It wasn’t until Reg Sherren, former host of the CBC TV program Country Canada and feature reporter for CBC’s The National, was asked to contribute to the book of a former colleague that the idea of his own memoir struck him as a worthwhile endeavour.
“I enjoyed the exercise,” Sherren says, “and thought I would like to do more. I also thought it would be good to have a project once I left CBC.” He contacted his colleague’s publisher, who agreed that it was a great idea.
Winnipeg-based Sherren maintains that his career was the result of a series of unfolding serendipitous events, not due to any grand career scheme he may have hatched; consequently, his book is titled That Wasn’t the Plan:
Once the process was underway, Sherren realized that he had published or broadcast around 5000 stories. “I take ownership of them all, so leaving any out, and there were many, I’m afraid, was a difficult process.”
Accustomed to a career where deadlines were measured in hours and often minutes to get stories on air, Sherren completed the first draft in a matter of four months in a “little place down by the ocean in Southport, Newfoundland and Labrador, that’s a wonderful place to write. I also managed to print off a brief synopsis of almost every story I had ever completed from the CBC archives, which proved invaluable in jogging the old memory.”
Two years later, That Wasn’t the Plan was completed and ready to launch.
Sherren shares the behind-the-scenes elements that went into identifying people, places, and world events that he has covered, including riding on the back of a humpback whale, highlighting the attempt by Montreal inventor Catalin Alexandru Duru to set a new Guinness World Record by soaring on his homemade hover board, and covering the struggles of Indigenous populations in
Broadcasting has changed over the four decades that Sherren has been chasing stories. He explains why it is more important today than ever for the industry to “get it right.”
“Deadlines have become instantaneous,” he says. “Every mistake erodes a little more of the public’s perception of credibility.”
His advice to today’s emerging journalists? “Fight for your voice. Fight for the time to make sure it’s right. Be your own worst critic. Be humble. Be quiet and listen. Don’t worry about the technology; it’s just another delivery system. The story, the people in them, that’s the important part.”
Despite a plethora of industry accolades over his career, Sherren’s proudest moments are not receiving awards. Instead, they include “when something I produced moved people to effect change: the doctor in Calgary who nominated one of the subjects in a documentary from up North for an Order of Canada, which he rightly received; the statues and plaques that have been erected in recognition of historical Canadian figures I profiled, and the folks who stepped forward to help, when I pointed out that help was needed,” he says.
“That’s a true power of broadcasting. That makes me proud.”