I'm super excited to share this week's exclusive interview with Priya Sam. She shares some tips for combatting writer's block, explains the differences between TV and print journalism, as well as gives some insight into her writing process.
Priya and I met at the University of Western Ontario where we studied late nights for our media courses, and roomed together for 4 years. She is a news junkie, globetrotter, cat lover and pun princess! She can be seen on CTV’s national morning show, Your Morning, where she anchors the news. With no further ado, I’m delighted to feature Priya Sam in this week’s Q&A blog!
Q: When did you know you were destined to be a journalist?
I always thought I wanted to be a teacher, but when I was looking at University programs, my Dad suggested journalism. I gave it some thought and quickly realized it combined all the things I loved; sharing information, telling stories, meeting new people, writing, reading and research. It seemed like a perfect fit! Once I started the program, it solidified my decision.
Q: How did you get into the television industry?
When I was doing my Master’s degree at King’s College in Halifax, I applied for a part-time position at CTV Atlantic as a Teleprompter operator. Aside from operating the Teleprompter during the live shows, I answered the phone, contacted police and other sources for information for stories, and learned to write scripts. I loved the newsroom environment right away! It’s busy and ever-changing; you have to be on your toes at all times and ready to make quick decisions. I was pretty lucky to learn from some of the best in that first job. Eventually, I took on more responsibility as a production assistant and on my days off, I would come in and shadow the reporters because that was the job I really wanted. I started to put together my own versions of their stories and send them to my managers. Eventually, they asked me to fill in for a reporter on their vacation, and after that, I started to get more on-air opportunities.
Q: With journalism, you have to be objective. As an anchor on a variety morning show, do you get to be more creative with your style of journalism? And how does that translate into writing on the show?
Objectivity is definitely still the priority but we focus on a conversational style, so it is very nice to have that creative freedom. We’re sharing information with viewers who are just starting their days, and I assume most people are like me and need things to be really easy to understand, especially that early in the morning...and before coffee! Our goal is to make the news simple, digestible and informative, while also throwing in some light stories that will give viewers a reason to smile. I like to add my puns to those stories to make them even better!
Q: You have also written for several print publications. What is your writing process when working on a piece?
It’s interesting to transition from writing for TV to writing for print. In TV, we’re always trying to simplify and make everything conversational. For print, you want to include more detail and description because you don’t have video to help you tell the story. I like to sketch an outline of an article before I do the interviews, then write out some questions to use as a guide. I try not to get too tied to my questions because I don’t want to miss anything new or intriguing that comes up in the interview. If there is an interesting detour, I always take it. When it comes to writing the article, I like to have all of my interview transcriptions in front of me and I try to write a full first draft in one sitting. Then, I try to leave it alone for a day or two before going back to it. I find that helps me to see it with fresh eyes and then refining it is easier.
Q: How do you overcome writer’s block when faced with deadlines?
For me, the best remedy for writer’s block is time. We don’t always have that luxury when we’re on a deadline, but I find that having time and space from something I’m writing always helps me to see it with more objectivity and clarity the next time I pick it up.
Q: What’s currently on your reading list?
I’m in the middle of Michelle Obama’s book right now and I’m loving it! My guilty pleasure is definitely true crime and murder mysteries. I love anything by Gillian Flynn!
Q: Do you have a favourite children’s book from when you were a kid?
I was a big fan of the Bernstein Bears series and my all-time favourite is “Love you forever” by Robert Munsch.
Q: Since you love puns and cats, here’s the last question…Give me your best cat pun.
I hope I can use more than one… if you have a pawsitive attitude, life will always be purrfect!