From her first day on the job at NTV in 1989 to the emotional interviews that defined her career, the talented anchor delivers a revealing interview about life on the set of the province’s most-watched newscast
It’s hard to believe Toni-Marie Wiseman recently celebrated her 30th anniversary at NTV.
Wiseman, 53, began her career at NTV on Oct. 9, 1989, hired to anchor the News at Noon show, now known as NTV Newsday. Just 23 at the time, she was a natural.
Much, and little, has changed in three decades. Wiseman, of course, can still be seen anchoring the lunch-time newscast, on occasion, but her career has evolved. She’s the anchor and producer of First Edition, the popular half-hour show that precedes the flagship newscast. The 5:30 show has been a ratings phenomenon since Wiseman inherited the show in 2013, growing the audience to the second most-watched program in the entire province. Sitting alongside Glen Carter, she also co-anchors The NTV Evening Newshour, averaging over 100,000 viewers each night in this province alone.
With Lynn Burry’s retirement in 2019, Wiseman seamlessly moved into the co-anchor’s chair, delivering 90 minutes (5:30-7 p.m.) of local-national-international news as the face of the province’s top newscasts.
“She’s incredible to work with,” says Carter, who’s been in the business for four decades. “We work well together and it just feels right. I think the audience can see our mutual respect for each other.”
Wiseman has grown up in homes all across this province, and abroad. She is received with open arms in almost every inlet and community across Newfoundland and Labrador, often recognized as a part of the extended family that is so often talked about in this province.
In this Herald exclusive, we chat with the 53-year-old about some of her most memorable interviews and the stories she’ll never forget.
Take us on a journey back to your first memory of working at NTV. When was it and what stands out from that moment?
My first shift at NTV was on Oct. 9, 1989. It was a Thanksgiving holiday Monday. We had a skeleton crew working. I remember we visited craft fairs and recorded video for the Tuesday newscast. The next day I was greeted at the door by then news director Jim Furlong, who asked me to call my parents. I was embarrassed. I thought they had called to say, “Good Luck or congratulations.”
I ignore the message and went to work. A short time later, Jim Thoms asked me to call home. He said it was very important. Jim Furlong told me to use his office. It turned out that my maternal grandfather had died. I was told to go home for the rest of the week. My first week at NTV, I worked one day, got overtime for working on a holiday, and took a week’s bereavement time. What a way to start a 30 year career.
You’ve literally filed thousands of stories throughout your career. What was the toughest story you had to tell?
The toughest story. The story that still rips at my heart and brings me to tears, is the story of the sweet, innocent Quinn Butt. Quinn and my own daughter were just one year apart in age; both blond, both beautiful. The initial story of this five year old, dying in a house fire, was tragic enough but then to find out that the most unthinkable had happened – that her own father was responsible for her death. It was truly gut-wrenching. I will never forget this story or Quinn’s name.
This industry affords us an opportunity to interview some incredible people. Tell us about your favorite or some of your most favorite interviews?
Most of my 30 year career was spent covering entertainment and interviewing the celebrities of the industry, both locally and internationally. It was interesting getting to interview Great Big Sea right after their first ever ECMA nomination. I remember Sean McCann pretending to hold the award trophy while thanking his family and God for the win. They did win the ECMA that year, and many more after.
Peter Reveen, yes, The Man They Call Reveen, was perhaps one of the warmest, gentlest people I’ve ever met. Actually, I think he and Gordon Pinsent could have arm-wrestled over who was the more beautiful of people.
He had an incredible memory and never forgot my name. Then there was the time I stood on the tarmac at the St. John’s airport in a freezing rain storm to speak with the members of Bon Jovi. As miserable as the weather was, they stayed as long as I needed them. I also will not forget interviewing a woman on the brink of international stardom. Her name was Sarah Mclachlan. She was performing at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. We talked about eating on the road and trying to stay healthy while living out of a suitcase. She was a lovely person. Within days of our interview, she was a superstar. There are so many more to talk about. I could write a book about the entertainers I’ve met throughout my career.
In keeping with this theme, who would be the ultimate interview for you (alive or dead)?
Graham Norton, in a big, red chair. Norton is a talk show host in the U.K. He’s absolutely brilliant.
Is there a definitive moment from your childhood that stands out, perhaps even defining you?
I can’t pin-point an exact moment, but I do remember sitting in my room for hours, interviewing all of my dollies as if we were on TV. I also should thank nearly every teacher I’ve had for picking me to “read to the class”. Yes, I was that person.
There are many facets to being an anchor, broadcaster and journalist. What’s one part of the career that most people don’t know?
That I dread speaking in public. I’m relaxed in front of a camera but put a podium and a live audience in front of me and I start to sweat. I am asked to emcee events quite often. I almost always agree. It is an honour. But my knees knock for the first few minutes. Then I imagine Tony Barrington is in front of me with his camera on his shoulder and I calm down.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give a new journalist?
Always be respectful of the people you’re interviewing. Never let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough. You are!