Senior Correspondent, Global National News
Interview by Daniela Olariu, (RSJ ’17)
Jeff Semple, (RSJ ’08), is the Senior Correspondent for Global National News and host of the "Russia Rising" podcast. He was formerly Global's Europe Bureau Chief.
What did you originally see yourself doing when you first enrolled in journalism school?
I was very interested in broadcast journalism, particularly television. From an early age, I was always playing with video cameras and video editing software. I had a keen interest in the news and I had also done a lot of theatre and public speaking. So a TV Reporter seemed like a dream job.
How did that vision change as the years went by?
I’m happy to say that vision hasn’t changed much. I started working as a TV Reporter for CBC News in Ottawa after graduation and I never looked back. The job has proved more fulfilling, exciting and challenging than I had even hoped. One thing that has changed is that I’ve also come to love the other mediums — print, radio, podcasts, social, etc. These days, most journalists file stories across all platforms. On any given day, I’ll file a version of my story for TV, online and radio. I really enjoy the creative challenge of adapting your storytelling according to the medium. For people who get bored easily, it’s heaven.
Thinking back to your first year self, how do you think they would react to where you are now?
I would’ve been ecstatic. I never imagined I would be so fortunate in my career. In my first decade as a professional journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to report from around 30 countries across five continents. I have been based in Ottawa, Toronto and London, England, where I’ve lived for over five years.
What do you think the RSJ experience offers that you can’t get anywhere else?
The journalism industry is rapidly changing and the RSJ has done a remarkable job of adapting to that change — embracing new technologies and teaching students to be versatile. The RSJ offers a terrific combination of theory and practical skills.
What have you done since graduating/how did you arrive at your current position?
I’m currently the Europe Bureau Chief for Global News, based in London, England. After graduation, I started working as a reporter for CBC News based in Ottawa. After a few years, I moved to CBC News in Toronto. And in 2013, I moved to London, England, where I worked as a correspondent and video-journalist for CBC News. After a couple of years, I was offered the position of Europe Bureau Chief with Global News in London. Over the past few years, I’ve covered terrorist attacks in Europe, the refugee crisis in the Middle East and the Olympic Games in Sochi, Rio and Pyeongchang. I’ve reported from the front-lines of the war against ISIS in Iraq, the UN’s deadliest peacekeeping mission in Mali, West Africa, and the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea. My stories have garnered several awards, including an RTDNA award for best continuing coverage of the terrorist attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. My reports have also appeared on the BBC, Sky News and CNN.
How has your journalism degree and what you learned in school prepared you for your current career?
It’s hard to put into a ‘nutshell’ how much my Ryerson professors helped to set me up for success. The RSJ’s strong reputation in the industry helped me to land an internship at CBC News in Ottawa in my fourth year. During that internship, I had the opportunity to do some TV reporting, which ultimately turned into a full-time job. The RSJ also instilled the importance of being able to do everything: Report for TV/online/radio, shoot and edit TV stories, host and produce, breaking news and investigations, etc, etc, etc. That versatility and ability to file across all platforms has opened doors in my career that would’ve otherwise remained closed. In 2013, I was hired as a video-journalist with CBC News in London, England. The CBC’s London bureau is generally considered to be a senior posting. But I was offered the opportunity as a relatively junior reporter, because I was a ‘one-man band’ — able to shoot and edit my own stories and file across all platforms with limited or no support.
What’s one of your favourite memories from j-school?
I had so many wonderful memories from j-school, it’s hard to choose a favourite. I have great memories of volunteering at CKLN — Ryerson’s former campus-community radio station. I hosted a radio show there every Friday morning, which was a huge thrill and taught me a lot. I also made great friends at Ryerson, some of whom remain my closest friends to this day. We continue to push and support each other in the industry.
Any memorable RSJ professors during your time at Ryerson?
I was blessed with so many great professors. Those who went ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty included David Nayman and Suanne Kelman. I never had Peter McNelly as a professor, but he nonetheless invited me to his home to review and critique the stories I’d produced for CBC News during my internship. David Nayman remains a mentor who I call-on for advice and who is incredibly gracious and generous in offering his time, insight and wisdom.
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
Be humble and hardworking. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and feedback. And keep an open mind and be open to learning new skills.