Robin Gill: A Journalist At Heart
Armstrong once said “If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you, and BECAUSE of you”. A five year old Robin Gill looked up at her family and quite innocently pointed at the television during the evening news and boldly said, “I will do that one day”, laughing, her family never imagined they would be looking at the ‘next’ Global National’s Sunday Anchor. Robin dreamed at the age of five and began her journey with fearless determination thereafter. Leaving high school, Robin was accepted into the prestigious University of British Columbia, where she completed her Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations. As Robin continued to imagine herself on television, reporting breaking news to the world, her parents had a different path laid out for her – law. However, Robin is a natural born storyteller, “I’m a storyteller and I am here to tell a story first,” as she explained in a previous interview. Robin then enrolled at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, where she received her broadcasting designation. As she interned full time, Robin finally caught her big break and the rest is history – or I should say the rest you can catch every Sunday on Global BC.
Achieving her dream has not been a walk in the park. Robin has encountered many hurdles and disappointments to get to where she is now. HIS- tory repeats itself; women have always been represented as a minority. And media tries to voice gender equality through different channels: we all remember Nike’s commercial and the catchy tune, “anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you,” which celebrates the power women have to deal with various situations. In this regard, Canada almost dominates by efficiently adapting to different ethnicities and accelerating in multiculturalism – however things are not as cookie cutter as they seem. Statistics show that in Canada about 28% of newspaper journalists and 37% of television journalists are women (International Federation of Journalists). The Canadian Newspaper Association has found that about 43% of women work for various newspapers; however only about 8% of women find themselves as Editor in Chief or in a position of power. These numbers decrease even further when you incorporate the South Asian factor into the equation. At one of her first journalism job interviews, Robin was denied the position. The explanation that was given to her shockingly was, “We have already hired a South Asian and we don’t need another one.” Robin did not see herself as a quota to be filled or as a sole representative of the South Asian community, but she saw herself as simply a journalist, “I’m not selling myself as a South Asian. I am a reporter first.” Feeling highly discouraged by this person, but never giving up hope; she picked herself up and persevered, more determined than before. Robin says, “everything happens for a reason, I found another job right after which took me towards a different path”.
We all seem to have life journeys – things that are inexplicable as they occur, but upon reflection they occurred intentionally and for our own learning purposes. Robin began as a writer at Global BC, which at the time was known as BC TV. While her writing shined, Robin caught moved on to her first official job, anchoring and reporting on air at CTV station in Saskatchewan. She was then invited back to Vancouver to work at CBC. A year later Robin found herself in Calgary, where she hosted a morning show for A-Channel, which is now known as City TV. Her career then took her to the Greater Toronto region where she worked for Global Toronto for eight years. In 2008, Robin was home and working once again for Global National in Vancouver. Being career driven and having to move from one place to another, Robin admits it has been difficult in the past to balance her personal and professional life. However, finding work stability and being back in her hometown, Robin finds the time to spend with her family, as well as to look for Mr. Right. She noted within our conversation that dating has been somewhat of a challenge due to the line of work she is in, having to move from one place to another. But also very demurely she pointed out that sometimes she can’t help but wonder “if people are asking her out because she happens to be on television or if they are genuinely interested in what she does and who she is?” So all those genuine men out there – this smart, sophisticated, successful news anchor is single and ready to mingle.
Robin has the sincerest respect for her employers because although some days are more difficult than others she says, “My employers are really good about making sure there is balance between the two worlds. Our show runs earlier compared to other networks; therefore, we can go home and have dinner with our families. We also have periods of work where we work long hours, and long days. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel.” Although a lack of personal life in the beginning is a drawback of this industry, Robin says if she was to do this all over again there is nothing she would change. Having no regrets she says, “This is the job, I got and where I want to be. I always wanted to be a national reporter and I am finally here. I have had foreign assignments, where I was in Japan for the earthquake, in London covering the lead up to the royal wedding, and in Geneva covering the UN. It’s been really great and I’m really grateful for it.”
Robin recalls that when she first stepped into the industry, she had the pleasure of working with Belle Puri, the first South Asian journalist, who was also her mentor. Robin has the sincerest respect for Belle Puri and thankful for showing her the ropes and being someone she could look up to. Robin also pointed out that her true inspiration and biggest life influencers have been her parents. Robin says that, “They taught me the values that I have today. Their motto was work hard now and it will all pay off later. They worked hard to make sure their family came first.” Furthermore, Robin is also inspired by and in complete awe for the many members of the South Asian community, who despite having a full work schedule find the “time and help raise money for charities. They have full time jobs and families to raise and yet find the time to get involved. I have tremendous respect for that.” As for her role as not only an anchor, but also as being part of the South Asian community, Robin states at a previous interview that, “When there is a crisis in our community – I hope I can eliminate some of the stereotypes”.
