A RRJ writer finds out how TVO’s flagship program keeps bringing back viewers.
By Carine Abouseif
I have to admit, it wasn’t my idea to write a profile of Steve Paikin, who is known for many things, mainly his TVO program The Agenda, but also for moderating federal and provincial debates, among other things. Tim Falconer, the Review’s instructor had wanted to run a profile of Paikin for a while and in the fall of 2015 the story was mine.
I spent a long time doubting myself, and my ability to write the story. Not being Canadian or Ontario-born or raised, I worried that I didn’t have the right context to write about Paikin or his work. My first step was to delve into every story I could find about him. I read profiles old and new. But when I was done reading each of them, I still felt like I didn’t really “get” him. And that’s what I wanted for my readers.
When I finally started interviewing his colleagues, those old and new repeated the same thing again and again—He’s the same guy onscreen as he is off camera, they all said unprompted.
In many ways Paikin was an anomaly. Here was someone on TV almost every day, who hadn’t become a figurehead or branded persona. Here was a program that opted to go long and stay away from flashy cuts and graphics. And, the same viewers came back every night.
The next turning point was when I discovered that a new Agenda set and format were coming in January. The redesign was both a blessing and a major hurdle for me as a reporter. Much of the story is informed by what I saw and understood when I visited the new set in mid-December. But that was also very late in the Review’s process. Still, the redesign posed the most interesting question to me: would Paikin still be able to do what he loved on this new set, in this new format?
Carine Abouseif is a writer and editor working on a Master of Journalism at Ryerson University. Her work has appeared in This Magazine, McClung’s Magazine and more. She is also the senior online editor of the spring 2016 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.