The award-winning career of NTV’s unsung ace Bart Fraize – one of accolades and adversity, of tireless hours and an unrivaled passion for news
He’s unassuming, steady, modest, and, in an industry that never sleeps, is the first to answer the call.
The mere mention of this feature story actually annoyed Bart Fraize, squirming with each question as he struggled to remember the minutiae of almost three decades of work. The 55-year-old has literally seen it all, often focusing his lens on the macabre stories that have devastated this province – from fatal accidents and fires to drownings and murders.
Before first responders
You’ve all seen his video footage on NTV, the shot of an ambulance, fire truck or police cruiser screaming onto the scene. Fraize is often there before first responders, arriving on scenes he’d like to forget. “I hate seeing tragedy but it’s a part of the job,” says the reserved St. John’s native.
It’s an unpleasant job to be shaken from your sleep in the wee hours of the morning to answer a phone call or to the squawk of a scanner. He’s been answering the call for NTV since the early 1990s and is, without question, directly linked to the station’s success as the province’s top newscast. “He’s the best at his craft,” says news director Mark Dwyer.
Fraize’s foray into the news business is like him, unique. He spent time in the late ‘80s as Cable Atlantic’s program coordinator before arriving at NTV as a master control operator on Oct. 25, 1990. When not putting shows like Inspector Gadget and Tarzan to air, he was moonlighting with a camera. Mysteriously, breaking news footage would appear on former news director Jim Furlong’s desk. Like a late-night action news hero, the source was a secret.
“Fires, car accidents … I had no idea where this footage was coming from,” recalls Furlong. “One day, out of nowhere, he just handed me a tape and it all made sense.”
Fraize’s transition from the control room to the field was an instant success. His award-winning work has earned him Atlantic and national accolades, adjusting his lens on tragedy yet telling each story with skilled focus and compassion. “I always try to be respectful,” says Fraize.
Fraize’s work ethic is unrivaled. It’s a tangible that separates him from his peers – the willingness to answer every call, good or bad, day or night, rain or shine. And he does so without fanfare, evading praise like it’s a punishment. “I’m just doing my job,” he quips, shrugging his shoulders.
Well, it’s a job done well.
Fraize has seen his share of heartbreak. He doesn’t like to talk about PTSD. He hasn’t been diagnosed but it’s probably because he hasn’t been tested either. Perhaps he knows the answer. “There are some (stories) you just can’t forget,” he admits.
The town’s tears
He’s covered countless fatal car accidents, including one in Flatrock where he arrived to screams as a man was trapped inside his vehicle and burned alive. Just a few miles away, he was in the tiny community of Pouch Cove the day three teenagers perished in the frigid waters after venturing onto the unstable ice. It was his camera that captured the town’s tears that spring and, although 18 years have passed, he can’t forget.
Fraize’s professionalism on that 2001 story actually earned him an Atlantic Journalism Award but marrying accolades with grief isn’t something that interests him. “I’m really not sure,” he politely answers, when asked how many awards he’s received over the years.
Fact is, he’s NTV’s most decorated journalist and has won over a dozen awards for his work over the past two decades, from the Froude Ave. fire that left countless homeless to the 2014 HMP riot where inmates traded a hostage for cigarettes. There was the 1996 fire on Cook Street where firefighters narrowly escaped death after a backdraft blew up the St. John’s home. Fraize caught the dramatic scene on camera.
“The window from the home actually landed at my feet,” he remembers. “That’s how close I was.”
He also captured the Southside Hills tank fire that claimed several lives, was on Bell Island for the CLB fire and was on the ground for Hurricane Igor, one of the biggest natural disasters in the province’s history. That storm actually fractured part of the Bonavista Peninsula in 2010, but it didn’t stop him from getting there.
Then again, nothing has.
He’s taken ATV’s and helicopters to get pictures and once actually chartered a ferry and private jet to get the story. The latter actually involved the deaths of several teenagers. He’s suffered frostbite while being towed by a skidoo in whiteout conditions in northern Labrador. “That was scary,” he remembers.
He’s been spit on while covering court cases several times and, yes, is familiar with the medical tests that followed. He’s been threatened more than an UFC fighter and has even worn a bulletproof vest to active shootings.
“Spot news is still my favorite part of the job because you just never know what’s going to happen,” he says.
Although Fraize remains the station’s ace for action news, he’s also evolved into a crafty court reporter – spending most days at provincial, supreme or appeals courts.
In recent years he’s covered numerous high-profile murder trials – from Philip Pynn and David Folker to Steven Neville and his latest case, the Graham Veitch second-degree murder trial. You won’t see him fronting those stories but it’s his pen that tells the story and his camera that captures the images you see at home.
After almost 30 years of answering the call for NTV, his toughest one came in the summer of 2015. It was a mid-morning call from his doctor. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer and, at 52, was facing the fight of his life. “I didn’t know if I would live,” he admits.
Like his career, Fraize doesn’t much like to talk about cancer either. He prefers to do his fighting quietly, kind of how he tackles his job every day. He will answer questions but is reluctant to offer much else. He spent almost a year in treatment and underwent several surgeries, spending weeks in hospital with an uncertain future. “The doctors did tell me at one point to get my affairs in order,” he remembers.
Thankfully, the surgery was a success and after months of follow-up at the city’s cancer treatment center, he was discharged … with little fanfare. “No, I didn’t ring the bell,” he said, when asked. “I was just glad it was over.”
Passion for the industry
Fraize arrived to work exactly as he left. Yes, there was a celebratory ‘Welcome Back’ cake and, although we know he absolutely appreciated it, he appeared uncomfortable with the grandeur. He instantly resumed to taking those late-night calls, beating everyone to the office in the morning and, like a gunslinger, also beating each reporter to a phone when it rang.
Much, and little, has changed in almost three decades. The passage of time hasn’t soured his passion for the industry and, if anything, he’s now more protective of his colleagues. He quietly checks in on reporters after a tough assignment, inquiring about their well-being, and, as the saying goes, he never looks down on anyone he’s not willing to pick up.
Perhaps that’s his most definitive trait, his humanity – how he treats each story, how he treats his colleagues and, most importantly, how he walks through life … never asking for more than he’s willing to give.