The inspirational story of how one former award-winning journalist inspired his son to follow in his creative and passionate footsteps
Ben Cleary grew up in the news business, sometimes puttering around the newsroom as his dad stared down a deadline. It was a life he was introduced to early – learning the significance of local news, how the movers and shakers of this province dictate the conversation and, more importantly, how journalists can pull up a front-row seat to watch the biggest events unfold.
Still in diapers, he hugged his dad as he headed off on the election trail in the late 1990s. His dad, Ryan, was The Telegram’s legislative reporter in 1999 and riding the Liberal bus as premier Brian Tobin was re-elected with a majority government that year. Just days after the election, Tobin, a former journalist himself at NTV in the late ‘70s, actually penned a message to a two-year-old Ben to explain his dad’s absence.
“Dear Ben, when you are older you will realize that only the politics of Newfoundland and Labrador would keep your dad away for a few weeks,” he wrote, concluding with an apology.
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Well, two decades later, and fresh out of journalism school, Ben would understand exactly what Tobin meant – joining NTV’s award-winning team on election night 2019. He was tasked to cover the Mount Pearl-Southlands race, realizing that independent Paul Lane’s re-election could have a major impact on government. “It was so exciting, something I have been working so hard for,” says Cleary.
Cleary, 23, graduated from Memorial University with a political science degree in 2017 before heading off to King’s College in Halifax where he graduated with a journalism degree in May. Growing up watching NTV, he pursued a work-term with the province’s top newscast and spent several weeks shadowing journalists – from the legislature with Michael Connors to provincial court with Bart Fraize.
“You can really see Ben’s passion for the business,” says Mark Dwyer, NTV’s Director of News and Current Affairs. “He’s a talented young journalist and a great addition to our team.”
It’s an industry Cleary knows well. Ryan won numerous awards for his work with the province’s daily before landing roles as an editor with The Newfoundland Herald and editor-in-chief of The Independent.
He’d spend four years answering questions from the media as a federal MP before losing his seat in 2015. He’d spend time hosting VOCM’s Nightline before his latest mission as head of Fish-NL.
Although he admires his dad’s work, and journalistic style, Ben is charting his own course. “The journalist he was isn’t necessarily the journalist I’m going to be. I was raised to be my own person, and I’m thankful for that,” he said. “I’m not quite as controversial as my dad. I’ll tell a story that needs to be told, but I don’t know if I’ll do it the same way my dad did.”
Cleary, born and raised in St. John’s, has wasted little time dipping his toes into the frigid waters that is television journalism. He’s covered a host of stories in just several weeks, from the heart-breaking death of a young man in an industrial accident in Alberta to a featuring on the province’s navigational history. He interviewed Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas and introduced viewers to the local stars of the hit TV show Big Brother Canada.
“He’s certainly impressed me with his work so far. He has such a bright future here,” says NTV anchor and senior producer and Lynn Burry.
Anchor Glen Carter, who’s worked in newsrooms all across the country, agrees.
“He’s obviously chosen the right career path because you can tell he has a real love for news,” says Carter.
His dad’s influence, and advice, also extends beyond the field of journalism. “He also told me to stay away from (running for) politics,” jokes Cleary. “Jokes aside, my dad certainly has been a big influence on me, probably the reason why I followed this path and I’m so glad I did.”