Produced and anchored by Daiene Vernile from 1985 to 2014
In the spring of 1985, I pitched a show idea to CKCO-TV Program Manager Don Willcox for a weekly, half-hour news and current affairs program.
Graduation from Wilfrid Laurier was just a month away and I needed a job. During my time at university studying history and politics, I had the good fortune of working weekends at the station as a part-time news reporter, which helped fund my post secondary education while allowing me to keep active as a broadcast news journalist.
Much to my excitement and relief, Don said, “Yes,” and I signed a 13-week contract to produce a provincial current affairs program which came to be named Provincewide. The launch date was Saturday, September 14, 1985, with the initial time slot at 5:30pm. The following year, my contract was renewed and the program was shifted to Sunday
nights at 6:30pm.
Although I had previously worked as an anchor and legislative reporter at Toronto’s Multicultural radio station CHIN (1978 – 1980), and as a general assignments reporter at ABC affiliate KRGV-TV in south Texas (1980 – 1981), I had no experience producing a television program. Needless to say, it was a steep learning curve.
Not only was I responsible for researching issues, writing scripts, and interviewing guests, but as the producer, I was also tasked with every aspect of getting the weekly show to air: booking guests, securing cameras and studio time, ordering graphics, arranging parking and make-up for guests, etc. When the Provincewide phone rang and I answered, callers were often surprised to hear me on the line. “Oh, it’s you? You answer your own phone?”
It was a one-woman-operation, with an excellent operations team. Little did we know at the time that Provincewide would go on to become the longest, continuously-running, locally produced news and current affairs program in Canada and a mainstay for CKCO-TV for over 29 years.
From the onset, we utilized “double-ender” technology to carry out our interviews, a fairly new technique before satellite television became commonplace. In the mid 1980s, CKCO-TV had over ten bureaus in communities across southwestern Ontario, the Grey-Bruce Peninsula, and Muskoka. Camera operators, outfitted with an inexpensive telephone coupling device, would record a guest’s on camera answers to my questions being fed from the Kitchener studio. The interviewee’s tape was then delivered to the station where the questions and answers were edited together for a seamless conversation. The result was good quality audio, much better than what you might hear over a telephone line. The double-ender gave us widespread access to newmakers across our coverage area. If a person had a telephone and we could get a camera operator to him or her, we had a story.
Important newsmakers who visited Waterloo Region, of course, could join us for an in-studio interview. But, before that would happen, I had to convince them to appear on the show. I remember many phone calls during the early years which often went like this… “You’re who…from where…and you want to interview ME?” After a couple of years, as Provincewide became better known, as the ratings grew, and as we won some prestigious broadcast awards, suddenly the newsmakers were calling us to get on TV.
Over the course of three decades, Provincewide featured interviews with every sitting Canadian Prime Minister and Ontario Premier. We also interviewed best-selling authors, tech millionaires, celebrities, scientists, athletes, farmers, humanitarians, a woman who talked to donkeys, and even a bank robber in jail.
As the years unfolded, so too did Provincewide’s format. The double-enders made way for long-format feature reports built on a current events narrative. The field segments were usually shot by Brian “Buck” Dunseith, although other photos filled in when Buck was on vacation. I came to rely on his consummate camera work.
Not only did the format evolve, but so too did the technology used to produce the program. Over the course of 29 years, we recorded and stored shows and segments on many different formats – one-inch, two-inch, ¾ inch, VHS, M-1, M-2, D-2, and DVD discs. At the start, scripts were banged out on an electric type-writer, eventually making way to more efficient computers and printers.
And, then there was the ever changing specter of fashions and hairstyles. In the 1980s, most TV anchor women sported big shoulders and big hair – I was no exception. By the turn of the century, the hair, clothing, and make-up were toned down. Viewers always loved to comment on how you looked, although it seemed my male colleagues were not subjected to the same scrutiny.
In 2008 and 2009, Provincewide was recognized as Canada’s Best News Information Program by the RTNDA (the association of Electronic Journalists), and in 2010, was distinguished with the International Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding achievement in television journalism.
Then, in 2014, opportunity came knocking. I was asked to run as the Kitchener Centre Liberal candidate in an upcoming provincial election. It was a very difficult decision choosing to leave Provincewide, but it was my children who ultimately pushed me to take the leap. I had always encouraged them not to be risk averse in life. They gave me the same advice. Don’t you hate it when kids repeat your words back to you?
On June 12, 2014, I was elected to serve as the Member of Provincial Parliament for Kitchener Centre. Shortly after my departure, CTV News Kitchener canceled Provincewide, and the Sunday evening newscast was expanded to a full hour.
On reflection, I was saddened to learn that Provincewide, which started from humble beginnings and evolved into a well-respected news magazine program, was not being reassigned to another reporter.
And, so many years later, it’s still surprising when strangers stop to tell me how much they enjoyed watching Provincewide, that it was interesting and informative.
Producer & Anchor
Provincewide 25th Anniversary Show (2010)
Press Release – September 15, 2010
PROVINCEWIDE and Daiene Vernile Celebrate 25 Years Today on CTV Southwestern Ontario
Toronto, Ontario (September 15, 2010) – Today, CTV Southwestern Ontario’s award-winning PROVINCEWIDE (Sundays 6:30 p.m. ET) celebrates 25 years on the air, making it the longest, continuous-running, locally produced news and current affairs program in Canadian television history.
From humble beginnings in 1985, CTV’s Daiene Vernile has produced and anchored PROVINCEWIDE, interviewing every sitting Canadian prime minister, Ontario premier, and many, many other news makers. Each week, PROVINCEWIDE tackles vital issues affecting the people of Ontario.
“Our ongoing success and endurance has been driven by the loyalty of our viewers who tune in every week and CTV’s abiding commitment to local television,” said Vernile. “And we will continue to serve those viewers with a special anniversary in November as well as of surprises throughout the 25th season.”
PROVINCEWIDE’s outstanding achievement in television journalism was recognized this year with the International Edward R. Murrow Award for News Documentary. In 2008 and 2009, PROVINCEWIDE was distinguished as Canada’s Best News Information Program by the RTNDA (the Association of Electronic Journalists).
Provincewide Townhall – Starting Over: Life After Downsizing (2010)
Provincewide Townhall – Baby Boomers: The Next Chapter (2011)