Catching up with Costa
Former CBC broadcaster and current University of Regina spokesperson and community affairs advisor Costa Maragos recently caught up with the Carillon to talk about his career as a journalist and his post at the U of R.
When did you know that you wanted to be a journalist?
This is a long time ago, but I used to deliver the Leader-Post when I was a kid. I remember, as part of the training that they gave to be a newspaper carrier, they took us to the Leader-Post building and gave us a tour of the whole plant, including the newsroom. I walked into that newsroom and there was a certain kind of… I don’t know what it was, but there was something about being in that newsroom that was really exciting. I just kind of got the bug at that time. I would always read the paper, and there was something about the news that I liked. That’s when it all started. Then, when I was in high school, I wrote for the school paper and it continued on from there.
If journalism didn’t work out, was there a Plan B?
No, I never really had a back-up plan – I was focused on that. My goal was to work in news and that’s what I focused my energy on. I applied to a journalism school at Vancouver Community College, which was really the only serious journalism school in Western Canada at the time, but it was a print school, not broadcasting. I wanted to be a sports columnist – that was my dream at the time – and I was accepted, so I never really had a Plan B. That’s what I wanted to do, and that’s all I wanted to do.
Was your career in journalism everything you thought it would be?
There were times when you doubt yourself, of course, right? That’s how it is. But, when I look back, I did pretty well [with] everything I wanted to do in the business. I got to be a reporter, I got to host my own shows over the years on CBC Radio. I went from a small market to a medium market, where I did the morning show, to the largest market in Canada, which is Toronto, then I got to work in television. I got to anchor, I got to report, I got to do many documentaries, host specials, work on CBC Newsworld, which was then the CNN of Canada. I got to really do everything I wanted to do … I had been nominated for a Gemini Award three times but never won. Then the fourth time, we won, and my name is on a Gemini Award. And, at that time in the later stages of my career, I felt I had pretty well accomplished everything I wanted to do. There are always more things I could’ve done, I suppose, but it was a really good career.
That said, how did you know it was time to move on?
You have to move on eventually and I had been anchoring the news for 23 years. It was just a gut feeling that it was time to move on. I was always very proud of the fact that I adapted to change well in the newsroom. I started in an era at CBC when others wrote the copy for you, then you would go on the air and read it, to where I was doing desktop editing. It was a feeling that it was time to move on. And my feeling was that it was a public enough job where it was best to go when things were still doing well. I had seen too many news anchors who were basically kicked off the air, and I didn’t want to get to that stage. I wanted to leave when things were going well and leave on my own terms, which is what I did, and I have no regrets with that. It was a tough decision to make. One of the most difficult things to do is leave a job that you still love, right? It was very difficult to do that, but I also wanted to leave, not only when things were going well, but if I wanted to do anything else, it would be best for me to leave when things were going well. It was just better karma for the next stage of my working life (laughs). I had no idea what I’d do after I left. It was a difficult decision, there’s no doubt about it, but it was still the right decision to make.
Is your job at the University as fulfilling as your time in journalism?
Let’s put it this way: Doing a live show every day is pretty hard to beat (laughs) – we’re talking live broadcasting. It’s a daily rush, a daily buzz, and I would suggest that I miss that part of the job, so it’s really difficult to match that excitement level on a daily basis. I’ve readjusted my expectations of what to expect from the workplace. What I find at the university is I get a different kind of excitement. I feel more comfortable now being in the background, frankly, so when I find out about, say, a student working on an interesting project, I’m thrilled when somehow I can help in a small way to get that story to the public through the mainstream media or through social media, and that student gets the recognition they deserve for the hard work they’ve done on their research. I get satisfaction from that. Because I was in the public eye for so long, I’m really not interested in being in the public eye anymore (laughs). I’m more thrilled when others get that attention instead of me. It’s just a different mindset, that’s all.
Was dealing with the public nature of your broadcasting career ever too overwhelming?
No, because I just got used to being in the public for so many years, so it was something that I was used to. Besides, it’s still a pretty small market and we see familiar people all the time. It’s never been an issue for me, no.
Final question: Will you ever retire?
Oh, I don’t know! So far, it’s been great at the university. I just consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to land at the U of R. Some colleagues of mine in the business are doing quite well and some are struggling. I just consider myself very fortunate to be here. And I’m at the stage of my life where I’m not really looking at long-term stuff. I’m taking things, really, on more of a day-by-day basis. And, as long as I’m still enjoying myself at the U of R, I will stay here.