Media, Darling: Linda Barnard

Linda Barnard has worked as a cocktail waitress, bartender and camp counsellor (not in that order) but she liked journalism best. The London, Ont. native started her career at The Campbellford Herald and Cobourg Star, then spent 18 years at the Toronto Sun, covering beats from city hall to medicine to being the paper’s humour columnist. She joined the Toronto Star in 2002 and is the Star‘s movie writer, where she does interviews and reviews for Canada’s largest newspaper and the website She lives in Cabbagetown with her boyfriend and their cat, Lance.

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I wanted to be a translator at the United Nations when I was a kid, then decided to go to law school, but I dropped out of Western in second year of my undergrad because I fell for a bass player and he was a lot more fun than reading Chaucer. My childhood pal Carol Off (now co-host at CBC’s As It Happens) came up with the idea over a bottle of wine: “You love to write, you love news and you’re nosey. Why not journalism school?” I started at Ryerson that fall and truly found my niche. I was happy from the first day and have never regretted it. Thanks, Carol.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
Still working in daily newspapers. I believe print will survive and thrive; we just need to find new and continuously evolving ways to engage readers with electronic publishing and citizen journalism as well. I may change beats, but love journalism too much to do anything else.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Work hard, ask questions and trust your instincts, but don’t think you know everything. Too many newcomers confuse confidence with arrogance.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
For websites: Nikki Finke’s Deadline: Hollywood, Twichfilm, RopeofSilicone, Torontoist, Hollywood Reporter and Variety, plus the L.A. Times and all its film and entertainment blogs, The New York Times (especially Sunday) and its film and entertainment blogs, The Globe and Mail, The Grid, NOW and occasionally The National Post, The (London) Guardian, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair.  I am a Coronation Street addict and am counting the days until Mad Men returns.

Best interview you’ve ever had?
It’s impossible to pick the best because they’re all good in their own way. I did really dig Helen Mirren, though. She was amazing. 

Ditto the worst – I’ve had some people be downright mean to me, but it often turns out they were having a lousy day. TIFF tends to drain you of your will to live, so when Philip Seymour Hoffman made me feel like a moron, it wasn’t really his fault.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Shut up and pay attention.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
An oldie but a goodie – the do unto others one. Works every time. And I like to think it keeps my karma insurance balance in the black. The thing is it only takes one bitchy comment or rude remark to stain the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build. Why risk it?

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Don’t carpet bomb. If we say “no,” there’s a good reason. And please don’t call the person I work next to in order to pitch the same thing. That’s so lame.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
The film publicists in Toronto are all very good and we’re very lucky in this town to have such a cadre of clever people. They’re pros. They work hard, they know the market and tend to play fair while working with a very competitive media. They return calls and emails right away and they do their best to deliver. They occasionally need reminding that I’m working for the readers, not the studios, but I get that’s because of the external pressures they face.

I hate?

I love?
Kittens and dry martinis, straight up with olives.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout . A terrific book of short stories. I also am thumbing through a book on western movie shoot locations in the American southwest –  especially Monument Valley because we were just there. Standing on John Ford Point was a real life highlight.

Best place on earth?
Muri Beach, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, or anyplace my partner Hans happens to be.

Dinner guest?
Family and friends who make me laugh, which is all of them.

Pierre Trudeau.

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I spend a bit too much time with those Angry Birds.

Pool or ocean?

Voicemail or email?