I think it’s fair enough to say we’ve all gone through crazy career choices as children (I wanted to be Barbie, yes that was my career decision), but behind all the crazy – there is something in our early years that at times sparks our interest and really helps us towards our end choices (regardless of how ridiculous there are). For Robin, it was the daily family ritual, which started at 6 o’clock sharp with the evening news. “My dad was really interested in the news and journalism, it was there in our lives and we didn’t have that many channels then, so we watched CBC News every night.” Growing up with a taste for hard-hitting journalism, Robin was destined to be an anchor, “My dad loves watching the news, and even if I hadn’t been in the business, he would still watch the news.” Knowing her dad’s love for the news, he indirectly influenced Robin’s decision to abandon the most obvious career choices every South Asian parent hopes their children will aspire to (doctor, lawyer, accountant, and banker) and dare to think outside the box. Her parent’s strong parental instincts were to warn Robin of the choice she was making and pepper her with questions like, “are you crazy? Why aren’t you going to law school?” But in due time they came around as Robin began to work in bigger markets such as Calgary and Toronto, putting them at ease that their daughter would be okay.
Behind the lights, the camera, the story telling is a real person and the youngest of four siblings (three sisters and a brother). As a child, little Robin would tag along with her eldest sister (who is 11 years older) or “Sit with my parents and their friends because I wanted to hear what the adults were talking about or gossiping about. I wasn’t interested in what the kids my age were doing or playing.” Being around a more mature crowd, little Robin could not wait to grow up. Once she was done eavesdropping, she would fill the rest of her time reading books and watching old movies with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Being a true-blooded South Asian – Robin’s favourite dish is butter chicken, of course. If you run into Robin at an Indian function, do not get in between her and butter chicken because that is the first thing she runs for, “Then I regret it later because it’s so filling.” Talk about passion. She self-admittedly notes that nothing beats a home cooked meal. In fact, Robin eats with her family at least three times a week (mainly because the meal is hot and cooked by her mommy dearest). So if you’re being hounded by your mom, “I was married at your age and you don’t even know how to make chapathis?” like Jasminder’s mom in ‘Bend it like Beckam’, don’t worry as Robin notes, “Mom knows best”. Although Robin can cook for herself, it’s not her most favourite task on the list. Her specialty is roast chicken because as Robin explains, “It’s easy you just throw it into the oven.” A word to the wise, never under estimate simplicity. To the world Robin is most definitely a celebrity, recognized everywhere she goes, however for her family and friends she’s simply a sister, an aunt, a daughter, a friend. She is treated no differently today than she was before her fame, “I still do chores like the rest of my siblings. When I go to a family gathering people tell me how proud my parents are, but there is definitely no special treatment.” During our conversation around the topic of being a celebrity, Robin quietly protests. “I don’t see myself as a celebrity, I am only a journalist. I see myself as a simple person. Tom Cruise is a celebrity.” It is this humble attitude that makes her that much more approachable. Coincidently, Robin’s biggest pet peeve, “I abhor people who are obsessed with money, status, titles and talk about it incessantly. It suggests self-absorption and insecurity.”
After being away for many years, Robin is back in her hometown of Vancouver, doing what she does best – being the voice for those who have lost theirs, being the change that she wants to see in the world, and bringing awareness where despair has taken over. This is the biggest reward for Robin – to be able to “give a voice to the underdogs whose stories need to be told, people who have been hurt in their lives, you get a chance to tell their story. You get a chance to be the voice for those who have been let down by the system. Your job is to dig up the stories, and tell the stories that need to be told.” Even though Robin has been in this industry for about 17 years, she is growing everyday as a person and as a journalist. For women everywhere who are crazing to be part of the world of media, women such as Robin Gill commendable role models. Robin has achieved so much at such a young age and is still striving to be the best, day after day. With exceptional experience under her belt, her advice to anyone, whether male or female, who are looking to enter this world is “perseverance, perseverance, perseverance. You have to have a thick skin for this business. People in this business can be very critical.” Disappointment, according to Robin, is a natural part of the industry; it’s really how you deal with that disappointment, which will separate you from the rest. It is a dog eat dog world.
As for Robin’s future plans, she is very grateful for the position she has now and would like to continue to absorb as much knowledge and experience as she can. It’s true what they say; you are a student for as long as you live because you are continuously learning. Robin follows the philosophy of the American poet and writer Dorothy Parker who once stated, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” She also hopes to segue into more behind the scenes roles such as, an executive producer. As for her personal life, Robin states, “I hope to one day have my own family.”
Deepa Mehta, a renowned Toronto- based director who has earned international attention for her films which successfully challenge social norms. Lata Mangeshkar, one of the most widely respected playback singers in India, whose name you will find in the Guinness Book of World records for having the most songs recorded in the world. Ekta Kapoor also known as the Queen of television has produced abundant Bollywood soap operas, television series as well as movies. Belle Puri, the first Indo Canadian television journalist, who is now part of our news experience on CBC. Robin Gill, Global National’s Sunday Anchor and one of British Columbia’s correspondents in Vancouver. What do these women have in common? Yes, they are all South Asian women in the world of entertainment and media. But more importantly, these women whether behind or in front of the camera are making it easier for future aspiring South Asian women. They have struggled, and helped to pave a path for the rest of us – so that if and when our time comes, things will be that much easier. Women like Robin Gill, who have become successful through hard work and determination – are setting a bar for a future journalist. Perhaps already or one day, a little South Asian girl somewhere in Canada will point at TV, while sitting on her father’s lap and say “that will be me.”
The University of British Columbia
BA, International Relations
British Columbia Institute of Technology
September 1996 – September 1997
September 1997 – June 2000
Anchor/Reporter for Global Ontario
June 2000 – November 2008
Correspondent/Anchor Global National
December 2008 – Present