When Dana Roberts was nine years old, he regularly emailed City TV’s Breakfast Television detailing what he did during the week in the hope that the anchor would read his email during the morning segment.
“They would never read mine and I was a kid. I was disappointed,” said Roberts.
After many failed attempts, Roberts’ mother told him to sign his email off with his full beautiful and unique name.
“She said ‘sign off with that, and I guarantee they will put you on,’” said Roberts. “I remember thinking ‘how silly is this?’”
So he did. And sure enough, the anchor at the time, Kevin Frankish pulled out an email.
“Dana Joseph Maximillian Roberts in Guelph!” Roberts remembers Frankish saying on TV.
“It became a weekly thing. They would always read my emails every week because Kevin just literally got a kick out of my name.”
Roberts was then called to viewer appreciation parties where he was given the opportunity to throw to the weather guy or the traffic segment.
“Those are my first moments on live television,” said Roberts whose lifelong dream was to be on live television reading the news.
Now, Roberts, 27, is an anchor and reporter for CTV News in Sudbury. His journey was filled with hard work, initiative and immense enthusiasm to tell stories.
“I was almost born into it,” said Roberts detailing his passion as a mesh of his father’s broadcast background in radio and his mother’s passion to write.
By Grade 6 he had already decided to pursue a journalism degree at Ryerson University.
“I already had the broadcasting bug, I was obsessed with watching television news. At that young age of nine, 10, I always watched CTV News, always watched City TV’s Breakfast Television,” said Roberts.
While he completed a BA in journalism in Ryerson that taught him the ins and outs of different mediums, that wasn’t where his training began. Growing up, Roberts used every opportunity he could find to educate himself, fulfill his passion to tell stories and get his name out in the community.
“I remember we used to go to the Elora Gorge a lot one summer and never left without my camera and I had some mock little editing software on my computer and I just kind of pieced something together and I just always really enjoyed filming things and being able to tell a story that way,” said Roberts.
When his father Gary Roberts worked as a radio personality at Magic 106 two decades ago voicing his own commercials, Roberts would be in the Magic studio to take part in commercials that depicted a family.
“I would be the kid. He would write the script particularly so it would be a father-son,” said Roberts.
He said he learned the dynamics of the industry at a young age.
“Every day is different. It was always exciting. I loved the technology, I was just always drawn to it,” said Roberts.
He said he particularly wanted to be an anchor so he can connect with the audience.
“You can connect with your audience in any sort of realm in journalism to some sort of level but I really feel personally, there’s a level of intimacy with television,” said Roberts.
Born and raised in Guelph, when he attended Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School in 2006 he noticed an unfinished television studio in the school. After students showed interest, the principal got the studio running and hired Lisa Richards from Magic 106 on a temporary contract.
One of the projects in the course was to gather a weekly live broadcast instead of using the PA system for announcements which then went on to become BM News that Roberts participated in as an extracurricular activity throughout Grade 11 and Grade 12. He said the experience taught him valuable lessons he uses as an anchor today such as taking initiative, the importance of teamwork and the impact television can have.
Maria Prigione, teacher at Bishop Macdonell Catholic Highschool worked closely with Roberts in the student council. She said the fact that he is now anchoring for CTV comes as no surprise to her.
“He was a natural right from the get go,” said Priogione. “It was like watching a professional newsman.”
Prigione remembers Roberts as a kind, wise old soul who was always respectful, hardworking and reliable.
“If you needed to do something even through school council when he was working on something for school, you knew if you ask Dana, it would get done. He was that type of student and person.”
BM News also gave Roberts the opportunity to work on video projects with the Wellington Catholic District School Board which helped put his name out in the community.
“I got to interview David Onley," Roberts said. "He was the lieutenant governor at the time, I got to interview Paul Martin, He was, of course, the former Prime Minister. I got to interview the mayor a handful of times.”.
“I got involved in some really large projects for a 15-year-old kid. At the time that was extremely exciting.”
After completing his degree in 2014, Roberts completed a two-month internship with CTV News in Saskatoon, worked as an editor and reporter at KitchenerToday and continued to try to make it to broadcast journalism.
Because journalism is so difficult to get into, Roberts said there were times where he just wanted to give up but still continued to expand his skillset. While he worked as a Tim Hortons Manager, he volunteered in Cable 14 Hamilton and never lost focus on his goal.
“If you want to do this industry, that the one thing I’ve learnt over my short time in it. You can’t lose focus,” said Roberts.
Shortly after, CTV Northern Ontario offered him an anchor and reporter position. While he hesitated about jumping into an anchor position for the first time, he said it is important to never doubt yourself.
“I believed in myself. I believed in my capabilities, I believed in my passion for it and I was like I believe that will take me. And lo and behold I managed to get this position,” said Roberts.
Roberts works as a reporter on the weekdays and a news anchor on the weekend at CTV in Sudbury. Through his job, he’s told countless stories across various topics with his favourite stories being character-driven ones.
“I love every part of my job. I love being able to write, I love being able to film, to edit, to interview,” said Roberts.
He said the one piece of advice he would give aspiring journalists is to always believe in yourself.
“Your success is determined by you,” said Roberts.
Roberts says he’s a proud Guelph boy who loves his community.
“I always knew that but you really appreciate it when you leave,” said Roberts.
He said he never understood what anchors in northern Ontario meant when they said they felt a connection with their viewers.
“But you really do. I noticed that up here. People are just so kind. People in the community just want to come to say 'hi' and come up and introduce themselves,” said Roberts.
“You just get to meet so many people and tell their stories and it's a real honour,” said Roberts.