Kevin Newman studied politics and economics at Western University, where he co-founded the campus radio station CHRW and launched his career in media. The Emmy and Gemini Award-winning anchor has enjoyed a successful journey in broadcast journalism which started in 1981 with Global Television Network as a Toronto reporter. His success continued with both CTV and CBC as a parliamentary correspondent, reporter and news anchor.
At the age of thirty-six, Kevin was thrust into the media spotlight when he was hired by ABC in New York City as the third male co-host for Good Morning America. Instant fame followed with his face on bus ads and buildings in Time Square, being a guest on Larry King Live and profiled in People Magazine. But, not prepared for the grand scope of the experience led to a crisis of confidence. When ratings waned, Kevin switched over to World News Tonight as a correspondent and worked with Peter Jennings, as well as Ted Koppel on Nightline.
A new opportunity came from Global National which hired him in 2001 as its chief anchor and executive editor. This became Canada’s most-watched national newscast and the highest-rated evening news program.
Eager to embrace the digital age, Kevin founded NewMan Media Ltd. (a digital broadcasting and consulting company that creates documentaries), and in 2012 he returned to CTV as substitute anchor and host for CTV National News. The 57-year-old news junkie is currently host and managing editor for W5, the popular current affairs and documentary program that explores major issues and hot topics.
Ottawa At Home chatted with Kevin at the Lieutenant’s Pump on Elgin Street, one of his favourite brunch spots.
WHAT WAS YOUR BIG BREAK? During my entire career, layoffs in media have been a consistent problem. When I was twenty-two it worked to my advantage when they laid off the higher-priced talent at Global. They needed people to report and gave me a chance. At that time my discounted price was right. I started reporting sports, but an opportunity opened to transfer to news where I always wanted to be.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN DANGER ON AN ASSIGNMENT? I was the news anchor for ABC’s Good Morning America when I went to Iraq to investigate the weapons of mass destruction story. Baghdad had been designated to a no-fly zone and I was smuggled in the back of a blacked-out SUV traveling sixteen hours through the desert with several checkpoints. Working for an American broadcaster and looking American was not advantageous. I learned how to remain calm and not show my apprehension. When I was anchor at Global National, I went to Afghanistan and learned much later that I had nearly stepped on a landmine when walking near an operating base.
HOW POWERFUL IS SOCIAL MEDIA? It is very powerful as a form of distribution and in dissemination of opinion. The problem is its lack of curation. We are learning that with a lot of the fake news on Facebook. We need to fight for journalism and for truth in the new media, or we are going to lose it. We fought for this before and it looks like we are going to have to fight again.
WHAT LIVE EVENT CRISES HAVE BEEN SIGNIFICANT IN YOUR CAREER? The death of Princess Diana opened people’s eyes at ABC. When Global National started, we were one week into a new show when 9/11 happened. The Parliament Hill shooting, I anchored for seven hours of live coverage. I learned from Peter Jennings to never get ahead of a story and to remain calm and focused, be reassuring and give people a sense of context. Most importantly, an anchor’s job is to emphasize that there is still more to learn with a breaking news story.
WHAT IS YOUR OTTAWA CONNECTION? I was raised mostly in Toronto, work in Toronto now and live there with my wife Cathy, but Ottawa is home. That is where our children Alex (30) and Erica (27) were young. We have lived in many places, but returned here four different times. Ottawa is hard to forget and it has been fun watching it grow. I don’t know where retirement is going to happen, but Ottawa is top of my list as it has always been my touchstone and where I have the most and deepest friendships. People are surprised when it consistently ranks high on liveability, but it is incredibly liveable. You have to sometimes not live in Ottawa to appreciate that. For the upcoming Sesquicentennial, I booked hotel rooms last year and am looking forward to bringing my family for the celebration.