Jonathan Crowe: Anchoring the Classroom

Jonathan Crowe: Anchoring the Classroom

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By: Nick Travis

Former ‘Here and Now’ host and current college instructor Jonathan Crowe is getting ready for yet another school year at the College of the North Atlantic

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After a Summer vacation that included moving, traveling to the U.K. and rowing in the Regatta, Jonathan Crowe is excited to get back at it with a fresh batch of first year journalism students. 

“I guess I’m like everyone who’s going back to school. I have enjoyed my summer, and wish my summer would go on forever, but I am starting to kind of get back into that mode where I’m looking forward to seeing the new crop of students and preparing and seeing how I can do a few things differently,” said Crowe. 

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“And it’s like when you’re a student, right? You get excited about going back to school because you get your new books, and you get your new class, and it’s a change in routine. I always used to get excited about back to school. I still do.”

The former CBC host didn’t have the most common of Canadian upbringings. In fact, he wasn’t born in Canada at all. If you ask Crowe himself, he’ll admit his path in life was anything but ordinary. 

“Everything that happened to me kind of happened by accident. I certainly didn’t follow the logical career path of a journalist. I spent the first nine of my years in East Africa in Kenya,” said Crowe. “My mom and dad were from England. They were a bit adventurous, and they went over there when they first got married. For nine years that was my home. I was born in Nairobi, but for the last seven years lived in Mombasa. And then we moved to Canada — we spent time in Northern Quebec at Sept-Îles or “Seven Islands”, then we moved to the Montreal area.”

Blessing in disguise

Crowe attended McGill University, where he received a degree in political science and history. From there, he worked a few jobs here and there before the foray into journalism.

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“To be honest with you, I scraped through,” said Crowe. “Then I did a couple of things: I worked in sales — I was the city of Montreal’s worst ever office equipment salesman. It’s the only job I ever got fired from, which was a blessing in disguise. I worked in a mailroom for Electrolux, and made like eleven thousand dollars a year. There’s nothing like poverty to kind of get the juices flowing and to make you realize that you’re spinning your wheels, and you’re not going anywhere, and you’ve got to do something.”

Crowe decided to do just that. He took it upon himself to get an interview with his hero, long time Montreal Canadians centre Jean Béliveau, in order to get his foot in the door of the journalism world.

“I got him directly on the phone, which would never happen today, and I said, ‘My name’s Jonathan Crowe. I just graduated from McGill University, and I want to become a journalist. I’d like to interview you, because you’ve always been an idol of mine, I’ve always been interested in your career.’ So he said, ‘Well, why don’t you come in tomorrow?’ So I almost lost my mind, right?  I managed to rustle up a tape recorder, I went and I interviewed him for 45 minutes and I put together a print story about Jean Béliveau. I mailed it to about 500 media outlets across the country. CBC in Montreal gave me a call and said, ‘We like your writing. We like your story. Why didn’t you come in and hang out in our sports department and learn about television?’”

Newfoundland sensibility

After some time learning the ropes, a job offer opened up for a sports reporter position at CBC St. John’s, which he applied to and was accepted. Crowe spent the next years as a sports reporter, and later as one of the first video journalists in the Newfoundland and Labrador region. From there, Crowe worked his way up to his Here and Now host position. 

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Readers may be wondering, what did Jonathan Crowe think of Newfoundland after coming here all the way from Montreal? According to him, it was a more comfortable transition than some may imagine. 

“Newfoundland was not altogether unfamiliar to me. My mom and dad are from small villages in Yorkshire, and I found the Newfoundland sensibility very similar to kind of the rural English sensibility, which would completely make sense right because Newfoundlanders are at their heart rural people. People here are very down to earth. People here are no bull***t, and that’s the way people are in the north of England. So culturally I didn’t feel that it was much different.”

Teaching empathy

According to Crowe, his first year as a teacher for CNA after leaving CBC was intimidating.

“Honest to God, it was scary,” said Crowe. “I was lucky because I had a good class, and I still look back fondly on most of the people in that class. Many of them have gone on to do some really cool things. So it’s an ongoing thing, right? I mean, it’s never easy. It’s a lot like being on television, because when you go to class you have to perform and you have to engage.” 

It is, however, a rewarding job for him. Crowe’s favourite thing about his job is igniting the same fiery passion for journalism in his students that he himself carried throughout his career.

“The favourite part of doing my job is when at the end of term you get a note from somebody that says, ‘Thanks, you made a difference in my life,’” said Crowe. “Another favourite part of my job is turning on my TV and seeing Beth Penney at NTV, or turning on my radio and hearing Martin Jones at CBC Radio or Mike Moore at CBC radio. Knowing that students that I taught are now working in journalism. That’s the most satisfying job.”

Besides all the rules and technicalities that come with being a journalist, Crowe wants to impart an important trait on his students.

“I’d like my students to be good people. There’s been such a pushback, especially in the United States, against journalism. You know Donald Trump calling into question the credibility of journalists. If there’s something that he’s unhappy with, he’ll call it fake media or fake news. I really think that it’s more important than ever that journalists be good people. One of the things that always worked in my favour to be a good journalist – you’ve got to have empathy. I’ve worked with journalists who don’t have empathy and honestly, their journalism isn’t very good because they tend to veer away from doing stories about people.”

Despite all the different places he’s lived and all the different hats he’s worn, Crowe says there’s not a lot he would have done differently given the chance to do it all again. 

“I couldn’t have ever predicted that I’d be here now, doing this,” said Crowe. “Yet having said that, there’s absolutely nothing that I regret. There’s absolutely nothing that I did that I would do over again. I was lucky enough to work in a province where CBC, where I worked, was held in high regard. I got to do so many interesting stories. I got to travel as a result of that. The only thing I do not like about Newfoundland is the weather, that’s it. I had my kids here, I met the love of my life here, I’ve got friends that’ll always be my friends and I’ve had not one, but two very rewarding careers. I’m not a wealthy man, but I’m living comfortably and I’m enjoying my life.”

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