Behind-the-scenes: How we picked 10 Canadians to interview the PM
It's a simple concept — 10 people, 10 minutes alone with the PM — but it took some work to come together
"Face to Face" with the prime minister is a simple concept. Ten Canadians get 10 minutes each with Justin Trudeau to discuss whatever they want.
These 10 individuals each have a story, and a personal stake in what they're discussing.
Until now, few Canadians have had this kind of direct, personal access to a prime minister — and certainly not with a TV camera running to add a layer of accountability.
No doubt there will be questions about this process; there always are when you try something new. The one we have been getting most often is "How did you find the 10 Canadians?"
- Watch "Face to Face with the Prime Minister," a special CBC News presentation Sunday 8 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and CBC.ca; 9 p.m. local time on CBC TV
We found them the way that we find people for all of our journalism. We look for those who have interesting stories, who have real concerns and who reflect our country.
It's no different than how we look for characters for our two-minute news items.
Granted the stakes are higher for something like this and we understand that.
Canada is facing some grim challenges, and there are significant questions to be asked of the prime minister.
Our producers, Nicole Brewster-Mercury and Angela Hennessy, went into this with a very clear goal: find 10 people who reflect this country, who are diverse in their sex, age, region, race, politics and lifestyle, and who are passionate about an issue and can hold their own for 10 minutes with the PM.
Not a contest
We did not, purposefully, put out a call to "Meet the prime minister." We didn't want to start there.
So we started by asking our bureaus across the country to suggest people who had caught their eye as interesting and engaging during the recent election campaign.
We worked with CBC Radio's Cross Country Checkup listening to hours of back episodes on topics ranging from Canada's role in the fight against ISIS to the future of infrastructure.
We reached out to local journalists and community centres, and contacted mommy groups on Facebook. We cold-called chambers of commerce, volunteer groups and mayors' offices in small towns.
We made hundreds of phone calls, sent messages on forums, and DM-ed people on Twitter who had been speaking up about an issue that mattered to them.
Often we'd start speaking with one person who would recommend someone different, a friend, who would then suggest another friend, who would tell us to speak to her sister, or brother, or daughter.
We did not tell them what we were doing. Not a single conversation started with: "Would you like to meet the prime minister?"
We wanted to know their story first. What makes this person tick.
We asked about their lives, their jobs, their parents, their kids, what makes them laugh, what worries them, what keeps them up at night.
And finally, after many calls later to follow-up, what, if anything, they'd want to ask the prime minister if they had the chance.
Once we narrowed down our 10, and told just them what we were doing, the response ranged from excitement to nervousness to disbelief to determination.
This opportunity is not lost on any of them.
CBC News put Canadians at the forefront of our election coverage. And this program is a natural extension of that.
These 10 Canadians are the focus of this program. They are not politicians or special interest advocates. They have never met the prime minister.
They are citizens with frank questions about policies that affect their everyday lives.
They are ordinary people who have been given an extraordinary opportunity.
And in offering them this opportunity, we hope others in this country from coast to coast to coast also feel like their voices have been heard.