Dateline correspondent Andrea Canning began her journalism career in Canada before working just a couple of hours from Columbus at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. Now, after more than 20 years in the field, she’s gearing up for Dateline’s 26th season, premiering on Sept. 29. Canning spoke about Dateline’s upcoming season, her career and the field of journalism.
Q: Looking back on your career, both with Dateline and before Dateline, what moments are most memorable?
I really need to keep a sheet of my most memorable moments, like write them down, because there’s so many. I’m thinking it’s not really one moment, it’s really any time a story moves me to the point where I want to keep in touch with those people where they changed my life in some way, those are the stories that really hit home the most with me. If there’s anything to do with moms or children, I tend to remember those ones the best because I’m a mom of five, so those ones really hit me.
Q: Can you think of any specific stories?
The Skylar Neece story, I don’t know if you remember that story, but it was in West Virginia and was a young girl and she was stabbed by her two best friends, and it made national headlines. Her parents, Mary and Dave, I talked to on a regular basis and now years later. You know they were just two good people who had one child, Skylar, and they loved her so much … and they trusted these girls so much, her friends, and for them to be able to do that and then to pretend that they were helping search for their daughter, that they were there to comfort them, was particularly disturbing. So stories like that, where my heart just went out to these parents, and it’s like just a nightmare, they were just an all-American family, and then they were suddenly living a nightmare.
Q: Trust in journalists and the field of journalism has declined in recent years. How do you see Dateline responding to the backlash the field has undergone?
I just think we keep doing our thing. Our standards are so high at Dateline that I don’t even worry about it. We vet everything so much at this show, and I’ve worked for every kind of show that you could imagine at this point, and I’ve never seen more vetting on a television show in my career. Between our legal department, our standards department, all of the eyeballs on our programs from the producers to senior producers to executive producers, it’s incredible and we just fact check and fact check and fact check, and everybody just has such high standards for this show and there’s so many more players than you see on other programs. For me, we’re just continuing to do our job and we all have such high standards … it probably hasn’t hit us as hard.
Given the current contentious political climate, what can student journalists do to best navigate those tensions in their own communities?
Just keep getting the truth out there, just keep reporting the facts as you see them. How can you really go wrong if you tell the truth and you report the facts? So, continue to be observant and tell people’s stories, and that’s your job, to get those stories out there so people really know what’s going on.