He’s a national award-winning journalist and coach, and continues to lead NTV’s top-rated news team. The Herald profiles veteran journalist Mark Dwyer
By Dave Salter
Mark Dwyer is a proven leader. He’s a national champion athlete and multi-award-winning journalist who has been steering the province’s top new cast for the past decade – assembling a trusted, multi-faceted team that continues to yield some of the best news ratings in the entire country.
A NEWS MAESTRO
Just how important is news in this province? Well, the station’s flagship 6 o’clock show remains the most-watched program in Newfoundland and Labrador, generating an audience of over 100,000 daily, with First Edition sitting firmly in second spot.
The 49-year-old is like the chief conductor of an orchestra, a news maestro tasked with bringing the best out of his gifted ensemble to create a compelling performance. No news job is harder to quantify, and no job is, when done well, more important.
“A news director has the toughest job in the newsroom. Getting the best out of his people and making sure it shows in the final product, and our product is news and information. Mark has impeccable instincts in his ability to do both. It’s golden,” says senior anchor Glen Carter, who credits Dwyer as the best news director he’s worked with in 40 years.
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The business itself is fast-paced and unpredictable, its content often macabre. And news, of course, doesn’t stop.
For Dwyer, the phone calls, pressing emails and texts are relentless, many arriving into the wee hours of the morning or at the family supper table.
“He’s a true leader, a team builder who brings out the best in all of us,” says veteran reporter Jodi Cooke.
‘A YEAR OF SACRIFICES’
Never has leadership been more important than the past year. On March 12, 2020, just days prior to the first confirmed Covid-19 case in this province, Dwyer, along with other managers, reacted quickly to help devise a plan to protect staff and ensure NTV’s news programming wouldn’t be impacted.
Several reporters, as well as chief meteorologist Eddie Sheerr, were dispatched to work from home while a remote studio was created at NTV’s headquarters. The team would spend almost six months apart, reuniting with no active cases in the province. In February, with a tsunami of new cases, he was forced to do it all over again.
“Like everyone else in this province, it’s been a year of sacrifices – whether it was working from home or simply distancing from family and loved ones to stay safe,” says Dwyer.
“But I know I speak for my colleagues when I say the real heroes are our brave front-line workers who continue to work to keep us safe.”
Covid-19 has certainly dominated the headlines, but other major stories continue to keep NTV busy. The recent provincial general election proved problematic, from delivering a socially-distanced leaders’ debate to planning province-wide coverage on Election Day. Incredibly, the election didn’t even happen. In early February – as metro St. John’s was under siege with multiple Covid-19 clusters and unprecedented numbers, and staring down an election call – the pace was frenetic.
It is NTV where viewers turn to for the latest information, from early-morning news checkpoints to Newsday, from the staple supper-hour news shows to the only weekend provincial television newscast.
The NTV brand is powerful and, as a result, so is the demand for content.
It takes a committed team to build a news empire, like NTV, and, well, building winning teams is what Dwyer appears to do best. Perhaps it’s his deep-rooted connection to sports that complements his managerial success. He was one of the country’s top fastball players, winning several national medals prior to becoming one of the nation’s most celebrated softball coaches. In fact, he’s led Galway Hitmen to an unprecedented seven Canadian titles in just the past decade alone, and leads the NTV Hitmen in the St. John’s senior circuit.
“A sports team and a news team are very similar – a close knit unit who pull together to achieve goals, whether it be a gold medal team or award-winning newscast,” says Dwyer.
‘MAN OF HONOUR’
His closest colleague and friend Toni-Marie Wiseman, who entrusted him as ‘man of honour’ at her wedding, has worked with Dwyer for 25 years. She eloquently captures the sentiment of her co-workers.
“If you google what makes a great boss, you’ll find a list of qualities, such as integrity, honesty, and empathy. Without argument, Mark Dwyer has all of these and much more,” says Wiseman, one of the most respected journalists in the province’s history. “He is focused and driven, creative and compassionate. Mark and I have been really great friends for over 25 years and getting to work alongside him every day makes me feel like the luckiest person in the world.”
‘ON THE MARK’
Dwyer broke into the business in 1991, at just 18, cutting his journalistic teeth as a sports reporter with The Evening Telegram. From writing local sports stories to penning obituaries (yes, you read that right), he learned the craft from many of the island’s most prolific scribes. It was the province’s daily newspaper that spawned his ‘On the Mark’ feature, which he would later resurrect to sustained success at NTV News.
In 1997, he’d leave The Telegram and take a role as reporter/editor with The Newfoundland Herald, eventually climbing the corporate ladder to become managing editor in 2001 – a role he’d hold for a decade before taking his current role as Director of News and Current Affairs at NTV. The Herald remains dear to his heart. He spent those early years learning from publisher Geoff Stirling, but credits SCI president Scott Stirling as the greatest influence on his career.
“Scott has been a real mentor, like a big brother, who has taught me so much, and he’s always channeled my focus on local news,” says Dwyer. “Scott also helped shape my managerial style, focusing on team work, consistency and, most importantly, family. I’m thankful for that sound advice and so grateful to work for him and this great company.”
Dwyer put his stamp on The Herald, conducting hundreds of interviews and, at one point, helping the magazine win several journalism awards.
In fact, Dwyer collects awards like some people collect sports cards – coincidentally one of his favourite pastimes. The affable newsman has won a dozen Atlantic and national television awards for his work on “On The Mark,” including the best sports story in Canada in 2014 at the RTNDA gala in Toronto.
One of the traits that makes Dwyer so likeable and inspires others to follow him is his humility. He has an open-door policy but anyone who enters won’t see these awards ensconced on his walls – nope, they’re in a tall stack, stuffed into his closet and tumble out when he opens the door.
Like any good leader, Dwyer deflects the attention from himself, preferring the limelight shine on his employees. As for the limelight – well, he’s interviewed many of the greatest athletes in history who have basked in that very glow. Dwyer has put the mic in front of the best of the best – Bobby Orr, Ken Dryden, Wayne Gretzky, Roberto Alomar … and over 1,000 other pro and amateur stars in his “On the Mark” feature.
But Dwyer won’t brag about any of that. He’s more apt to brag about his beautiful wife Katie and daughters Claire and Madison – the apples of his eye. He’ll also sing the praises of his work family – reporters, anchors and those behind the scenes, who are so devoted to the career and calling, and him.
BUSINESS AS USIAL
Perhaps one picture, snapped recently and posted on social media, illustrates everything you need to know about this leader of people. The picture that “blew up” on social media shows Dwyer happily and carefully ironing the blouse of reporter Kelly-Anne Roberts before she was to go on air as a panelist for the provincial leaders’ debate. And as the photo shows, almost the entire newsroom gathered for the spectacle knowing this is something they’d likely never see in any other TV news director’s office. But the unassuming Dwyer just summed it up as business as usual. Leaders, of course, never want to make it about themselves.
Perhaps it’s the reason why NTV News is the people’s choice, why its anchors and reporters are welcomed into homes every day – the steady and consistent approach that starts from the news director’s chair.