When she succeeded Kevin Newman as Global National’s anchor back in 2010, the network rolled out the red carpet for Dawna Friesen. The Winnipeg-born journalist, who had spent 11 years prior in England as NBC's London-based correspondent, quickly found her face splashed across newspaper ads, transit shelters, billboards, and TV spots (one featured Friesen walking in slow-motion through a field, promising: “I’m coming home”).
Raised on a grain farm 40 minutes west of Winnipeg by Mennonite parents, Friesen found the attention overwhelming. The shiny, U.S.-style sensationalism of the marketing campaign contrasted with her work as a war correspondent and coverage of such stories as the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade or the Beslan school massacre in Russia.
Friesen took some time this week to reflect on the blurry media blitz that welcomed her back. She also talks candidly about sexism, news bloopers, and the fine line between family and work &mdash whether it’s featuring your parents in a documentary or turning down travel to be with your kids.
Dawna Friesen It was a bit overwhelming. I had been a reporter for years before taking this job, and I was used to telling other people’s stories, not being front and center myself. Everything was so rushed at the time, because I was finishing up my job as a foreign correspondent, packing up my house in London, finding a new home in Canada, settling my son into grade one in a new country and new school, ending a long-term relationship, and starting a high-profile, high-pressure new job. Even that picture that ended up on billboards was taken in a hurry because I had to be on air at NBC that afternoon. So when I look back now, it feels like a bit of a blur. I wish there had been someone to turn to for some advice on how to handle it all. But I am proud that I did it and made it work.
They called and told me the job was available. We talked. I said I wasn’t interested because I had a good job that I loved and had recently signed a new contract with NBC. There wasn’t much courting, but they didn’t take no for an answer. I gave it some thought and realized my son was five and my parents near Winnipeg were elderly. I wanted my son to have a sense of what it means to be Canadian, and I wanted to be closer to my parents as their health declined. And I thought these kinds of opportunities don’t come along every day. So then I began to think about it seriously and realized it would be a new challenge for me and could be exciting.
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