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Following Aarti Pole at CBC

Sometimes it is murder; other times it is politics, and sometimes there are stories that CBC reporter Aarti Pole covers that are very unique.

“It’s different than a crime that was committed or a bill that is being passed,” says Pole. “It’s a personal struggle that we get a chance to highlight.”

Pole is interviewing Talli Osborne, a 32-year-old woman who is three foot tall and has no arms. Someone posted photos of Osborne online and they became the target for cyberbullies. She wants to speak out about it and through a friend was able to get the story on CBC television.

“This is the optimal situation because we have someone who wants to talk,” Pole says. “I’ve covered shootings before and you’re standing outside the home of someone who has just lost their child. Those are tough [stories] to do because you know that often these people don’t want to talk.”

Pole and her cameraman, Ed Middleton, meet Osborne in the lobby of her workplace, Virgin Mobile on King Street West. When Pole spies an open parking spot in front of the building, she celebrates as if she has won the lottery.

“Look at this rock-star parking,” Pole says as Middleton pulls into the spot. “One of the major challenges of this job is parking.”

Once inside, finding a good place to shoot the interview proves more difficult than parking. The lobby is dimly lit and the traffic coming in and out of the six elevators is loud. Through careful maneuvering, they create a makeshift studio with benches and get the big camera ready to roll.

Pole has been at CBC Toronto for nine months and is able to help Middleton set up the microphones. While adjusting the mic on the front of Osborne’s shirt, Pole jokes “I’m getting to know you really well.”

Osborne gets a running start and jumps up onto the bench, positioning herself without any help from Pole. They record an interview for almost 30 minutes, mixing in both close-ups on Osborne and wide angle shots of both of them. Middleton crams himself into a corner to shoot the interview, definitely not a comfortable position for the tall man.

Pole is sincere and kind when talking to Osborne about her bullying experience.

“What was most jarring for me, personally, from what I saw was that you looked like you were having a good time [in the photos], but people still wanted to bring you down,” Pole tells Osborne.

“I am living a good life and am happy with who I am,” Osborne replies. “It’s shocking; I don’t know what else to say.”

Halfway through their interview, people in the Tim Hortons down the hall start speaking loudly and interrupt the audio. Pole gets up and tells them to be quiet, and they do so without making a scene.

Once the interview is over, Middleton shoots various action shots of Osborne, including typing on a computer and walking into an elevator.

“Part of developing the relationship with your team is being able to trust that you’re going to get great shots,” Pole says. “He knows what my story is and I can trust the fact that he is going to get the shots that I need.”

Because she doesn’t have arms, Osborne uses her chin to type and move the mouse. And it doesn’t slow her down for a second.

Osborne loves the camera and makes funny faces at it while Middleton frames his shot, which Pole laughs at.

“What an amazing lady,” Pole says. “We complain about so much shit in our lives, but if I didn’t have arms I don’t even know what I would do.”

Pole and Middleton have a lively conversation about nature documentaries on the drive back to the CBC studios on Front Street.

Earlier in the week, Middelton had been in Nova Scotia to film a segment for CBC’s The Nature of Things.

“National Geographic would be the dream,” Pole says. “Doing documentaries but also putting time into these amazing pieces of work.”

As the van pulls up to a stop sign, Pole spots a man boxing with himself on the sidewalk.

“Hey Ed, give him a quick wink,” she says with a laugh.

After returning to the massive CBC parking garage, it’s off to Starbucks for a quick multi-grain bagel with cream cheese and a blonde roast. This will be the only thing Pole eats until her day is done shortly after six.

“Normally I don’t even have time to eat,” she says. “Today is a very unusual day.”

Unlike most stories, Pole had two days to work on this one. The length of the final piece, only one minute and 45 seconds, stays the same as most stories. But the extra time gives Pole a chance to work in less of a rush to piece the story together the right way.

“It’s a good story to put time into,” Pole says. “It’s really sensitive and I want to make sure I’m respectful with that.”

Originally from Vancouver, the 31-year-old has worked in newsrooms all across the country. But the west coast will always be home.

