures that comprise our island, I learned the value and importance of delivering stories to my neighbours, and I took that responsibility seriously throughout my career.

Today, it is the Local Journalism Initiative that has fulfilled my lifelong dream of being a broadcaster. It is this innovative, forward-thinking program that has helped me develop my skills as a host, interviewer and producer for both television and online media. It has given me the opportunity to use both visual and oral information, from myself and from my guests and interview subjects, to tell the true story of Richmond County - so often forgotten when discussing Cape Breton, its people and its issues - and the Strait of Canso, an economic and social cog for the entire Province of Nova Scotia that gets far too little attention and credit for its achievements, its spirit, or even its mere presence. 

My LJI work with Telile Community Television has strengthened my connection to my native Richmond County in means I could not have even conceived as a fifth-grader writing fan letters to then-President of the CBC, Pierre Juneau. And it has also encouraged me to break down walls between local government and the traditional media to establish a more positive relationship for all involved.

When I started my contract in January, the Town of Mulgrave, N.S. had barred media and the general public from taking video or audio recordings, or even photographs, at public town council meetings. Neither the mayor or the chief administrative officer (CAO) of the town would do on-camera interviews. Through persistence and patience, I used every means at my disposal to deliver factual reportage from the town, going out of my way to shoot exterior footage that backed up the information I gained from attending the meetings. Finally, in April, the CAO agreed to a Skype interview with me and, as we wrapped things up, she was impressed with the way I had carried out my work and expressed hope that a follow-up interview could take place. Since that time, I have also interviewed Mulgrave's recreation director and chief returning officer about issues within the town and I look forward to continuing these positive connections and telling the story of this seaside community for years to come.  

I thank CACTUS and the LJI program for not only helping my broadcasting and storytelling dreams to come true, but for giving me the opportunity to deepen and strengthen my personal and professional relationships with my community and the communities around me. These moments will remain with me through the rest of my career and my life, and I look forward to the next round of moments like these.

- Adam Cooke, LJI participant and host-producer for TELILE 24/7 - Telile Community Television, Arichat, Nova Scotia