Young alumni Mathieu Lacombe’s job as the lead news anchor for TVA Gatineau-Ottawa has its roots not only in his graduation from a joint uOttawa-La Cité journalism program (BA ’14), but also in his team’s back-to-back gold medal performances in the News Team category at the Jeux de la communication, a national French-language communications competition.
He was hired to take on this coveted position as news anchor within one month of writing his last exam at uOttawa in July 2014. “Obviously, all the stars were aligned when I left University,” he said, at the start of our interview. “It’s something I’m proud of.”
But he is also certain that one of the reasons why he landed this plum job is the range of experiences he was able to gain during his studies. “I don’t have a recipe for success in journalism, but I know that building a portfolio is useful,” he noted.
“The [journalism] program is fantastic. Not only is this joint program very interesting in itself, but keep in mind that it takes place in the dynamic news environment of the National Capital Region. What’s more, the job market is pretty accessible: plenty of students get hired while they are studying, which I find very encouraging!”
“In my case, I was hired to work in radio with Unique FM (formerly CJFO) after one term at La Cité. During the summer following my first year in the program, I found a job with Rouge FM and Énergie as a radio journalist. I also completed an internship in TV broadcasting with TVA in Rimouski, Quebec. Then, when I started university in September, I was hired by Radio-Canada. There I worked for two years in their vast newsroom, right next to famous journalists. I also got a chance to rub shoulders with a number of political figures.”
A crucial training ground
“University training is crucial. And the beauty of the joint program is that first you learn the more technical aspects of journalism in college, then you go on to university to learn the more general knowledge that it takes to be a good journalist.”
“An anchor isn’t just someone who reads a script in front of a camera,” Mathieu explained. “Yes, journalists have to get the shots, speak in front of the camera, edit the footage, but they also need to really understand what they’re talking about. Being able to draw on varied experiences and a good level of general knowledge is key.”
“My minor in political science has helped me a lot in that respect. You need good reflexes to cover a press conference: you need to know what questions to ask, what to bring up from the past, and how to connect the dots with other events.
“Every day, my role as a news anchor requires discipline and attention to detail. I deal with every possible topic, and I need a thorough grasp of the nuances in the information that journalists typically receive. Over the course of the day, I help put the news program together.”
You can watch Mathieu Lacombe in action in TVA’s new high definition news studio weekdays at noon and 6 p.m.