Chris Bury, BA 03, won’t soon forget February 8, 2023.
That was the day that two children, aged four and five, were killed in Laval, Quebec, after a man intentionally drove a bus through a daycare. Six other children were hospitalized as a result of the attack.
The shocking event occurred nine months after the Department of Journalism alumnus and radio veteran had been promoted to news director at CTV News Montreal — his first major foray into television — as well as CJAD 800 and TSN 690.
In his relatively new and multifacted role, Bury helped coordinate broad coverage for Bell Media’s radio, television and digital audiences.
“The press conferences that CJAD 800 rolled out that day were fed from CTV cameras on site,” he recalls. “CTV sent two reporters to the scene, Olivia O’Malley [BA 18] and Amanda Kline [BA 11], who both provided hourly updates for radio.
“My job, throughout that day, was to try to marshal our resources as best as I could. I was proud of the work we did under some difficult circumstances.”
‘Thinking about the operation overall’
Not every day in the newsroom is punctuated by tragedy. But no two days are the same, either, remarks Bury.
“There is no opportunity to get bored in this job. It’s not just about seeing the news directly, it’s thinking about the operation overall and interacting with various departments, whether it be legal or HR or marketing. There is no typical day or week.”
And yet, there is a bit of a rhythm to the work. By 6 a.m. on weekdays, Bury compiles and sends out a list of suggested topics to his teams. Three hours later, he’s typically at the office attending a CTV assignment meeting.
“I also have meetings once a week with all of the weekday programs at TSN 690 and CJAD 800,” he adds. “What happens in between all of that depends on the day and the time of year. In this business you can plan all you want. Then, all of a sudden you’re going to spend the entire day concentrating on a breaking story — which is what happened with the Laval daycare tragedy.”
‘Powerful journalists who had credibility’
Growing up, Bury didn’t necessarily know whether he wanted to pursue broadcasting or journalism, but in retrospect, it was all around him.
Formative memories of hearing CJAD 800 radio personalities like George Balkan, Ted Blackman and Gord Sinclair “always gave me a cue as to what time of day it was,” he says. For a time, he dreamt of becoming the play-by-play announcer for the Montreal Canadiens.
Not exactly a rarity in a hockey-mad city, perhaps. But being related to a journalism and print-media legend is.
The late Charles Bury, Chris’s uncle, was the editor of the Sherbrooke Record newspaper from 1981 to 1996. He also served as a director and chair of the Canadian Association of Journalists, which annually presents an award in his name to people who have made significant contributions to the field.
“I can’t say with certainty that my uncle was really a driving force for my career,” admits Bury. “Charles and his siblings constantly debated news stories around the dinner table at length, and with a good deal of intellectual heft, so that likely inspired something. Maybe you could say it was in the blood.”
Intellectual heft is a quality that Bury also came to appreciate about some of the faculty at Concordia.
“We had professors like Lindsay Crysler and Sheila Arnopoulos [MA 78]. They were powerful journalists who had credibility and whose opinions I respected a lot.”
‘The job that ended up launching my career’
Ultimately, the emphasis the Journalism program placed on practical knowledge was transformative.
“I thought that they did a really good job of getting people out into the field,” Bury explains. “I think my first internship was at the [Montreal] Gazette and my second at CJAD 800, and that got me the job that ended up launching my career.”
Bury has since gone on to hire many Concordia journalism grads himself and, pre-pandemic, spoke to first-year students in the department every fall, a practice he says he would like to resume.
His advice to students? Develop multiple skills. Show that you can write well, shoot and edit video and have some acumen with social media.
Oh, and one more thing: Don’t believe everything you hear about the demise of journalism.
“I’ve never seen a case where a strong young journalist didn’t find employment,” Bury says. “There’s always going to be room for those who are promising and who perform well.
“Change is inevitable in this industry. You just need to be willing to adapt.”