Journalist, activist, cancer survivor, broadcaster, and Renaissance woman, Libby Znaimer relishes the variety of working in radio, print and television as well as her volunteer work.
Her career began when she landed her first full-time job at The Associated Press in Tel Aviv. After the overseas assignment, she went local, with stints at WNBC-TV in New York, and KSTP-TV in Minneapolis, before returning to
Toronto for Global Television.
She covered Parliament Hill in Ottawa for three years, then moved to reporting and anchoring for television stations Citytv and CablePulse 24. She was also an on-air host for ROB tv (now Business News Network.)
Today, she produces and hosts The Zoomer Report on The New Classical FM 96.3 (and 103.1 and 102.9) and The New AM 740, focusing on topics of interest to the baby boom generation, including health, wealth and leisure. She also hosts The Zoomer Week in Review, contributes to “The Zoomer” TV show, and writes a regular column for Zoomer Magazine.
She’s written for publications including Reader’s Digest, Globe and Mail, and the National Post, where she wrote a popular series “The Lump” in the midst of her treatment for breast cancer in 2006. A year later, her first book In
Cancerland: Living Well Is The Best Revenge, was published by Key Porter.
She discovered she had the genetic mutation BRCA2, which put her at greater risk for breast and ovarian cancer – the disease that killed her mother. After her treatment she had her ovaries removed and began screening for a number of other cancers.
Still, it was a shock two years later, in July 2008, when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the most deadly form of cancer. Her doctors tried a novel treatment related to her genetic status, and she made a miraculous recovery. The experience is now being used to treat others with BRCA- related pancreas cancer.
Since that time Libby has become a staunch advocate for a number of cancer-related causes. She is the national spokesperson and a director for Pancreatic Cancer Canada, and was co-captain of Team Zoomer, which raised funds for Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.
Her goal is to raise money for research and treatment, to help the families affected, and to make more people aware that some 3,800 Canadians die each year from pancreatic cancer, which is is the fourth biggest cancer killer in North America, with a 98 percent mortality rate.
She says life is great, as an advocate, broadcaster and serves as Vice-President of News and Information for both Classical 96.3 FM and AM 740.
My Business Magazine caught up with Libby Znaimer, and probed
topics about journalism, cancer, and the ultimate issues of life.
MBM: When did you first decide to pursue journalism?
LZ: I was in university. I originally wanted to be a historian. My roommate was going out with a UPI journalist. I liked what he did. I wrote a few freelance pieces for CBC and Maclean’s and then landed a job in Tel Aviv working for Associated Press. The rest just came naturally.
MBM: What skill do you believe is integral as a journalist?
LZ: You have to be able to think on your feet, now moreso than ever. In the old days, we had one or two deadlines a day. Now every minute is a deadline.
The most important thing is processing the information and distilling it quickly... in a way that people can most understand. That is challenging and important...
I spent much of my career covering specialized fields like business and health. Now i do a lot of health news. When you’re talking to experts in a field, you have to make sure they stay away from jargon and use language people can understand while doing other things like getting ready for work.
MBM: What can you impart to others about being a cancer survivor?
LZ: It’s obvious it’s a very terrible experience. It’s a big shock. The first thing to get used to is the idea that you have cancer. It’s weird and alienating at first.
The other thing that is extremely difficult, is that you’re bombarded with a huge amount of medical information. It comes at you like a wave while you are traumatized by the bad news and you have to be able to turn that around
and make decisions on treatment. My best advice to get through it, is put one foot in front of the other. Don’t look too far back or too far ahead. Focus on the next treatment as it comes up.
If you are always thinking “how did this happen?” or “oh my God I could die”, you will get bogged down and more depressed.
Some people stop everything they usually do and I think that can be bad. Cancer takes up a lot of your life, but try to live as normal a life as possible while you are going through. Try to keep doing some of the things you love.
I also think exercise helps you get better. It speeds up your recovery and keeps your mood up. It’s been shown to have huge beneficial effects. In some studies, it has been shown to stave off cancer.
My pet peeve is that many people tell you that you need a constant positive attitude. Baloney. You can’t mask what you’re feeling. You have to allow yourself to feel what you’re really feeling.
MBM: What brings you most fulfillment about your work?
LZ: That’s changed over time.
I like being on the front lines. I enjoyed the stories of political nature.
Right now I do more work on health, and on aging, and what makes people happy. Now, I used to do just television, and now enjoy doing a variety of media. And I do volunteer work in the cancer space, and that’s very meaningful to me.
I’m one of very few people to have survived pancreatic cancer, especially at the stage I’ve had it. I feel like I have a responsibility to make people aware and to help people. That brings me a lot of satisfaction.
MBM: Anything happen during your career that has made you laugh?
LZ: I covered a lot of strikes and personal finance.
It was 1997 or 1998 and I was reporting for television. There were these civil service demonstrations at Queen’s Park. I saw protesters spitting on a cabinet minister. This is Toronto! I thought “Oh my God!”. I saw a cop coming towards me determinedly. I thought he was going to tell me to move back. But instead he asked, “Libby, what should I do with my mortgage?”
Dave Gordon has penned more than a thousand articles, and more than five hundred editorials, on every topic imaginable. He writes regularly on domestic and international politics, current events, culture, relationship issues, and much more.
He has spent time in the newsrooms of the Toronto Sun, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, National Post and eye Weekly.