Maggie John is a seasoned journalist whose experience as a national reporter, television host of Canada’s longest-running daily television show 100 Huntley Street, makes her well-positioned to take on her new role as Anchor/Producer of Context. Moderated by Context’s long-time Senior Executive Producer Susan Ponting, in a virtual Q&A, Maggie discusses the future of Context, how she’s navigating this new and exciting role at this unprecedented time in our history, and what to expect on Context next season.
Are you ready for full production in September?
Maggie: I am ready! I’m prepared for the next season. It is incredible how much has happened in the world in just the past month. It was just a month ago that I’d joined the Context team, and since then, we’ve covered off on COVID-19 from so many different angles and now onto the new worldwide civil rights movement.
Will Context be changing, now that Lorna is no longer leading the show?
Maggie: Context is not changing; we are going full force carrying the mantle that has been passed over to me and moving forward with it.
Why do you want to be part of Context?
Maggie: When I first started as an intern on Listen Up, almost 20 years ago, Lorna, asked me the same question. And I remember hearing about Listen Up in journalism school and being so amazed at how this television show combined faith and the news to provide Christian analysis and perspective. I was able to see how faith and news, two worlds that I so loved, being married together so beautifully.
Can you tell us about one of the first stories you’ve ever told?
Maggie: Cheryl Weber, of 100 Huntley Street, was my manager back then, I had done this lovely story on a young boy by the name of Ryan Harold Jack who heard about these poor children in Africa who didn’t have clean water. So, I got to visit Ryan in his house (in the Kingston area) to hear this precious boy’s story of just seeing something that he felt that he could change. And I feel that that is the pivotal moment that we have here as Christian Media —to be able to show people a story and say, you can make a difference – your faith can make a difference – Jesus can make a difference. So, I’m so excited to be able to again look at the news stories that we see every single night and be able to offer our viewers a different analysis, a Christian analysis on the news that you can trust.
Why is it that you think that a Christian analysis in a pluralistic, secular Canada is needed?
Maggie: While reading scripture last night, I was reminded of Philippians 1:15-16, Paul said: “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the Gospel.” And Proverbs 31:8-9 says: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” As Christians, we are held to a higher standard. We are not only held to the standards of the CRTC but also to a standard of Jesus and making sure that voices are heard and that when we are on the airwaves, we are telling credible stories of how God is moving on our earth. And so, I feel that this is a huge mantle and a huge responsibility that we have as Christians. Because at the end of the day, we are called by the Great Commandment, the Great Commission, that we are supposed to bring people to know Him. So, for some people, and I know for the younger generation, it is understanding how their faith, politics, and the world are married. And that might be the way younger people can come to Jesus.
How does Context connect with the world?
Maggie: I recently interviewed David Kinnaman from Barna Research. He said that while we see a vast majority of young people leaving the church, they are not leaving God. They simply want to understand how their faith connects with the outside world, how faith connects with COVID, how faith connects with black lives, how faith connects with what’s happening with the oil situation out West. How does faith connect with all of this?
What makes Context unique and why should we ask for support?
Maggie: And so, I think we have a unique perspective and a unique gift here at Context to say: here’s how they connect and here’s how they work together, and here’s how we can help you to perhaps change your lens, or clear up the lens a little, to see more clearly. They don’t have to be separate. We can find ways to amalgamate and put them together. That’s the way I see the news. When I’m watching NBC at night, I’m thinking and processing it on so many different layers — as a Christian, as a mom, as a wife, as a black woman, in so many different ways. We all are. And I feel like that’s what Context does.
The barrier is being lifted, the consciousness is being raised and now as a black woman, as a black mother, the biggest story to erupt across the world, really since the civil war, and I know we are not American. Lorna’s legacy will live, we will focus on Canadian stories, but this one is undeniable because it has gone global, and I’ve seen it first-hand affect you as a mother. Can you share your heart on what’s happening?
Maggie: First of all, kudos to Context. And kudos to Crossroads for saying we believe in putting a black woman as an anchor. This is revolutionary. This is historical when we look at Canada. There aren’t a lot of people like me who are anchoring a news analysis show. So, I want to say thank you to the organization for saying, we believe in you. And so we hear a lot of things happening, but how do we as a church reconcile the story? How do we, as a church, love our neighbour as we love ourselves? That is the central point of everything that we are doing.
Recently, you had the unique opportunity to interview your younger brother Mark on Context, can you tell us a little about that?
Maggie: Mark has experienced a lot of pain growing up, mostly more than my other brothers, a lot of pain being a young black man in Canada. It took a lot of coercing. As his big sister, I had to push him into it. He says he didn’t regret doing it and appreciated to just share from his heart. I hope it gives people a different perspective —and not one to defend or to hide behind, but to say: this is reality, how do we as Christians understand this and move forward with healing?
Would you share a little bit about your journalism background and the experiences you’ve had in the field?
Maggie: Yes, I’ve had the pleasure of being in the field previously with 100 Huntley Street. We need to be where the stories are. We need to be where the people are. For some of you who might not be familiar with my career, and the stories I have covered, I covered 9-11, I was in New York on 9-11. The Haitian earthquake, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Humboldt recently as well. The journalistic quality is still there at Context. I graduated with a Journalism degree at Ryerson and so definitely being held up to that standard, and that will not waver at Context.
You know all of the important points for Lorna from Medical Assistance in dying to religious symbols in Canada, climate action, in service to seniors, indigenous, you reported on 9-11, we reported on the Iran air crash, the weaker Muslims, the Christians, so many near and dear justice issues! What stories can our viewers expect Context to cover next season?
