Cross Country Checkup

CBC's Rosemary Barton reveals her key to non-partisan election coverage

Rosemary Barton, co-host of CBC News' The National as well as the new CBC election podcast Party Lines, took your calls in the first edition of Cross Country Checkup's new recurring Ask Me Anything segment.

In the first instalment of a new AMA segment on Checkup, Rosemary Barton answers questions from listeners

CBC host Rosemary Barton answered calls and questions from listeners in the first instalment of Cross Country Checkup's Ask Me Anything series. (CBC)
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Longtime political journalist Rosemary Barton may have spent the majority of her career covering news out of parliament, but she didn't always enjoy politics.

Becoming a self-described political junkie happened almost incidentally, Barton said.

"I moved to Quebec City in the beginning of my journalistic career and that's a place where they sort of eat and breathe politics," she told Cross Country Checkup's host Duncan McCue on the show's first instalment of its new Ask Me Anything series. 

"I fell in love with it there."

From there, Barton's journalist career took her to Ottawa, where she became a political correspondent for CBC News, eventually transferring to the Parliament Hill bureau and soon appearing on CBC News Network's Power & Politics

The Winnipeg native, who now co-hosts The National and the new CBC News podcast Party Lines, joined McCue in studio to answer a range of questions about her career — and love of shoes.

On voting and partisanship 

Several listeners sent questions about objectivity and bias when it comes to political matters.

Barton said she's used to seeing comments online that accuse her of being partisan, but assured listeners that she works very hard to remain neutral. 

"I don't mind criticism of my work. We are the public broadcaster. … I think it's important to hold me to account," she said.

"That said, I really don't have a horse in the race. I don't have a partisan bone in my body. It's not the way I was raised; it's not who I am."

Further to her point, Barton disclosed that she doesn't feel comfortable choosing sides, even in the privacy of a voting booth.

"I actually cancelled my ballot," she said.

I have been in rooms where I was the only female journalist. ... Know that you deserve to be there, and then show everybody why you do.- Rosemary Barton

"It just makes me feel more comfortable when I'm doing my job to know, in the back of my head, that I haven't made a choice for anybody."

However, Barton explained, the act of voting is "very important" so she still submitted a ballot, despite not selecting a party or candidate.

Barton joined host Duncan McCue in the Cross Country Checkup studio to answer calls and social media questions from listeners. (Emilie Quesnel/CBC)

The upcoming Canadian federal election, she continued, is going to be a tight race and voting matters.

"It's going to be — not to sound cliché — but an election for the ages. It's going to be very tight. It's going to determine a lot of people's fates."

On how women can make their voices heard in politics

From fighting to have her questions heard during scrums to grilling prime ministers and state secretaries, Barton said you sometimes have to be pushy and stubborn to get the answers you're looking for.

"I learned how to make myself present in a scrum. … I wanted to be there. I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to get answers for people. I felt that that was my job; I still do," she said.

Ottawa listener Genevieve Gallant called to ask for advice on how young women who want to "step up" can make their voices heard in the world of public policy. 

Throughout her career, Barton has interviewed a range of political and public policy figures, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"Fake it 'til you make it!" Barton said.

"I have been in rooms where I was the only female journalist, or in scrums where there weren't many of us. Sometimes you have to speak a little louder. But I do think that things are changing and I hope you feel that too," she explained.

"Know that you deserve to be there, and then show everybody why you do." 

On her love of flashy footwear

Between her posts of on-the-job selfies and promoting new content, Barton's Instagram is awash with shoe pictures.

One listener, Ian MacIntyre in Winnipeg, took note of this and asked about it. 

"Everybody's got something," she responded.

"They're fun and you can wear different colours and you can see them on TV and you can show your personality and still be a, you know, sort of square news anchor if you need to be." 

Barton characterized the number of pairs of shoes she owns as "embarrassing," and that she could never pick a favourite.

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