The hug, humanity and Omar Sachedina: Who is the new CTV chief news anchor?

In April, Omar Sachedina did something unusual while reporting from Kukhari, a town on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital.

A bridge connecting the town to Kyiv had been destroyed, so civilians climbed down a ladder to get to the other side. That included an 87-year-old man Sachedina interviewed.

in the clip, Grigory Lukianenko talks about how horrible the invasion was, even though he lived through World War II as a child. Moments later, the camera zooms in on the man as he struggles with words. He purses his lips, fighting back tears, “slumping under the weight of unimaginable pain,” says the National Affairs correspondent’s voiceover.

It’s an intimate shot, where the viewer stands in Sachedina’s shoes, at arm’s length from Lukianenko, close enough to witness her emotion, and close enough, if they could reach through the camera, to offer solace. to the older man.

And that is exactly what the reporter did. The next shot shows Sachedina embracing Lukianenko, the man’s head resting on the journalist’s shoulder, eyes squeezed shut, as Sachedina pats him on the back.

For her former producer, it is a moment that sums up Sachedina as a journalist. The reporter was named CTV National News’ lead news anchor and senior editor last week, replacing Lisa LaFlamme.

“That’s not typically journalistic,” former CTV producer Olivera Stojanovic said of Sachedina’s hug. But the story brought tears to her eyes, she said, noting that she texted Sachedina: “Oh, Omar. The hug, humanity, 100% you.”

Some viewers also tweeted that were touched by the moment.

“It speaks to who he is,” Stojanovic continued. “That story. It’s the way he handled that. When do you see a reporter hug the person he’s interviewing? But it was that level of humanity at the time that was required and (it was) beautiful.”

News of Sachedina’s high-profile new job has been clouded, in the eyes of some, by the controversy surrounding LaFlamme, who on August 15 announced that his contract had been terminated, ending his more than three decades in the company.

Born in Vancouver, the McGill University political science alum is from an Indian family from Uganda, according to to your LinkedIn. The former CP24 reporter and host earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. He joined CTV National News in 2009 and worked in Toronto before moving to the Ottawa bureau in 2013. He has been national affairs correspondent since 2019.

For CTV, Sachedina covered natural disasters in Haiti and Indonesia, traveled with the prime minister, and reported on federal election campaigns as well as the recent conflict in Ukraine. He also served as fill-in presenter. He will start his new role on September 5.

According to the accounts of colleagues, past and present, Sachedina is a well-liked journalist whose strength lies not in his star power, but in his empathy. The Star contacted Sachedina and Bell Media for interviews for this story. A Bell spokesman said Sachedina was on vacation.

Sachedina is “an award-winning veteran journalist with more than 15 years of experience covering many of the world’s biggest breaking news stories,” CTV News said in its ad of his new role.

Shortly after LaFlamme tweeted about his firing last week, Sachedina posted about his new position.

“I am honored to follow in the footsteps of Lisa LaFlamme and Lloyd Robertson,” he said. tweeted. “I am so excited to be working with our incredibly talented team in this new role!”

That tweet was met with criticism from people still reeling from the news of LaFlamme’s departure.

“Everyone at work loves and respects Omar. This is very s — for him too,” said a producer, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation. “A career break for him, of course, he may have wanted this job, but never like this…

“After Lisa got up the nerve to post that video, they sent out two emails, one about Lisa leaving and right after that, Omar replaced her, and then they had Omar do PR campaigns trying to clean up their mess.”

In an interview On the web, Sachedina spoke about using her new role to continue building public trust in journalism.

“I also want to make sure that we are able to… reflect the stories, the faces and the voices of the people of this country. I’m not just talking about race, I’m also talking about geography,” he said, noting that it was an honor to follow in the footsteps of LaFlamme, whom he called “a friend and mentor” and Lloyd Robertson.

As a person, Sachedina is the type to flash a smile no matter how busy she is and bring calm to a deadline-driven newsroom, former colleagues say. He works like a team player and doesn’t see anyone above or below him.

“He’s incredibly humble,” said former CTV Toronto reporter Tamara Cherry. “He is not the type of person who would be considered a star.”

He often filled in for LaFlamme and weekend host Sandie Rinaldo. Even to some who didn’t work directly with Sachedina, he seemed like he was being groomed for bigger things.

As a journalist, she found stories no one else was telling, said Peter Akman, a former CTV National News reporter. Akman was Sachedina’s roommate when the two covered the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. He remembers that while the Games were going on, Sachedina left with cameraman Marc D’Amours. and reported a story about an Edmonton woman who opened a school in Brazil to teach children to play string instruments and keep them away from gangs and violence.

That story it ended up winning a national Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Sound from the US-based Radio and Television Digital News Association.

“Omar was never the type of person to cut corners to get a story,” Akman said. “He made sure he got the facts right before he went anywhere with it.”

Friends also describe Sachedina as considerate and sincere. Akman recalls a dinner near a beach in Brazil when the two had a break from reporting on the Olympics. Olympians were among them, but Sachedina did not pay them interest.

“He just wanted to sit down and have a good chat and focus on a good meal and a good conversation with whoever was sitting across from him,” Akman said.

With the way things have unfolded over the past week, those who know the reporter said they felt sorry for both him and LaFlamme. They point to Sachedina as the worst part of people’s discontent on social media.

Meanwhile, there is little celebration that a person of color is taking on such a high-profile job in Canadian journalism.

“The world is changing and the face of television has been changing for a while now,” Stojanovic said. “That has now been diminished by all the bad PR.”


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