Marichka Melnyk has worked at the CBC since she was 18 years
old, which was a long time ago now. Following ten years in national television
news, she switched to local radio where, among many other opportunities, she
presented the daily Go-2-It arts/community segment on the Toronto afternoon
drive time show Here and Now. She became producer of Here and Now in 2007 and
is now safely behind the scenes away from the microphones.
Did you always want to be in the media? If
not, what other careers were on the horizon?
much always seemed to be in the cards. I liked to write, and since I wanted to
make a living, journalism seemed the easy way to make both those things happen.
Even more, I like to talk… so although I didn’t go into broadcasting with a
plan to be on air, getting into radio and doing the Go-2-It segment was a
lot of fun and felt natural. I consider myself more of a producer than a
journalist. I like crafting a show and creating illusions and using
theatrical elements, but am glad to have the journalistic training and
critical thinking for news judgement. If I was
going to do it all over again, I think I might have tried engineering. But I’d
have to be better at math.
Where would you like to be five years from
– no one else does what CBC does – but producing a different show perhaps;
something new, with a lot of creative elements and useful, interesting
information. Or perhaps producing and hosting the world’s most fascinating,
popular podcast. A one-woman radio service!
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
start, try everything, and see what suits. I spent ten years in television news
before I figured out I should switch to radio, but doing a lot of different
jobs in TV served me well in moving forward and clarified what I liked and
didn’t like to do. Also, learn to appear calm and in control, even when you’re
not. When I was working my way up, I noticed that the people who stayed calm and composed when all hell was breaking loose always seemed to
project the most competence, and carried the most credibility. And now, when I
look at new hires and interns, I find I am impressed by the ones who don’t get
freaked out or panic or flap around when things inevitably get crazy. They may
be scared on the inside, but as long as they don’t show it, they instil confidence in their colleagues. My favourite advice that I got when I was starting out: Always carry a
clipboard or notebook around so that even if you’re just going to get a coffee,
you look busy and like you’re on a way to a meeting. It works.
What are your favourite media outlets, not
including your own?
I like The Star for a current overview of what’s going on in the city, the Globe and Mail for thoughtful explorations of issues both large and small, and the
National Post for a bit of irreverence and spicy writing. For kicks, I like
Entertainment Weekly, an actual journalistic take on pop culture, and the
Atlantic Monthly is my favourite brain food. CBC is
always on, but sometimes in the car I pop between 1010 to check out the
competition, and 99.9 for fun driving music and to keep current. TV is all over
the dial…I’m more loyal to series like Mad Men and House of Cards and Game of
Thrones than to networks.
Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
many years and so many conversations, I can’t think of a particular best or
worst interview. I can say that my favourite interviews in general are the ones
with smart people who are slightly loose cannons, who can surprise you and make
you laugh with offbeat perspectives or commentary in between their useful
viewpoints (former MPP Peter Kormos comes to mind as a good example). Or the
ones that tell a story that keep you hanging and listening and waiting to hear
what happened next. The worst interviews are those that are vague, or get
lost in jargon, or stay firmly on message track and never loosen up to let the
real person come out. Those conversations are so boring and unhelpful, they
literally make me cringe.
advice you’ve ever been given?
It sounds so cheesy, but honestly, the most important thing is to be nice to
people. It’s an easy thing to forget…but when my father, who was possibly the
nicest man in broadcasting, passed away, I realized from the numbers of people
who came out to speak well of him how rare it can be, and how much that
matters. You interact with a lot of people every day; make those encounters
as pleasant as you can, and leave the other person feeling good as much as you
can. You never know how the smallest nicety, or the most fleeting rudeness can
be well remembered, but the longer you live, the more you realize how those
passing impressions can come back to haunt, or help, you down the line. It
actually matters, and it pays off professionally and personally in ways you can’t
rule(s) do you live your life by?
happily ever after” sounds like a fairytale, but “live
happily” is actually pretty doable. That, and “open every door”. I tend not to turn down experiences or learning opportunities, and try everything
new I possibly can. It keeps things fun and interesting, and you never know
when you might trip over your next great passion. I have a bracelet engraved
“Do More” that I literally got from a cereal box purchase, but I
actually really like that sentiment. You can always do more, in everything.
the most important tip you can give PR pros?
you’re pitching to, and what kind of show it is. It is frustrating, and wastes
both your time and ours, when you put effort into a pitch and then have to hear
that that is not the kind of story our show does (i.e. it’s national, or
commercial, or too visual, or the guest isn’t available until after we’re off-air, etc.). Figure out how to skew your pitch to our tone/mandate, so that your
pitch becomes an opportunity for real storytelling, rather than a sell job just
to get a company name out there. Another
critical tip: if you’re going to put out a press release, HAVE SOMEONE READY TO
SPEAK TO IT! There is nothing more infuriating than being asked to consider a
story, being persuaded by the copy to call up in hopes of getting an interview,
and then being told the principal talker is out of town or unavailable for a
five minute chat. Better to wait till the main speaker is available, than to
send out a release that can’t be followed up on. Also,
remember we’re radio. If you have audio material – clips, music, sound effects
— send them. We love that stuff.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro?
We love to hear about #wins.
name them all because there are so many I’d hate to risk missing one, but I
have had a lot of luck with PR pros representing arts, and particularly
theatre, in this city. I love the reps for both a major arts festival, and a
local theatre company who each asked to meet with me and introduced me to their
lineup with an eye to finding interesting stories we could build conversations
around. Together we found concrete ways to showcase various productions in
meaningful, colourful and interesting ways that served both our objectives, and
the listeners. I also
deeply thank the many PR pros who know our show and needs and are efficient in
delivering opportunities for interviews, background material, and the guests to
studio in a painless, hassle free manner. Our show is a small, fast-moving
little shop, and we are grateful to the PR pros who make setting up an
If only it didn’t feel so good to be lazy.
travel travel, and not just visiting places but really hanging out and getting
to know them. When I win the lottery, it’ll be a one way ticket around the world
for me. Also,
stationery. I have a weakness for beautiful notebooks and fountain pens.
Everything from fun novels like Dave Barry’s Insane City to The Canon, a layman’s tour
of scientific theories and principles. My favourite genre is literary
fiction: I really liked The Paris Wife, and well written historical
non fiction; Devil In the White City is one of my all-time favourites.
In a car, on a roadtrip somewhere new and interesting with my husband.
know how to answer that one.
know if I have one. I admire different people, from my parents down to my girl
scout troop, for different things.
app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
and the other group-deal apps. I am a sucker for all the new experiences they
offer — so far this year alone they’ve led me to Pilates, horseback riding,
snowshoeing, and Kangoo jump classes. And the list continues!
ocean is noisy (although wave jumping is admittedly really fun).
show or cultural event you’re most looking forward to this year?
BOOK OF MORMON. I’ve heard so much about it for so long, I’m dying to see what all
the fuss is about, and I love Trey Parker’s work. He’d be one of those great
smart, funny loose cannons that I bet would make a fascinating interview. Him, I’d have over for dinner! RACE at Canadian Stage is another show I’m looking forward to, because I’m curious
to see Jason Priestley act (on stage) and love pretty much anything by David