Sonia Sunger and Sonia Beeksma – The dynamic duo at Global BC
By Jasleen Kaur
Sonia Beeksma and Sonia Sunger are a part of Global BC News; the lively team has a lot in common including their first name.
Sonia and Sonia are hosting the first Drishti Awards Gala. Drishti Media Awards celebrates pioneers in business, community engagement, youth, sports, arts, science, technology, and health. The two categories that I am excited and looking forward to—are the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Phoenix Award that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit amidst challenges. With so many inspiring people and two pioneer media personalities hosting, this is one event you won’t want to miss. Expect a lot of fun, passion, and inspiration.
Interacting with the two spirited gals was a great experience. Here’s an excerpt from our candid chat about their incredible foray into the world of journalism and the detours along the way.
The journey to discovering our passion
I have always been a performer as far as I can remember. I was born in New Delhi and moved to Canada at the age of nine. Growing up, I was lucky to have parents that encouraged me to pursue my desire for dance & music.
Majority of my adolescent experience included dancing professionally and doing commercials. I was well aware of the importance of education but at the time I felt apprehensive about the commitment it required. This is around the time I also met my to-be husband and wanted to get married to which my parents said, “Hold on you have to get an education under your belt first.” Since I was always attracted to science and research, I completed the Medical Lab Technician program as my first step towards becoming a career woman. Four years into my lab career, I knew I had more potential and had to follow my dreams. Consequently, with my husband’s support I ended up going back to school for broadcasting and have never looked back.
I was born and raised in Victoria, BC, and I knew that I wanted to be a journalist at a very young age. It all probably started when I was about ten years old. I would come home from school and watch Oprah on TV. I started researching her background and found out that she started in radio broadcasting and worked in TV news before she became the host of her own show.
When I was in high school, I explored my interest further in a career investigation course. I day-shadowed reporters at the Chek 6 channel in Victoria and saw fist hand what it was like to be a reporter. I also started to do a radio show during the lunch hour in Grade 11, organized and hosted a few events. Through a career investigation program at my school, I went to explore the broadcasting program at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. At this point, I was also thinking of other possible careers like political science or law. I became discouraged because I was told broadcasting was too competitive. After my first year of university, I made up my mind that I wanted to be a journalist.
The Media Experience
I went to Columbia Academy and later BCIT, where I received diverse hands-on work experience being a presenter to the other parts of reporting. In my second year, I landed a great internship opportunity with Etalk in Toronto. For the first time, I got an opportunity to grow as an individual, as I was on my own away from my husband and family. The entire experience forced me evolve as a person and get comfortable in my own skin. I started with entertainment writing, and soon I got hired as a reporter for Warner Brothers and met many artists, actors, and performers.
At this point, I had an identity crisis of sorts and realized I did not enjoy entertainment as much as I thought, and that’s when my focus shifted towards news. I took up the challenge and went up north to pursue news reporting. I missed my husband who was still here and made the choice to come back.
After coming home, I got connected to Global and started an internship position. Like most serious interns, I worked hard to make sure I was noticed for my abilities and passion. Sushma Ji from RJ 1200 connected with me and offered me a position as a part-time news reporter and talk show, host. I quickly moved on to CKNW where I continued to report news and traffic. BC 1 24hr news station had launched around the same time. One day I walked into Ian Haysom’s office (News Director at the time) and asked for an on screen test. That’s when my journey with Global BC started. I play a lot of roles at the station, but my most recognized one is Weather Anchor on the Weekend Morning Show and the Community Calendar host.
I moved to Montreal when I was 19 years-old after I got accepted into the journalism program at Concordia University. I started writing for the university newspaper and also attempted to launch my own political affairs magazine. I was about halfway through my degree when I got in touch with the News Director at CTV Edmonton. I knew someone who worked there, and they suggested I spend some time there during summer break. The summer break ended up launching my career.
I had organized a two-week day-shadowing gig there, and after those two weeks were up, I just kept coming back to the station. I started to get paid shifts where I was writing and researching stories for the 6 pm anchors. I was in heaven and loved the work. I decided that I would stay in Edmonton and continued my studies at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, where I graduated with honors from the Radio and Television Arts Program. I started at CTV as a casual writer and within a few months I was asked to file my first on-air report, after that I got asked to do a live on-air report, and it just progressed from there. I went on to be a web reporter, reporter, producer and at the age of 24 I finally achieved my dream of becoming a news anchor for the late-night newscast. After about six months, I was promoted to the 6 pm weekend anchor and weekday reporter. I stayed in that role until I moved to the lower mainland to pursue a new opportunity with Global News and the 24-hour news channel they were launching. After getting in contact with Global BC, I was soon hired as the weekday anchor for the new channel, called BC1. I cover everything from breaking news stories to long-form live interviews. You can now watch me weekday mornings and afternoons on Global News BC1.
The best part of our job
Community stories are my niche. Reporting and highlighting positive and uplifting community stories resonates with me deeply.
The best part of weather is that mostly it’s great news, it is reporting and storytelling but directed in one area, and there is no script. You get to work with some great graphics; everything is spontaneous, and you are constantly studying and discovering weather patterns. It’s exhilarating!
I love what I do. By nature, I am a very curious person, and I get to ask questions for a living. You often hear from people that news is depressing, but I think what’s more depressing is ignoring things just because they make us feel uncomfortable. I love the fact that I get to inform people through my work, and this is incredibly rewarding for me. I have to say interviewing is the highlight of my work, whether it is a highly charged political interview or one with a child who completed a fundraising goal; they both have value.
Multiculturalism in Media
We are at the point where your ethnicity is not a big deal anymore, what matters the most is that you can do the job well. I think we are in a beautiful era of our society. Of course there is room for improvement, and we are and should constantly be evolving but it is important to get to a point where your ethnicity does not hinder your gifts and potential.
I am a second-generation Canadian, and I am very proud of that, but at the same time I feel that in my role as a journalist my ethnicity shouldn’t matter. I forget my ethnic background while I am working; it is my work that has my focus, not I. The only time I might think about it is when I see Sonia Beeksma. (Laughs)
We are extremely thrilled about doing this event together!
It will be nice to connect with a variety of new people that we do not get to do from our newsroom. I am so proud to be a part of our Indian community—it’s a beautiful, generous culture with so many positive traits. When an event like this comes, it is the most auspicious time to emphasize and celebrate the strong, positive characteristics of a culture, and I am looking forward to sharing that experience with my side kick.
I am looking forward to connecting with people and recognize the important people who are contributing in a positive way. Another aspect I am looking forward to is connecting with the Indian community on a more personal level. We do not get to do that very much.
People can expect a lot of fun. It will be a memorable evening with the two Sonias.