Award-winning reporter Christine Morris was always interested in journalism, but she never considered pursuing a career in it.
But that changed when she heard Western University had just started a masters of arts in journalism program and she thought, “Wow, I would just love to be a journalist.”
Morris applied to the program and got in.
From there, she excelled in the field, becoming one of the East Coast’s best journalists. Now she’s the 2017 Irving Chair in Journalism at St. Thomas University.
“I loved it, I never looked back,” said the reporter of nearly 40 years. In her blue and green plaid-patterned shirt with a brown knitted shawl wrapped around her shoulders, she has the kind, caring eyes and faint voice of a grandmother.
She’s the recipient of two National Newspaper Awards, the Eldred Savoie Award for Excellence and Dedication in New Brunswick Journalism and an Atlantic Journalism Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Before delving into journalism, she majored in English at St. Mary’s University and travelled on to the University of Kent in Canterbury, England to do a masters in English.
“And then I came out, and I thought, ‘Oh jeez, what am I going to do with this,’” Morris laughed.
She thought she would teach, so she went to Queens University, earning a bachelor of education degree.
“But oh my God, you couldn’t pay me enough money to teach,” she said.
“I did practice teaching in the middle and high schools but woo, that was just too tough for me.”
For Morris, who had always been an avid reader and watcher of news, journalism was the right fit.
Morris, 65, grew up in Halifax and after earning her journalism degree, returned to the east to work at the Chronicle Herald. From there, she branched out to work with the Canadian Press in 1979 in Fredericton, where she met and married her late husband “Voice of the Valley” Paddy Gregg, one of the first CBC national television reporters.
She found inspiration in Gregg, who helped her develop her writing.
“He had always been a broadcast journalist. He was mostly on TV, but also on radio. He helped me focus my print … I used a lot of broadcast style in my print copy,” she said.
“I think it actually helped make it more punchier and easier to read.”
Morris’s career with the Canadian Press spanned 30 years, but she said it was impacted by having children.
“My career was shaped a lot by the fact that I was married and had children,” she said. “That curved a lot of my career.”
She had three children and whenever she travelled she worried about them, like when she was reporting from the former Soviet Union in the 1980s.
“There was a lot of poverty, a lot of food shortages,” she said.
“I had a guide with me the whole time who I always suspected was KGB … I always wondered to what extent I was really seeing the truth.”
Although she loved the experience, she missed her family.
“I loved it, it was great,” she said. “But the whole time I was worried about my babies.”
Fortunately, she got to take her family with her when she was stationed in Washington in the mid-90s during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
But out of all her travels, her favourite place is home.
“I actually love reporting in Atlantic Canada … This is my home, these are my people,” she said.
“There are a lot of interesting stories here,” she said, adding that she’s loved reporting in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick.
She said one of the most interesting opportunities she had as a journalist was interviewing Paul McCartney on the Gulf of St. Lawerence on the ice floats while looking at Canadian seals.
“The nice thing about stories like that is that they go around the world,” she said.
“Atlantic Canada has such wonderful stories, such wonderful people and I love it here.”
Although the mechanics of journalism have changed from typewriters to computers since she started, she said she’s optimistic about the future of journalism.
“People have and always will want to read about the world around them,” she said.
She recommended young journalists start in a smaller market and work up from there.
“My advice is to hang in and get the job you really want and work hard and you should succeed,” she said.
“There’s lots of opportunities.”