Friday, July 31

Behind-the-Scenes with Alan Carter and Farah Nasser: The New Global News Hour Duo

Soon after Global named Alan Carter and Farah Nasser as the new anchor duo for their Toronto News Hour (replacing Leslie Roberts, who had been solo on the desk), I received an email inviting me to come and visit the show.  My readers know that as a broadcast journalism junkie I couldn't possibly say no to an invitation like that, so in late July I headed behind-the-scenes with busy parents Alan and Farah (Alan's daughter Ava is nine, son Wynn is seven; Farah's son Kian is two and a half and she is expecting a baby girl in October).

I began with a tour of the maze that is the Global office. I had been in the building before behind the scenes with Cheryl Hickey at ET Canada, but didn't get the full tour. All I can say is that I'm glad the publicist didn't leave me alone because I would never have been able to find my way around!

Everyone I spoke to was so accommodating, and I especially loved having the chance to ask all my burning TV journalism questions. Supervising director James Oliphant indulged my what-do-I-need-to-learn-to-be-an-anchor curiosities about the teleprompter and the earpieces the anchors wear. I would definitely have to work on the skill of listening to direction in my ear while acting normal on camera - the dirty look and "Shhh!" that I give my girls when they try to talk to me while I'm on the phone wouldn't really cut it. James even made sure that I left with a souvenir photo of myself at the anchor desk, which you can see at the end of this post.

Chief meteorologist Anthony Farnell was also very welcoming, showing me all of the resources he uses to come up with the forecast - and nope, it's not just a roll of the dice.

Even the set was a bit surprising: Alan and Farah sit in front of a green screen, with backgrounds all put in by hard-working members of the crew.

This is the set. No, really. All green screen, all the time.

Dana (Global News' makeup artist of 25 years) gives Farah some finishing touches, 
with Alan in the background. 

Farah records some headlines

I had met Alan earlier in the year when I visited the Global Morning Show, but had never met Farah and they were both a pleasure to spend time with, going about their business (which believe me, is busy-ness) while welcoming me to take it all in and ask any questions I had. While they were in hair and makeup I had a chance to chat with them both. Here are the highlights of our conversation (with part two to come at another date - there was so much great material I couldn't fit it all in one post!)

I’m really curious to know how you got this job, Farah. What was the process?

Farah: Global approached me in February, just to have a chat about it. I was working at CP24 at the time, and I had just found out I was pregnant, so it was a really great career opportunity, but at the same time I wondered ‘Is this the right time in my life?’ I hadn’t even told my family I was pregnant, just my husband and I knew, so I went along with the process and when we started discussing salary and going forward with it I basically said to them, "Look, I have to tell you something: I’m pregnant. I’d still love this job, but don’t think you have to hire me; I want you to want me with my child. I don’t want to be here if you feel you’re forced to hire me, I will not come after you legally or anything, you need to know I come with this child. It’s going to be challenging, but it’s my second and I feel I can do a short mat leave and I can still devote time to the show, but I will obviously need some time off." It’s hard to ask for that when you’re starting a new job! What was so great is, I don’t know if there’s any other place you could actually have this conversation and feel positive about it. It’s such a family-oriented company. They really care about your family, they really care about you as a person as opposed to just you as an employee, so they said "This is a long-term thing, and we really like you, and we want to make it work", which was so great. I couldn’t believe it and I was really happy. Very thankful.

I had the pleasure of meeting ET Canada's Sangita Patel when she dropped by to 
tape an entertainment segment with Farah.

What are your plans in terms of maternity leave?

Farah: The baby is due at the end of October, and I’m definitely taking November and December off, and I’ll come back in the new year. The whole point of this job, and the reason I took it, is that it’s not just sitting at a desk being an anchor. I want to go out in the field, but when I first come back from mat leave I won’t be doing that, I’ll just be focused on the show until I can get my act together, so to speak. That’s the plan right now, but you know how it is. Anything can happen.

I’m hearing great feedback about your chemistry, both online and from my mother. How do you account for that? Is it the kind of thing you just can’t control, or have you developed it?

Alan: I think sometimes it’s a combination of hard work and luck - like any relationship, really. Farah and I are lucky that we’ve known each other in this business, in this city, since the beginning of her career. I met her when she first started, and like everybody who meets her I was blown away by her, so we’ve had a past before this job together. We just find we have such a great time being able to work on this show and put our prints on it. It’s been an enormous amount of fun – probably more fun that it should be to call it work! Last week was our first – it was last week, right? It feels like it’s been months but it’s been a week and a half – and it’s been really good. We just go out there and talk like normal people without thinking ‘Oh, we’re on TV!'

Farah: I think it’s also because we were both reporters in the field, we haven’t only been anchors, and I really respect Alan in terms of his journalism, the stories he’s covered, and he’s won so many awards and things like that. It’s a mutual respect and it’s also that we’re just people. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re both parents, we talk about our kids all the time, it seems easy. It’s not like the Anchorman movie!

The Global News Hour Toronto team. And me.

You’ve both been in this business a long time. Have there been any mentors or role models who have helped or shaped you?

