Telling People’s Stories

It is an odd position for Sandi Coleman to be in. On this particular afternoon, as she sits in a local café and sips on a cup of coffee, Coleman is not the interviewer; she’s the interviewee.

For thousands of Yukoners, Coleman’s cheerful voice is one of the first sounds heard in the morning. She is the host of CBC’s morning show, A New Day, which mixes important local and national news with interviews of people who are in some way making a difference.

“I’m not as good at being interviewed,” she says wryly. It’s not that she gives a bad interview; it’s just that she presents a different side of herself.

On the air, Coleman’s voice is smooth and confident. She transitions between segments with a professionalism that cannot be faked. Now, as she is being asked questions, Coleman is downright ponderous. She considers each of her words, gazes thoughtfully out the window and is in no mood to rush her answers.

This methodical approach to the interview does not indicate a lack of insight; it represents Coleman’s instinct to say things as accurately as possible — to tell it like it is.

“I’m still amazed at the trust people place in me as a journalist,” she says. “I get their stories and I take them away and I put them on the air.”

It’s a responsibility that Coleman takes seriously, but the natural fascination with which she approaches her subjects makes such a task easier.

“I’m always learning new things about people and I’ve come to understand that you can never assume anything,” she says. And nothing makes Coleman happier than giving interesting people their time in the spotlight.

“I love talking to people who are passionate about something. I love letting them share it with my audience. It is giving them their 15 minutes of fame.”

Coleman has been doing exactly that since the early days of her journalism career, in Winnipeg. “I hosted a television show called Coleman & Co.

“I travelled all over Manitoba to get stories about people. I got to see different lifestyles and I got to travel to northern Manitoba.”

There was something about the North that appealed to her: “Life seemed simpler.” And for Coleman, who was getting tired of southern Canada’s rat race, a bit of simplicity was exactly what she needed.

By a stroke of luck, she would get what she was wishing for.

“A position at CBC opened up in Whitehorse and I was encouraged to apply.” She got the job and thought it was just going to be a chance to recharge her batteries. “[My family and I] thought we would only be up here for two years.”

Currently, Coleman is embarking on her seventh winter in the Yukon.

“It’s a really special community up here,” she says. Among the things that Coleman finds both challenging and exhilarating is the close proximity she shares with her audience. “People can approach me very easily. If someone has got something to say about my program that morning, they will tell me.”

Undoubtedly, such a high level of accountability would intimidate some journalists. Coleman, on the other hand, thrives on it.

In her own words, “Hosting A New Day is one of the best jobs in the territory.”

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