Name: Catherine Barr
Occupation(s): Reporter/columnist by trade in traditional media since 1996, also owner/editor/programmer of WestVancouver.com / NorthVancouver.com since 1998.
Who is your role model: I have lots of people who might fit in here, but when I really think about it, the truthful answer is my parents. They came to this country as immigrants with very little and worked hard to get where they are now. They fought all kinds of adversity yet always saw the good in everything. Better yet, they taught me that the world is a big and exciting place and that even the rainiest of days was something to be treasured as long as you were healthy and happy. To this day, they refuse to be boring, because life is just too short. I agree completely.
What do you like most about your job: There’s something different every day in the news world which helps keep things exciting. That, plus a love of people is probably why I went into the business in the first place. Things have changed dramatically in the new media era, but I still love the thrill of the chase of a new story and the ability to be in control of my own online publications. The digital world these days seems to like to turn news into entertainment and is too quick to shrug off the responsibilities that used to come with traditional publishing. I love dealing with events and people, that’s my target audience, but I cringe when I read a badly written article by an anonymous writer that’s full of factual errors and spelling mistakes. It makes our industry look very bad. We also need to give less weight to the Kim Kardashians of the world and start caring more about boring topics like budgets, governments and the laws that shape our lives. If the public doesn’t learn to demand a higher degree of responsible journalism, then I fear we may lose one of the most important watchdog elements in our society. Publishers need to stop listening to tech/money guys screaming “more hits” and start listening to their editors again. Quality over quantity has to prevail.
Daily ritual: Computer, email, article writing/reading, evening events, then programming until the wee hours of the morning. Repeat every day.
The most rewarding part of my job is: I call it responsible freedom. When you work for yourself you have the freedom to do a lot of things your own way, including set your own hours. The tradeoff however is that you usually end up working long hours and there is never technically any paid vacations. Also, if you don’t upkeep certain standards and act responsibly it can bite you when you least expect it. So in other words, it’s freedom - but at a price.
What has been your biggest strength that’s helped you succeed in your industry? Absolute dedication and determination. Keep your eye on the ball. I can’t say it enough. Get distracted and you lose your game. Also don’t let it get personal. It sometimes does, but if you can play it cool and fly straight it almost always works out. Also respect, for others and for yourself.
Memorable celebrity encounter/interview: I’ve met a lot of celebrities and most of them are really nice. Hard core rockers, like Aerosmith, Tommy Lee and AC/DC, are always a surprise as they’re all older now and have a lot of wild stories. Actor Samuel L. Jackson was very cool as was Michael Keaton and Martin Sheen. I wish I had had more time with Richard Dreyfuss because I’ve always been a big fan but a quick interview was all I got. But I have had dinner twice now with Sir Richard Branson and he is every bit as dynamic as you’ve heard. Bradley Cooper was definitely the most handsome.
Favourite quote: Somebody said that it couldn’t be done, and he with a chuckle replied, that maybe it couldn’t but he would be one that wouldn’t say so till he tried; so he buckled right in with a trace of a grin on his face, if he worried, he hid it; and he started to sing, as he started the thing, that couldn’t be done - and he did it. - Edgar Guest
Describe your personal style: Thanks to all the evening galas and events that I go to, my closet looks a little like a drag queen threw up in it. I’ve always been a bit of a closet drag queen myself. I love the big hair and the fabulous larger than life personality that says “Here I am, take it or leave it”. I have sequins and sparkles everywhere and way too many pairs of shoes. I loved barbie dolls as a little girl so that’s probably where it started. If you have a name for all of that, then that would probably be my style.
Dream vacation spot? Monte Carlo on a really big luxury yacht.
What is your favourite thing to take pictures of? People of course. But as I’ve said for years, I’m a writer, not a photographer. Taking good photos is hard so I usually have to make people laugh first to get a good shot. Lately it’s all been about the video for me. I love the way I can get all of the elements - sound, photos, music, storyline - all in the one medium.
What has been your favourite event to attend? That is a tough question. Last year’s Louis Vuitton launch party was very memorable and included Moet champagne, private black limos and a fantasy train ride to a movie studio lot where everyone partied until the wee hours. Also Saeedeh Salem’s famous charity events, held at her Okanagan vineyards, are among the most glamorous around. She’s flown in everyone from the Kelowna Symphony to singer Jarvis Church and Jully Black to perform at the gala dinners. Very chic.
Favourite Restaurant: My house - especially when my guy and I get some time to cook together.
What is your biggest indulgence? Crab legs, lemon butter with a cold bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
If there was more time in the day you would: I would spend more time at the piano. Music is a very big part of my life and I love playing old jazz standards. Also maybe more golf with friends.
Favourite social network: I’m kind of into Pinterest right now but I find it the most personally revealing. Twitter is a fave too but it totally drives me crazy. Facebook is just getting too confusing and too demanding, but it is the best way to keep up with friends.
Favourite Blog: The BBC online - but I don’t consider it a blog as much as I consider it a news website.
Where do you go for good ideas? I cannot live without the Internet. I know that’s a lame answer, but there are so so many people out there with so many fascinating ideas. I literally suffer withdrawal if I find that I’m unconnected for any more than a few hours. You could spend a lifetime scouring the net and still never get to everything which really bugs me. I’m a sponge. I want to soak it all up.
Last song you downloaded: Things Will Get Better - by local Vancouver band Bend Sinister
What is the most challenging thing you have ever done? Coding both NorthVancouver.com / WestVancouver.com is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. They are both huge sites and when I started back in 1998 there were very few resources around. Trying to network all of our live web cams was a nightmare and I actually had to solder plugs and wires together to get it all to work. We had the only live web cam pointing at the Lions Gate Bridge when it went under construction in April 1999 and before we knew it, we had 250,000 hits on the server which basically melted it. People told me it was one of those “good” problems because we were so popular now that people would never forget us. Luckily, years later, they never have. Publishing and coding these sites continues to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it is now also one of the most rewarding.
What are you obsessed with right now? Right now I am obsessed with movie making and video news productions. I’m shooting hours and hours of event video for my new online feature in The Province, as well as WestVancouver.com and NorthVancouver.com, and I can’t help but want to turn them all into full featured productions. I’m even scoring my own soundtracks and music to go with them. The perfect lighting. The right kind of sound. It’s kind of like choreographing a dance. I love it all. Next I want to focus on personal interviews with people. I’d love to become a kind of Barbara Walters one day. There are so many stories that need to be told.
Any other comments/thoughts you’d like to add: (ie. new business features you are offering now) Please visit me at CatherineBarr.com or at WestVancouver.com / NorthVancouver.com and visit me at The Province online at http://blogs.theprovince.com/tag/cats-meow/ - I’m always looking for new ideas and leads.
CountDown Events loved having Catherine Barr as our #FF of the week, thank you Catherine. If you would like to see more of her please visit her website at CatherineBarr.com or follow her on Twitter @CatherineBarr and be sure to follow us on twitter @CountDownEvents as we bring you another fabulous Friday Follow.