Growing up in the Toronto area, Local 4 WDIV Detroit anchor Priya Mann “devoured” the news. Her parents subscribed to the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail, and together they’d discuss opinion pieces, cultural trends and the day’s controversies. Pursuing a career in journalism seemed like a logical next step, though it wasn’t until chatting with her mother as an undergrad in 2005 that Mann felt up to the challenge.
“Over the summer break my Mom and I were talking about my career goals,” Mann says. “She suggested broadcast journalism. I hesitated at first. And then she said something I will never forget. She said ‘Beta, if you don’t try, you’ll always wonder what if.’ And the rest, as they say, is history.”
After working as a reporter, weather presenter and anchor in a few Canadian markets, Mann joined Local 4 in 2013. The Indian SCENE spoke to Mann about her work and inspiration:
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.
The Indian SCENE: What do enjoy about your profession?
Priya Mann: I enjoy storytelling. I enjoy learning about different cultures and mindsets. I enjoy the shared human experience. It’s funny, I’ve often heard people say “oh you love to talk, no wonder you’re on TV” but in reality, the journalists who care about their craft, spend most of their time listening. Keep in mind, in many cases I’m meeting someone on the worst day of their lives, or shortly after a tragedy. It opens your heart to empathy and compassion. They trust you to tell their loved ones story accurately. And it’s a responsibility I take to heart. Like Peter Parker seriously. I also really love the editing portion of storytelling. Weaving video and interviews into a piece that resonates, or uplifts or makes you question the status quo is a side of television I don’t think we talk enough about. Like I tell any young person I’m mentoring, TV isn’t glamorous. It’s long hours, crazy shifts and requires discipline. When you’re bundled up under the covers on a snow day, I’m on the side of the road advising you not to drive. When you’re home with family during the holidays, we’re on, keeping you informed. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. Bottom line, follow the road that sparks something deep within. That way it’ll never feel like work.
IS: What setbacks, if any, did you experience, especially being a minority woman in your career?
PM: It’s interesting, many J-school grads thought I had an upper hand because I was a minority. Which wasn’t the case. Of course, luck and a divine hand plays a role but it’s also on you to work harder than your competition, have a tenacious grit and an unwavering belief in your skill set. I think one area where we’re improving is bringing more POC stories to air. I’m personally passionate about immigrant stories (especially after having denied my own background for years). I think for that to happen, though, will take a community buy-in. Things are slowly changing, you’re seeing a genuine interest in covering diverse stories. But there’s always more work to be done. Here’s looking at you TikTokers and Gen Z. I have high hopes for y’all.
IS: Looking back, what would you do differently?
PM: Hmm. It’s tough because I would say the one thing I’d do differently is not to be so hard on myself. There was a time, if I flubbed a word during my live shot, it would ruin my night. I would obsess about it. But what I’ve learned (and I can’t take credit for it, I read it somewhere) is that people rarely remember the mistake—they remember the recovery. On the other hand, I credit the immigrant mentality and holding myself to high standards with my career success. I guess like with anything, it comes down to balance.
IS: What’s a story that you’ve covered that stands out for you?
PM: How can I pick just one? There are so many stories that stick out to me. Covering the presidential election, natural disasters, tragedy and triumph. The human spirit is resilient. Time after time, I’ve interviewed people who are facing heartbreaking loss. And yet they still find a way to inspire others. Through forgiveness, acts of kindness and a genuine belief in the goodness of humanity.
IS: What is the best advice you have received and from whom?
PM: I have always had mentors. Starting with my Mom and Popz. I have mentors now. I want to continue to improve, and I highly encourage you to get a mentor as well. The best advice I got sounds so simple, yet it’s so hard to do. Because as a society we’re trained to conform. But that’s no way to forge new paths. The advice was: to be yourself. There is only one person like you on the planet. You have ideas, thoughts, opinions and feelings this world needs. That’s why you’re here at this time and place. Because your voice is vital. So don’t waste too much time trying to look like someone else, or sound like someone else. They’re rocking their identity. You should rock yours.
IS: What advice would you offer to our Indian-American youth who want to pursue a career in reporting?
PM: My advice to any Indian-American kid who wants to pursue journalism is pretty straight forward. Get involved with your school paper, join a debate team so you can see how to engage and present your ideas. Stay curious. Keep reading—actual books. Be confident in your experience, as an immigrant, first/second/third gen American. Question those in power. Attend rallies. Your friends shouldn’t all look like you. Interact with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. And when they speak, listen with the intent of expanding your own awareness. Cultivate your craft. Oh, and be prepared to move. You want to start in a small market. It makes sense, make your mistakes in front of fewer eyeballs. And as you’re climbing the ladder, always make sure you’re reaching down to bring up the person coming up behind you.
IS: What or who inspires you?
PM: My goodness, so much inspires me. From Maya Angelou, to Mahatma Gandhi, to Joan Didion to name a few. Chadwick Boseman is someone I am in awe of. I hope to live my life with as much grace and dignity and purpose as King T’Challa. My spiritual practice is the foundation of my worldview and my view of my place in it. We’re not here forever, so let’s make the most of our short time on this pale blue planet.
IS: What’s next for you?
PM: I’m working hard on this. I’ve always been a two-, five- and ten-year plan type of person. I’m learning to let go and let God. And like everyone else I’m sure, COVID-19 has changed how I envision the future. I think it’s going to be awhile before we fully comprehend how we’ve all been affected by a global pandemic. One thing I am sure of is this moment. Right now. That’s it. So be present. And laugh a little, it’s just life right?