Toronto-based Global News anchor Crystal Goomansingh’s mom likes to show off a snapshot taken more than 30 years ago during a Santa Claus parade in downtown Winnipeg. At age five, Crystal is posed in front of the old CJOB broadcast centre at Portage Avenue and Lenore Street where, years later, she’d get her first big break in broadcasting.
“My mom said I did not want my picture with the Santa float at all — I wanted my picture with the radio station as the background,” Goomansingh says.
“I don’t know if that was an early sign or what it was; there was something about it that I really loved.”
Fast-forward to 1997, when Goomansingh was getting her feet wet in radio and TV broadcasting while earning dual academic and vocational diplomas at Tec-Voc High School.
“We would do news programs and you’d get to do all the different jobs, and it was just something that clicked and I loved it,” she says.
That fall, at age 18, Goomansingh would be one of the youngest students entering the Creative Communications program at Red River College, but as high school graduation loomed, her future was still uncertain.
That’s when CJOB entered the picture again, with a full-ride scholarship that would not only see her through two years of intense schooling, but would also provide on-the-job experience.
“I still remember the day that I got the letter from CJOB saying I got the scholarship,” she says. “One of my best friends drove me down to CJOB and … I think I held it together in the office, but I got to the car and I was just crying and shaking reading that letter.”
The scholarship included a summer job at CJOB. Goomansingh started work the day after high-school graduation, travelling to community events throughout southern Manitoba and filing live reports from the field as the Royal LePage Community Cruiser coordinator.
From there, she moved into a job filling “dub” requests: When listeners wrote in asking for a copy of a radio show, she’d record the shows on cassette tapes and mail them out. Later, she became the overnight operator, playing old reel-to-reel radio shows and adding in commercials. Now 36, Goomansingh figures she’s one of the youngest journalists around who knows how to splice a news reel.
Working at CJOB on weekends, Goomansingh immersed herself in the CreComm experience during the week, soaking up lessons from old-school journalists-turned-instructors: Donald Benham in her first year and Duncan McMonagle in her second.
“It was fantastic. It was so intense, but I loved every minute of it,” she says, recalling the adrenaline rush of heading out to find a story, then racing back to the College to write and file it to Benham, whose zero-tolerance policies meant an automatic fail on stories that contained spelling or factual errors, or were handed in after deadline.
“He would be standing there, and he would pull the box away if you were a minute late.”
McMonagle was equally demanding, and Goomansingh says he also forced students to expand their news horizons.
“By then I think we were all used to the idea that if you didn’t get it right you failed. Duncan pushed national and international news knowledge and pushed boundaries of what our backyard was,” she says.
“It was a tough program. It was an intense program, but it kind of had to be because if you’re going to actually get into the industry and survive, you’re going to need those lessons to go, ‘OK this is not going to be simple.’”
At 18, it was a heavy load to shoulder, and there was additional pressure to maintain solid grades, which she had to submit to CJOB.
“It was always a little stressful, the fear of potentially losing my scholarship. For me it was a big part of what kind of changed my life. I was raised on the wrong side of the tracks, as they say, and raised by a single mom and I don’t know if I would have actually been able to go to College without it.”
Goomansingh’s first home was on Manitoba Avenue in the North End. When her parents split up, she spent her preteen and teen years in public housing, an experience that serves her well as a journalist, providing a more nuanced perspective of social issues.
“I think I’m very fortunate to have such a wide variety of experiences,” she says. “I think I’m a little more sensitive in some cases and know how to approach people, and may be a little bit more relatable in certain circumstances. But that’s one of the great things — I think if you love what you do, it shows, and I think if you can treat every single person you meet and talk to with respect and dignity, that’s always going to come back to you.”
As a broadcaster, Goomansingh has been a bit of a nomad, working for CKDM Radio in Dauphin, CJBN-TV in Kenora, CBC Calgary, CBC Manitoba and the former A-Channel in Winnipeg. In 2007, she joined Global National as a Winnipeg-based reporter, and she was delighted to meet a fellow CreCommer three years later when 1984 grad Dawna Friesen came onboard.
“It was one of the first things we talked about when she joined Global National as our anchor,” she says.
“I love the program. I’m a big supporter of it. Even to this day, when I find out that someone’s a CreCommer I make a point of saying, ‘Hey, I am too. What was your year?’”
During her time with Global National, Goomansingh travelled the country, North America and the world, including a six-week stint in Kandahar in 2011, covering the war in Afghanistan.
“Being a war correspondent was something that was always a goal of mine,” she says. “It was spectacular. It really opened my eyes to the work that the Canadian soldiers do.”
Goomansingh and her husband, Adam Reid, moved to Toronto after she accepted a job in late 2013 as the health reporter and weekend anchor for Global News Toronto.
She soon earned two Canadian Medical Association Awards for health reporting — she keeps them in her book case along with an award from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and the CreComm Alumni Award of Achievement she received at the 2012 Creative Communications Media Awards. And she was quickly recognized in other Toronto-based media, including Flare magazine and pet-centric publication Get Leashed, which focused on her cat Peaches, an aging grande dame she adopted from the Winnipeg Humane Society during her first year in CreComm.
After her move, her mom ordered a time-shift cable-TV package so she could watch Global Toronto, but these days, her family no longer needs time-shifting to see her. Since mid-2015, Goomansingh has been at the forefront of a new media innovation. As part of Global’s Multi-Market Content unit, she anchors Global News for seven cities — including Winnipeg — each weeknight, hosting newscasts tailored to each individual market with a mix of local and national content.
The high-tech operation is worlds away from the old radio reels and the comparatively primitive facilities of RRC’s student newspaper, and Goomansingh says it’s impossible to know what the media landscape will look like five years from now. She just hopes she’s still writing and telling stories.
“And that’s really, really what it all comes down to,” she says. “It’s all about the people. It’s all about the characters. It’s about the accountability for the elected official, and no matter how or where we’re telling those stories … it’s still Day One of CreComm. Somebody is doing something for some reason, now go find a good story.”
Learn more about RRC’s Creative Communications program.