By Judith van Berkom –
With 20 years coast-to-coast experience as a journalist in radio and TV with the CBC, Amanda Pfeffer has been stationed in Ottawa since 2011 and is currently filling in for Rita Celli on CBC radio’s, Ontario Today.
Pfeffer is a political news junkie, with experience covering federal, provincial and municipal politics. She has produced award-winning political journalism, live events, and original stories.
Pfeffer attended Dawson College, and later studied journalism and communication at Concordia University in Montreal in the 1990s. She completed a Master’s Degree in journalism at Carleton University in 2011.
Pfeffer received a Radio-Television News Directors Association of Canada special mention while working as a TV reporter in Montreal for her original project, “Everybody has a Story,” a five-part series about street people with meaningful personal stories, and “We are Westmount High,” a series about an inner-city high school.
Pfeffer’s breaking story about publisher David Black’s editorial influence on local papers against the Nisga’a Treaty won her the BC Webster Award in Vancouver in the 1990s.
Here are some interesting facts about Amanda Pfeffer that have shaped her life and personality, and hopefully add to our understanding of this gregarious media personality.
1) She moved to Ottawa for love.
Pfeffer took a sabbatical in 2010/2011 to finish her Master’s degree in journalism at Carleton. She met her husband, an Ottawa physician, and after a couple of years of a long-distance relationship, quit her job with CBC in Montreal and moved to Ottawa.
“I decided to take a leap of faith,” she explains. “If I didn’t take this chance, it may never happen.” Pfeffer was close to 40 when she made this decision, and her first job at CBC Ottawa was filling in for Kathleen Petty.
“Taking my Master’s, meeting Howard, and moving from Montreal was all part of trying something new,” she explains. “I didn’t have any children and inherited two of his. I’m a step-monster,” she adds with a laugh. “[Howard] taught me how important it is to make time for family. I almost didn’t have that. Many journalists never have it. Women journalists literally marry their job.”
2) She grew up in Montreal.
Pfeffer grew up in the so-called English ghetto in Montreal with four siblings, a Jewish father, and a Protestant mother who originally hailed from the UK. Her parents divorced and later remarried. Her mother married a Jewish university professor when Pfeffer was 10 years of age.
“I was the bitter stepkid,” she says, although she notes her stepfather was a good influence on the family. He taught at Dawson College and encouraged her to go to university.
“I was late starting university because I didn’t think I was smart enough,” she explains. “Someone said to me, there will always be someone smarter than you, but there will always be someone dumber than you as well.”
3) She biked across Canada in her twenties.
Invited by a friend from school to take part in a bike tour across Canada, Pfeffer signed up, purchased her bike, the gear, and waited with 40 other people at the starting line. This was in 1992. Her friend stood her up, and it was too late to back out.
“They started showing pictures of what the trip looked like, and I wanted to back out, but didn’t have the courage.”
“I was a non-biker,” she explains. “I started out at a leisurely pace, but biked most of the way.”
They stayed in a roller rink in Saskatchewan, and a mine in Northern Ontario. In Kingston she got food poisoning and had to stop.
“All the overweight, chunky people fared better healthwise [on the tour],” she says.
“It gave me an empowered feeling [in the end] – it gives you a good psychology of life. And, I got to see the country.”
4) Her motto is: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”
At Dawson College, Pfeffer became passionate about journalism and she considers herself fortunate to have found her passion early on in life. When she landed her first job with CBC, she wrote in her diary, “I’m a pretend reporter.”
“You never lose the feeling that you’re a fake,” she adds.
Pfeffer has been inspired by the likes of Barbara Frum, who passed away when Pfeffer was studying journalism at Concordia. Other role models include Anna Maria Tremonti and Ann Medina.
5) She loves her community.
Pfeffer worked for the CBC in Vancouver, New Brunswick, Montreal, twice in Ottawa. When she came to Ottawa with New Brunswick plates, “someone [in Kitchissippi] fed my parking meter.”
She moved to Kitchissippi in June 2014, after having lived in Barrhaven until the children finished high school. “I wanted to live closer to the CBC,” she says. “We looked at the walk scores in the real estate listings; Barrhaven scored 34%; in Kitchissippi it’s 95%. This means you can walk to get groceries, to catch a bus… There are not many neighbourhoods so close to downtown.”
“We love our house on Ross Street. We live in a little house, which has a lot of charm. I grew up in that kind of house,” she adds.
Read more “five things” profiles right here and learn more about the people who make our community so great.