PO Box 523, Station B, Ottawa, ON, K1P 5P6
Friday, 24 March 2023 10:05

The First Days of COVID in Ottawa

Sam Laprade Sam Laprade

Sam Laprade is a graduate in Public Relations from Algonquin College and a Certified Fund Raising Executive. Her passion is to help non-profit organizations achieve their missions through effective fund raising. Her diverse life experience, including work with non-profits, work in the corporate sector, support for municipal politicians and broadcasting, has led her to believe that the most effective journalist is the one who puts their whole-self into their work. Sam does this, appearing daily on both radio and television.

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the Global Pandemic, what we now call Covid 19, hit Canada hard and all our lives suddenly changed. On Monday, March 16, Sam approached the station management at CityNews suggesting that she take the 2-hour slot usually featuring a podcast and use it to inform and talk with their listeners about the pandemic. They agreed, giving her the slot for 2 weeks, confident that it would then all be over.

Turns out, it wasn’t.

Unlike many, who were able to work from home, Sam went into the studio every day from then on, her first day-off being Mother’s Day, May 10. During that time, the small team at the station lived in fear, eventually stringing shower curtains between themselves in an attempt to remain safe. They also developed a set of contingency plans, should they lose colleagues on their team or in their sister stations. Sam’s 12-year-old daughter was equally gripped, watching as her mother went off each morning, not knowing if she would return home infected.

Sam’s approach to the situation was “Kind Radio”. She spoke with everyone, health professionals, politicians, restaurateurs, business owners, seniors, mothers' groups, even a 12-year-old girl who was painting rocks and leaving them around her community as a sign of hope. It was important to give everyone a voice, to listen to their concerns, to let them share their own stories and to become their virtual neighbor sitting at their kitchen table with them. The success of Sam’s approach locally led to her program being broadcast on other stations in different parts of the country.

Sam recalled that it was a divisive time and when mask and vaccine mandates came into effect, some segments of the population transitioned from fear and frustration to anger and hate. As tempers rose, Sam tried to keep things calm by ensuring those who just wanted to spread misinformation could not use her station as their platform. Despite this, the station faced protests, needing to call for police assistance on at least one occasion. They were also targets of online abuse. One case involved an anonymous regular listener routinely contacting them with a one-word attack, “Sheep”. It would seem that Sam’s reporting did not agree with the views of that particular listener.

There were some very hard days. On April 19, 2020, a mass shooting took place in the Halifax area. Sam’s show was, at that time, being broadcast in Ottawa, Kitchener and Nova Scotia. Sam struggled to maintain the balance of providing the “normal” Covid coverage to her Ontario listeners, while supplying the critical news updates needed by her listeners in Nova Scotia.

It is now three years on and hard to remember when the news cycle was suddenly restricted to just one story. It was a time when we were not concerned about the price of groceries, but if we could safely get groceries, a time when we found we could only see our loved ones through a window, a time when all we knew for certain was that we knew nothing for certain. It was a time when the vaccine we most needed was hope, something Sam injected into our community on a daily basis.

You can hear the Sam Laprade Show on City News.