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Rieti lives up to Gzowski internship

By Janet Harron | June 5, 2008

John Rieti bubbles over with enthusiasm for his “lucky” break in being named the Peter Gzowski intern for Newfoundland and Labrador for 2008.  The newly minted English grad has already spent considerable time pursuing his chosen career of journalism with a summer 2007 reporting job at the Independent, and two stints at the muse – as sports and health editor from 2004-2006 and as editor-in-chief from 2006-2007.

But the Gzowski internship has been the icing on the cake.

"It’s just a real honour to have an internship with that name on it. With every single thing you read about Peter Gzowski you realize how important he was to Canada. I definitely have a lot to live up to,” said Mr. Rieti.

In preparation for the internship interview, Mr. Rieti scoured the Queen Elizabeth II library for books by and about Gzowski. He devoured volumes of the Morningside Papers, Gzowski’s essays on hockey, and Remembering Peter Gzowski, a book of tributes published after Gzowski’s death from emphysema in January 2002.

Mr. Rieti also has another connection to the renowned broadcaster. His mother, Dr. Barbara Rieti, was interviewed by Peter Gzowski in 1991 upon the publication of her study of Fairies in Newfoundland, Strange Terrain.  Halfway through the taping of the interview, technical problems caused the transmitter to crash.  Gzowski was extremely apologetic about the interruption but Dr. Rieti was unfazed and without missing a beat commented “that’s what happens when you talk about the fairies.”

During the first week of May, John and the other three Gzowski interns (from McGill, Trent and Simon Fraser universities) had a “master class” in radio broadcasting from long-time CBC producer Havoc Franklin in Toronto.  Mr. Franklin, having previously worked on Morningside, now (in addition to his duties as national coordinator for the internship) works in show development.

“Havoc taught us everything – from the beauty of radio and how it should be used best – to what makes it a distinct medium. We also learned how to develop stories and scripts, how to write for radio and tips for presenting on-air,” said Mr. Rieti.

Interns were treated to private tours of the CBC headquarters in Toronto and guest speakers such as Nick Purden and Sook-Yin Lee from Definitely Not the Opera and Judy Madren from World Report talked to them about how best to develop as a radio journalist.

John Rieti’s enthusiasm for radio is infectious. He and his fellow interns will no doubt be instrumental in attracting the younger demographic that the CBC is looking for.

“My parents brought me up on CBC Radio but my big conversion came last summer when I was house sitting. The whole house was wired to AM 640 and I just got used to having those conversations with the hosts.  If you listen just for a day you get hooked.”

As part of his internship John Rieti is employed at the CBC in St. John’s for the summer where his duties include researching and writing scripts. Upcoming stories include a look at the student Muslim community at MUN for Radio Noon and a review of a wrestling film for Time Out.

He particularly signals out broadcaster Jacinta Wall who he says can watch every minute of a Stanley Cup game in overtime, deliver the news all the next day and produce Time Out for 6 p.m.

Complementing his radio experience, Rieti has also started to experiment with photography. Having a camera, he says, changes the way you look at stories and at the world.  He also listens more intently wherever he goes now. 

“Radio journalism is all about telling stories with sound … essentially it’s about capturing the best noises you can get.”

In addition to his on-the-job experience as a journalist, Rieti recognizes the role Memorial’s English department played in his education. The diploma programs in professional writing and creative non fiction writing were of great interest, he said. 

Dr. Robert Finley’s focus on the individual aspects of essay writing in the latter course was particularly helpful to John as he begins to experiment with more personal journalism.

“I’m interested in all aspects of journalism – and it’s fascinating to me that with the proliferation of web based media and blogging that we’re seeing things become more personal all the time.  In essence Gzowski was a forerunner of this … he was the king of host-driven radio and appeared both genuinely interested and curious in each of the 27,000 interviews he did.”

After the completion of his internship in August, John Rieti will be hopping a plane back to Toronto to begin his master’s in journalism at Ryerson University.