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APTN news reorganizes with new executive producer. (News).

As of Oct. 28, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network news team is on the air every day. The half-hour news show will air Monday to Friday at 6:30 p.m. Central Time (7:30 in Toronto, 4:30 in Vancouver). On Friday, Contact, the call-in show starring Rick Harp, will follow.

There will be a couple of changes viewers will notice: the show is now called APTN National News. Contact's formal name is APTN National News: Contact. Harp will join Nola Wuttunee as the news co-anchor. Wuttunee took over the anchor job last year after Carol Adams (now Carol Morin) left for CBC North.

Sources report that a major announcement regarding an appointment to the vacant Chief Operating Officer position, filled by APTN board chairman Clayton Gordon since the board elected not to renew its contract with former COO Ron Nadeau, was scheduled for just after Windspeaker's production deadline. It was expected that Jean Larose, the director of communications for the Assembly of First Nations for the last nine years, would be named to the COO position. Reliable sources confirmed that Larose made a presentation to the hiring committee and was informed by the board that he had emerged as the top choice. Negotiations about details of his contract were being finalized as we went to press.

The change that will have the most direct effect on news is the hiring of 14-year Vision-TV veteran Rita Deverell as executive producer of news and current affairs. She joined APTN in August. The two-time Gemini Award winner was a founding member of Vision-TV and was the network anchor, vice-president and senior producer.

Deverell spoke to this publication on Oct. 22, the day after she was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Vancouver. She entered the hall with Pamela Wallin and eight other people who have "made a major contribution to Canadian broadcasting."

Moving from Toronto to Winnipeg, where APTN headquarters is located, was not a problem for the veteran journalist.

"In the original, original sense, I guess I'm from the Prairies in that I was born in Houston (Texas). So after I became a Canadian and ended up in Regina, I thought: 'Oh, I've come home,'" she said.

She worked in the Saskatchewan capital 25 years ago.

"It was in Regina that I first began to do journalistic work on Aboriginal stories," she said.

Now in her late 50s, Deverell had not expected her career to take such a dramatically different turn when she left Vision-TV.

"I wasn't planning on putting up my feet and swinging in the sun, but I was not planning on coming to Winnipeg. I was not planning on launching a daily show in APTN and I wasn't actually planning on staying in the really, really fast paced news and current affairs game. I made the decision to retire from Vision-TV which was a hard decision," she said. "And then after I did that, and I was planning on going in a number of directions, none of which was head of news and current affairs at APTN, then APTN came along. So my, retirement didn't last very long."

But she's excited about the opportunity.

"I have been interested in, concerned about Aboriginal issues for 25 years," she said.

When she started working for the CBC in Regina she noticed that Aboriginal people made up 30 per cent of the population but they certainly weren't the subject of 30 per cent of the stories in news and current affairs programming.

"I said to the news director that I would like to do something to change that. He said, 'Good luck to you.' With that modest amount of encouragement, I did do a couple of seasons of feature stories about Aboriginal issues and people," she said. "My sensitivity to, these issues, which is not more sensitive than anyone in the world, is that I grew up in the southern United States and I'm black. Two things were very noticeable to me when I first came to Regina. One was that Native people were kind of on the margins of society the way that black people were when I was growing up. The second thing was that everyone would immediately tell me, because I was black, that they weren't racist. They would say that they weren't like those awful people in the United States. But they didn't notice that the same kind of racism was directed at Aboriginal people. It was such a given that they didn't even know it was happening."

She doesn't claim to be an expert on Aboriginal issues. She said she'll rely on her "terrifically talented" editorial staff to help with the fine points in that regard.

"But I do think there was an almost visceral understanding of what was going on. It took a while to get from the pit of my stomach to the top of my head," she said.

She said the news department isn't getting a major bump in its budget to help smooth the way to going on the air every day, but she doesn't see it as a problem.

"We are doing news and current affairs. We are not doing a straight news show. We will do news, what's happening today. But we don't intend to try to outrun CNN. For a couple of reasons. One: we don't stand a chance of doing that. You can't just double our budget to do that. Second: that wouldn't be' making much of a contribution if we tried to do that. CNN is already very good at being CNN. The purpose of APTN National News is to deal with events of the day, the week, the month, from Aboriginal perspectives. I think we need to be more expert on why rather than when," she said. "We'll spend that money as smart as we can."

She hopes to increase the amount of international indigenous news stories.

"We really have to give people information that they can't get anyplace else," she said.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Barnsley, Paul
Publication:Wind Speaker
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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