Maggie: We are going to continue to tell those stories. Looking at the news, we are thinking about Medical Assistance in Dying. We are going to be talking about schools. By the time we head back into the studio, kids will likely be heading back to school. We are going to be talking about how COVID-19 affects people and households? As well as Covid-19’s effects on small businesses. How do they reconcile this? How do they keep their businesses going? We are going to be talking about long-term care facilities and how they are affected by Covid-19, as well as the unemployment rate. Also, Bill C2, about prohibiting sex-selection abortion. We have not talked about this yet. These are issues that are in our headlines that Christians need to be aware of and intelligently articulate and discuss. Context provides some of those resources and talking points for that as well.
Guest Questions for Susan and Maggie
As you look at the news from a Christian perspective, what do you look at to refine the lens of your perspective, besides scripture?
Susan: From my perspective, that is a heavy one to answer because I have 20 years in news journalism and newsrooms and at all the majors. I look at moving the story forward. The only difference is, I am able, in my news story, to talk about God. In secular mainstream media, unless it’s in their face, I can’t talk about God. Interestingly though when a world crisis hits, secular and mainstream media automatically go to the Christians, and that’s playing out everywhere in Canadian media.
Maggie: I agree, I mean just on CBC alone, so many clips of churches praying, of pastors gathering and so again, we’re here. We’ve been telling these stories, and we continue to tell them. We want to differentiate. We will never be the CBC. We will never be CTV. We will never be CNN. But we can bring again, this news analysis on the stories that do impact the church. And we know that Christians have different perspectives and we are not all cookie-cutter. We have different passions. So to be able to understand it as a good journalist, as a good producer, executive producer as a good team, we want to make sure that we are able to cover different views in the Christian realm as well and be honest about that through panel discussions, bringing in millennial voices and making sure that we are able to tell the story.
Churches are sometimes seen as judgmental when it comes to social issues, how can we change that?
Susan: If we look around now, we see that buildings are not the church right now, people are. We are the church.
Maggie: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. We’ve seen that even in our discussion about whether or not the church should open. We had a panel of pastors who believe church should open tomorrow. And then we just actually released a group this morning of pastors that feel we need to take more of a steady approach. There are so many different perspectives. We can’t always tell every view, let’s be honest, but we want to be fair in our coverage so that if there are different perspectives that maybe we can say, how do we find commonality in this, and how do we listen? As a journalist, I appreciate the fact that God has given me the gift of listening. I think listening is probably the biggest thing that you can do as a storyteller. Because at the end of the day, people want to be heard, they want to be listened to—that’s what I live by, being a good listener. I might have my perspectives, but as a journalist, it doesn’t matter. I need to be able to be a good storyteller bringing the story forward.
Will Context continue to address multiple faith voices on current issues?
Maggie: It is essential to have other faith voices. I had a conversation with Lorna about that in our last segment that we did together. It’s about understanding different voices so that we can sharpen our argument for the Gospel. We believe that Jesus is Lord. We believe He is our Saviour, so we have to understand the different perspectives that are brought in to sharpen what the Bible tells us to do so that we can defend our Gospel with grace and love, and the only way to do that is in this forum with grace and love.
What about when Politicians and others say, “our thoughts and prayers are with you”? And should we take up issues affecting the church only or those that affect people, all people?
Maggie: All people.
Susan: Because as Maggie says, then we are able to open the door for them to see Jesus in what we cover. They are always saying you’re in our thoughts and prayers when a crisis hits, and who are they praying to, exactly? I see in mainstream media it’s always our whole Parliament. Everything is based on Judeo Christian values. Maggie, what do you think?
Maggie: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s something that we throw away a lot. I mean, when you think about prayer in the societal realm, and you look at Twitter, everybody is all in our prayers and thoughts and so again, just reclaiming what it is to be a Christ-follower. But I think at the end of the day, that is what we want to be able to do, to bring that perspective. The other thing that we are passionate about for the new season is bringing a good news story at the end of every show and who better to bring a good news story than the Christian news analysis show, right? And so we own the good news stories. Being able to show that God is moving in everyday life. I think it’s so important to remind people that at the end of the day we are good people carrying the good news and if we can’t carry the good news, who will?
How does Context make keeping on top of the news easy?
Maggie: Context is online, Contextbeyondtheheadlines.com. Viewers can Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Yesterday we had a live YouTube and Facebook Live, as well we had somebody down in Houston close to the site near George Floyd’s funeral to hear the perspective of what’s happening in Houston. That’s what we want to continue to do. We had a soft launch online, as we are introducing my voice in my coverage so you can go there and find some fresh content and then in September you will see us back on Television.
A blessing from Norma-Jean Mainse
You are the perfect host to continue Context. You are so joyful all the time. Your personality is so perfect for this ministry that you have. And I know that if David were here, he would say the same thing. We love you, Maggie. You’ve been a blessing to us personally. Walking into the studio, you were always joyful. The joy of the Lord was so seen in your life. You are so compassionate, intelligent, and I know that you are going to be amazing as the host of Context. I know that Lorna passed the torch to you/the baton, and you are going to take it to the next level. We just know that the Holy Spirit will guide your every program. Because we know you are a woman of God, you are seeking his face for anointing for every program. There’s a verse in Scripture: Ephesians 6:10: Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. It’s not going to be your might, Maggie, but His might working through you, and you will sense the Holy Spirit guiding you and giving you wisdom and knowledge for every program. I love you, honey. God bless you. You are so special to me.