Carol Off on her career, the future of journalism, and her 'worst interview ever'
Off, who is stepping down as host of As It Happens, takes questions from Cross Country Checkup callers
Carol Off says she's been blown away by the wonderful tributes she's received from listeners since she announced she's stepping down as host of CBC Radio's As It Happens.
"It's been extraordinary. I'm gobsmacked by how many people have written or called. They've written letters to the actual post office with stamps on them," Off told Cross Country Checkup host Ian Hanomansing.
Off will host her final episode of CBC Radio's flagship current affairs program on Monday. But first, she joined Hanomansing on Checkup's Ask Me Anything to reflect on her career and take questions from callers.
Watch: Carol Off answers listeners' questions:
Trust in the media
Caller Susan MacVittie of Westmoreland, P.E.I., told Off that many people have struggled to discern facts from misinformation while following the news of the recent occupation of downtown Ottawa.
She said she's noticed that some Canadians have expressed a deep distrust of the news, especially CBC, and asked Off whether she has any insight into how the media can regain the public's trust.
"A lot of trust has been lost over a time, and I think that a lot of that [is] because there's not a broad enough sort of sphere of voices and experiences that are in the media," Off replied.
Listen: Carol Off talks about the state of journalism on The Current:
But that's changing, Off said.
"I think that there's an effort now because of the journalists who are coming in. There is just slowly becoming more diversity in the experiences and the voices and the people who are joining the forces of our news agencies," she said.
"That gives me the most hope that things will change as far as the trust people have, if they start hearing their experiences, their voices, their background being reflected in our coverage."
Tackling tough interviews
When caller Shawna Katz of Owen Sound, Ont., asked about the hardest part of Off's job, the veteran broadcaster said it was interviewing people who are going through traumatic experiences.
"Trying to talk to somebody who has lost somebody, who is telling us about a death of a family member, someone who has lost their house in a fire, someone who's lost everything they had in a flood or an earthquake, someone who has been on the margins of survival, and then whatever was left was suddenly wiped away in a mudslide or a war," Off said.
"People have had to flee their homes. I think the hardest thing is talking to people who have to leave home because home is hostile to them."
When interviews 'go sideways'
Caller Joan Holland from Calgary noted that Off always seems composed during her interviews, and asked: "I'm wondering if there ever was an interview that went completely sideways and you didn't know what to do?"
"There was one that was the worst interview ever, the worst in my life," Off replied. "And it was with Evel Knievel."
When the late motorcycle stunt performer appeared on As It Happens in December 2006 to discuss his lawsuit against rapper Kanye West, Off was taken aback by his combatative demeanour toward her.
"We were so happy to talk to Evel Knievel. We thought that was a real catch," Off said. "And I'm in this interview with somebody who clearly just — he just hates me, without ever having met me. That was hard."
High hopes for the next generation
When Calgary's John Fisher asked for Off's perspective on the next generation of journalists, Off had nothing but praise for her younger colleagues.
"What I'm seeing mostly is young people who are bringing in a whole different range of experiences. And that's, I think, one of the things that gives me the most hope is that they have different perspectives," she said.
"I'm finding that the young people, they are just full of knowledge. They read, they travel, they love to learn. And I have great hope in those people coming into our business."
Thirteen-year-old As It Happens listener Eric Horte from Vancouver had a straightforward question for Off: What is she going to do next?
Off says she plans to spend time with her grandchildren, do some writing and work on a new series for the CBC to be released over the summer.
Beyond that, the world's her oyster.
"You're just starting out. You're so lucky. You're just going to be able to explore all the extraordinary things that are in the world," Off told the young listener.
"I'm sort of closer to the end of my time, but there's still so much I want to do, so much I want to see, so much I want to explore. And so I'm really no different from you in that respect. I'm just so curious about what else is out there in the world, and I get to check it out now."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Ashley Fraser.
- An earlier version of this story stated that Susan MacVittie told Carol Off she has personally struggled to discern facts from misinformation about recent occupation of downtown Ottawa. In fact, she said she's noticed that misinformation is rampant and many people don't know what to believe.Feb 25, 2022 12:54 PM ET