Support is pouring in for a Canadian broadcaster after she became emotional live on air, and it’s bringing up conversations about the importance of showing human emotions in journalism.
Coleen Christie, Global BC anchor and longtime broadcaster in Vancouver, spoke through tears following a piece on the war in Ukraine.
“I’m sorry, it’s so emotional,” she said as a volunteer soldier discovered their friend alive among the rubble two months after they had presumed him dead.
“I can only imagine what that would have been like,” she added.
She then took a moment to pause, said “okay” with renewed composure, and continued reading the newscast.
Watch the whole segment here.
It happened on Wednesday during the Global News at Noon show and it didn’t take long for the audience to reach out to Christie on social media to show their support and commend the anchor for how she handled it.
“Profound humanity and professionalism by [Coleen Christie],” one Twitter user wrote.
You’re only human – you’ve been through a lot and feelings are just barely below the skin. Take good care. We need more Colleen
— Kelly Ackeral (@KellysOkanagan) March 15, 2023
Christie told Daily Hive that not only was she moved by the story, but that the emotions were high for her on a personal level.
“I have to admit I’m a little fragile right now because my dad just died,” Christie said about losing her dad Alan recently following his battle with Parkinson’s.
“I had such a great relationship with him. And we’ve spent the last three years with him in long-term care, a pandemic experience in long-term care which was horrific… that was really bad. And then on top of that, my long-term committed relationship just ended. So it was a double whammy,” she said.
“This is my first week back at work after all of that so I’ve been trying to take it slow, and, you know, just be gentle,” she said.
But when reading the story, she says it just hit her.
“Here are these two people from opposite ends of the planet who are fighting for the same cause and supporting each other and that they reconnected was just so wonderful, so wonderful. So I’m feeling that and then at the same time in my head, I’m thinking ‘I have to get through this,’” she said.
“You almost have to distract yourself from the story… because as much as breaking down shows humanity it’s also my job to not break down. It’s my job to hold it together so that I can deliver information clearly and cleanly and not let my feelings get in the way,” she said.
But, while it’s not a common reaction, she says it does happen to veteran journalists as they aren’t made of stone. Many legendary newscasters have shown emotions before on air. Walter Cronkite is among them. The anchorman for the CBS Evening News became emotional when reporting on the death of President John F. Kennedy.
Christie commends management at Global BC for how they supported her then and now, and she mentors young journalists on the importance of mental health in the industry, especially as online harassment has become more prevalent.
“It’s a fine line to walk because if you’re reading a story that is outrageous, and you’re feeling anger about it, you gotta walk that line about not being biased. But I encourage the [young journalists] that I coach to feel it and let that out because you’re human and that’s how we connect with each other — through emotion. So don’t be afraid of it, embrace it,” she said.
Working through grief
“The people around me, whether they’re my colleagues or my friends or family have been so amazing, just so amazing, and the people on my social media platforms have just been so supportive of me… the gratitude I feel for the people around me it’s just mind-blowing. I love them.”
One viewer wrote on Twitter, “…condolences on the loss of your father. Thank you for your realistic response on air to the story of the soldier finding his friend. You are a very genuine reporter.”
Hang tough, chin up. We’ve all been there or will wind up there in one way or another.
— Joe Canadian (@joedafish) March 16, 2023
Many have shared that they too have suffered loss and that they are “sharing [her] pain.”
@coleenchristie I just want you to know that I am sharing your pain. I cannot imagine a double hit like that. Us.
— John L. Krysa (@KrysJohn) March 16, 2023
Christie continues to advocate for seniors’ care in Canada and the importance of ensuring all those in long-term care are treated with dignity and love. She is also an advocate for research and awareness of Parkinson’s disease through organizations like Impact Parkinson’s or Parkinson Canada.
“We weren’t expecting this. We didn’t think it was going to happen to us. My dad was going to live a long and healthy life with my stepmother… and the disease just robbed him of the last five years of his life,” she said.
“He was the kindest, gentlest most fun-loving soul. I know when he died I would model myself more after him than I have because I want to be like him. I really do.”