The date of this article marks the exact day that Sandi Coleman, host of CBC Yukon’s A New Day, started her career as a journalist 41 years ago. Later this month, she will retire.
It would be fair to say that working in this field for that long would chock you full of stories, with or without a microphone. And this is true of Coleman. She did, after all, start in the golden age of journalism, in 1978 Saskatoon at what was then CFQC.
Case in point: in 2017, Coleman crawled under her desk during an earthquake while conducting an interview with seismologist Taimi Mulder. She didn’t drop the call. Instead, Coleman elected to go through the literal motions with her source.
“I got a guest in-studio with me. All the lights are shaking and it’s still going.”
In response, Mulder says, “Uh, you might wanna get under your desk if it’s still shaking.”
A magnitude 6.2 earthquake had struck the Yukon and Alaska, according to a CBC article from that time.
Rewind to the early 1980s, when Coleman and a cameraman retrofitted a van, turning it into a mobile news station. For 3.5 years they served rural Manitoba, a place often overlooked in the daily news cycle, she said.
“We formed our own production company, outfitted a van, some of the first video equipment going and just travelled, filing to 6 o’clock news,” Coleman said.
“It was wonderful. I got to meet so many different people.”
That, it appears, is what brought Coleman the most joy throughout her career – telling stories that centred on people. It’s something that will be hard to let go, she said.
“It’s a trust that people give you. It’s such a gift.”
Her listeners have noticed, it seems.
Notes from them have started to trickle into the station, said Coleman, who appeared emotional when arriving at the topic.
“It is strange, because your voice becomes part of their morning routine,” she said, noting that she’s watched some interviewees become adults.
Max Leighton, a former CBCer, worked with Coleman for about three years, often as her content producer.
When he first started at the station roughly five years ago, Coleman was quick to take him under her wing, Leighton said.
“She takes a real interest in young reporters, right, she’s always been really supportive. She’s the kind of person, when you’re just starting out, to make sure you get things right.
“That meant a lot to me, because I came untested. I’m probably a better journalist for it.”
To prep for the freshest news each day means Coleman arrives at the station, where’s she been working for 16 years, at the ungodly hour of 3:30 a.m.
“I unlock the building and turn on the lights, and it means I’m the first person to hear what went on over night, so you have to be a bit of a gossip, right, and then you get to share it.”
Coleman doesn’t do it alone. A New Day couldn’t be done without her team, she said – specifically director Roch Shannon Fraser and news editor Elyn Jones.
“I’m going to miss that terribly. The other guy I wake up with every morning is Roch. We say, ‘Good morning dear, what’s going on?’
“That’s probably the hardest thing. I’m stepping away from the team.”
Fraser said working with Coleman for the last 16 years has been the best time of his career.
“We’ve both been at this for 40-plus years,” he said. “We could read each other’s minds most of the time.”
Coleman isn’t leaving the Yukon. It’s a place she calls home.
“Yes, I’m going to miss waking people up in the morning and responsibility that came with that, but I’m not going to disappear. I’ve always loved the North. I have just been very fortunate.”
Coleman retires on April 18.
Contact Julien Gignac at email@example.com