Alan: Yes, many of them still work in this business. It’s a small business, across the country, and I started in Vancouver and worked with people who are {lowers voice} at another network now who are senior reporters and taught me how to write a story and I’ve had great mentors along the way. I had someone say to me about five or seven years into my career being on-air, “The second I stopped applying for the job every day is when I got good,” and that’s really been true for me. It’s like any kind of job, you feel like ‘I’m going to be found out, I’m a fraud’, and it’s that self-doubt we all carry with us, but when I was able to put it away and realize ‘I know how to do this, I can do this’, that’s when I got better at it. That’s when I was able to be me. This is a very odd thing to do for a living. When you see the studio, it’s the two of us sitting at a desk in a giant green room and we’re essentially talking to boxes. To robots. Everything about the business is designed to be unnatural, and your job is to be natural in the midst of all of that, the chaos that’s going on. That’s what my mentors have really taught me over the years, that you have to be yourself. It sounds trite and simple, but after years in the business you realize that it’s one of the hardest things in the world as everything is designed to make me not be myself, so to go out there and do it is a challenge.

{Farah later asked me if teaching was the same, always feeling like you're 'auditioning' for your job. My answer could fill another blog post, but I thought it was kind of her to inquire.}

Farah: In terms of mentorship, I’ve seen a lot of strong females in leadership positions in this industry which has been amazing because they have these long days, and they love their careers almost as much as they love their families. These are women who have said, "It’s okay that you weren’t crazy about being on mat leave and that you missed your work," because you have these feelings and you think ‘Is this right?’ You try to balance it all in your head and you wonder if your feelings are okay, and I’ve had a lot of people who’ve really helped me along the way in that sense. Like Alan, I really truly love my job, and I love being a mom. You can love both. It’s the whole idea of having it all, and being able to good at a million different things. That’s been influential for me. 

Thanks to Global for indulging a dreamer. 
Farah, where were you with your round-brushes-and-hairdryer trick when I needed you?

I've heard that you’re into yoga, Farah?

Farah: Yes, I’ve done a lot of yoga. In this pregnancy I haven’t done it as much as I want, but it really helps centre me, and even with my health and this autoimmune illness I have {more on this in Part 2, coming soon}, it helps circulation and blood flow and things like that, so it’s really been great for me.

What else do you like to do in your spare time – when you have any?

Farah: We like to do farmers’ markets, explore the city, go to the island in the summer. I really love Toronto, we try to attend any festivals going on. It’s just been so fun doing that stuff with my son because you get to see things through his eyes and it’s so cool to see what he likes. We took him to Taste of Toronto, the food festival, and he tries everything so it’s a lot of fun. In terms of sports I like swimming, in the winter we go skiing a lot. We’re foodies, that’s what we really like. We like to go out for dinner, go to street vendors or holes in the wall.

Now is that because you don’t cook, or don’t like to?

Farah: Oh, good question! My mom and my mother-in-law are both ridiculously amazing cooks. They cook Indian food so well, and I just have never been able to get to their level. I definitely cook, but I don’t have a superhuge interest in it, it’s just something I do for my family, but I guess it is a little bit about getting out of cooking.

Alan, I know from my sneak peek at the new Anchors In Cars video that you’re into longboarding. What else do you like to do?

Alan: I’m really avid about sports. I’m a mountain biker, snowboarder, general risk-your-life kind of guy. That’s my free time, and all other time is for my kids. {Alan shares custody of his children.}

Are you getting them into some of those outdoor activities as well?

Alan: They’re both skiers. My daughter, who is nine, has been asking to snowboard since I’m a snowboarder, so I said this fall she can try it out if she wants, and decide if she wants to do that or continue skiing, but she’s a daredevil. She’s got a longboard too, she longboards with me and my son has a scooter. We do that, or we go out and play basketball. Every time we’re together we try to do some sporty thing. 


Thanks so much to Alan and Farah for giving me a peek at their exciting new roles. You can catch Alan Carter and Farah Nasser on Global News Hour Toronto weekdays from 5:30 - 6:30 pm, and click on their names to find them on Twitter. Stay tuned, as I'll be offering Part 2 of my in-depth chat with Alan and Farah soon, where Farah gets personal about the child she lost and the autoimmune illness that she was hit with in her 20s, and the anchors discuss parenting, social media negativity, and if they think women on television are judged more harshly than men.

P.S. Associate publicist Samantha Simic did a fantastic job of touring me around, filling me in on the workings of the show, and getting answers to all of my questions. {She also shared a few "off the record" tidbits about celebrities she's worked with.} Publicity was really done right, and since the behind-the-scenes folk aren't always acknowledged, I wanted to do so here. 


Anonymous said...

HI there. Great article ! I'm curious to know how you got the invite to Global, not once but twice ? Thanks, Hugh.

This Mom said...

Hi Hugh, thanks for reading! One of the PR people at Global had seen the momterviews I did on my blog with other TV personalities and reached out to ask me if I wanted to come and do an interview, and after that I was invited back a couple more times to interview others. Hope that answers your question!