“I have a big family out there so it was fun,” Pole said. “It’s great because you can do everything there, from swimming at the beach to going to Canucks games.”

After completing her political science degree at the University of British Columbia in 2004, she moved to Toronto to get her masters in journalism from Ryerson University. Being a reporter has always been the dream for her.

“I’ve always [wanted to be a reporter] since I was 11,” Pole says. “We used to watch a lot of news in the house and I used to do a lot of speaking and drama classes, so it was a good way to combine those things.”

Her career started in early 2007 at a tiny news channel in Terrace, B.C. But later that year she moved to Winnipeg, Man. and worked as a CBC reporter after receiving the CBC’s Diversity Scholarship.

“Basically it was a paid internship for three months, but if they liked you, you could stay,” Pole said. “So they said ‘why don’t you stay month-to-month?’ and I did until they hired me full-time.”

She then moved back home to CBC Vancouver in 2010, as the weekend host and a ground reporter. Then in 2012, an opening in Toronto came up and she went for it.

“I’ve been meaning to come back to Toronto, ever since I graduated from Ryerson,” Pole said. “Plus, it’s part of the upward trajectory because you always want to go to bigger markets, and this is the biggest.”

Back at her desk, Pole begins transcribing the interview with Osborne and another one she had done the day before with a cyberbullying expert.

While Pole types and with less than five hours before the final product airs, Dayna Gourleythe senior producer, approaches Pole at her desk and asks her to interview a police officer for the story.

“This happens all the time,” Pole says as she begins reaching out to her colleagues about police officers who can help. When she finally nabs a name and calls, Pole learns that the officer was not going to be around until 2 p.m.

But then at 12:30 p.m., she gets a call back from the officer and with a big smile on her face, begins to type what he has to say into her script. He answers all her questions without any problems.

“So that never happens,” Pole says when she hangs up the phone. “I’m actually really impressed.”

Once the script is done, it is sent to Gourley for her to look over.

“She’ll take a look at it and probably make it shorter, because I always write it too long,” Pole says. “She’ll see if there is anything that doesn’t make sense too.”

Gourley crosses things out and rearranges the order of some shots, then approves the piece. She also tells Pole to record a shot at her desk, to add variety to the final product.

From there, Pole goes into a booth and records the voiceover audio for her story. This takes less than a minute and simply involves her reading her script and then exporting the clip. She records an extended bit with a sign off because newsrooms outside of Toronto had requested to air her story that night too.

At around 2 p.m., the newsroom begins to get louder as reporters return from their assignments and start preparing for the broadcast at 5 p.m. While this is happening, Pole is preparing to shoot her desk shot.

Pole, like Osborne earlier, makes funny faces at the camera and is called a movie star by reporters walking by.

“I wouldn’t define it as liking to be on TV,” Pole says. “But there is an aspect of performing that is an adrenaline rush.”

With almost an hour and a half before she goes live, Pole wanders through the maze that is the newsroom to an editing suite, where editor Michael Dorn helps her piece the entire story together.

Dorn works very quickly, stitching clips from YouTube, the interviews Pole did and the clip shot at Pole’s desk. But he also has time to offer Pole some stale candy from his lunch.

“You have to give reporters candy to keep them happy,” he says.

The final clip, clocking in at one minute and 51 seconds, is ready to go at 4:45 p.m. Pole rushes out of the editing room and down the hall to makeup, where she quickly straightens her hair and adds some eyeliner.

“This is the most important part of the job,” she says jokingly. “But something men don’t have to worry about.”

She arrives on set three minutes before air. Standing behind the backdrop, she watches news anchors Dwight Drummond and Nil Koksal introduce her story on a TV.

“The first time you see yourself on air, you’re like oh my God,” Pole says. “But if you want to be successful, you have to get used to it.”

As soon as the clip Dorn edited begins to play, Pole walks out onto the set and positions herself at the desk.

When it’s finished, the camera turns to Pole and she finishes telling her story.

-30-

You can read and watch Pole’s story here.

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