The Last Word with Robyn Gill, BA'93
Q: Which famous person (living or dead) do you think (or have been told) you most resemble?
A: A colleague once told me that I looked like the women in Modigliani paintings.
Robin Gill always knew she would be a journalist.
“This was the only thing I ever wanted to do,” she says. “My family was big on reading newspapers and watching the news every single night, and we would watch it as a family, so it was ingrained in me.”
It’s all about telling a good story, says the Global National weekend anchor and BC correspondent, “one that’s relevant, current and matters to people.”
Gill majored in international relations at UBC and was seriously studious. “I loved my major,” she says. “I would spend hours in the stacks reading Foreign Affairs magazine and The Economist because they were so expensive I couldn’t afford to get the subscription.” The Pit pub, on the other hand, she tended to avoid. “I just couldn’t stand the smell of beer on the floor,” she says, while conceding “they did do a great burger.”
Gill, who describes herself as a “fairly private person,” began her career as a writer and researcher, and initially saw herself progressing to another behind-the-scenes role as a producer. “Along the way,” she says, “I worked with producers and news directors who said I should be in front of the camera.”
Now a national news anchor, Gill is a familiar face to millions of Canadians, with the result that her job can sometimes encroach on her private life. But a lot of the time her anonymity remains surprisingly intact. “People come up to me and say, ‘Did I go to university with you?’ They can’t quite place me.”
Gill says she thrives on breaking news, finding an oasis of calm amongst the chaos rather than succumbing to the stress. It’s the deadlines that kill her. “We have very tight deadlines and you are constantly feeding the beast. You never get over the anxiety of it – the heart palpitations – if something goes technically wrong and your story doesn’t make its slot, and you’re flying by the seat of your pants.”
Another source of stress can be the stories themselves, the harrowing ones that involve human pain and loss. “You do absorb some of it,” she says. “It can be very emotional, and it can be very draining.”
For that reason, she’s keen on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. “I have a huge circle of friends – many different circles – so it’s about making time to spend with them.
“Some of my closest friends are from my UBC days. We all meet for dinner once a year and we still talk about the stupid crazy things that we did back then. Not that I’m ever going to reveal what we did.”
Some stories are best left untold.
Who was your childhood hero?
My mom and dad.
Describe the place you most like to spend time.
At a dinner party with interesting and interested people.
What was the last thing you read?
Today’s New York Times.
What or who makes you laugh out loud?
Witty, dark comedies.
What’s the most important lesson you ever learned?
Once a liar, always a liar. They exist in all facets of life, whether personal or professional. If your gut tells you they’re lying, it won’t get better. They’ll continue to lie because that’s often all they know.
What’s your idea of the perfect day?
Lunch with my best friends when I get to see them in Toronto.
What was your nickname at school?
I didn’t have a nickname until I got into the news industry. A colleague started calling me Giller back in 1997 and it has stuck ever since. Now even senior executives call me that.
What would be the title of your biography?
My Climb to Complacency
If a genie granted you one wish, what would it be?
Win the lottery so I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.
What item have you owned for the longest time?
Pearl earrings that my grandmother gave me when I was 16 years old. I still wear them because they remind me of her.
Whom do you most admire (living or dead) and why?
My parents. They worked so hard under difficult circumstances as newcomers to this country just so we could have a better life. I hope we have made them proud.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
Focus. (It is an expression I use to underscore when I’m trying to make a point, so my friends will get it.)
If you could invent something, what would it be?
A machine to cure every disease.
In which era would you most like to have lived, and why?
The Sixties, because it was such an era of change with the civil rights movements.
What are you afraid of?
Childbirth and dying. It just seems so painful.
What is your latest purchase?
A Chanel purse. It was indulgent on my part but I love classic pieces that last decades.
Name the skill or talent you would most like to have.
I wish I could draw or paint. I am constantly in awe of people who have this amazing talent. Artists are an important part of our society.
Which three pieces of music would you take to that desert island?
Beethoven’s Fur Elise, David Bowie’s Golden Years, and Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me.
Which famous person (living or dead) do you think (or have you been told) you most resemble?
A colleague once told me that I looked like the women in Modigliani paintings. When I was a teen, I was told I looked a bit like Isabella Rossellini. I don’t think I look like any of them, but I couldn’t be more flattered.
What is your pet peeve?
Stupidity. People need to really think before they speak or send that email, because it will mark you for life.
What is the secret to a good life?
Take chances. You never know where they’ll take you.
Do you have a personal motto?
Don’t settle for less.
What’s the most important thing left on your bucket list?
There are too many to list.
What are your UBC highlights?
- Reading Foreign Affairs and The Economist in the library stacks.
- Hanging with friends at Sedgewick Library (and they’re still part of my close circle to this day. We meet once a year for dinner and still laugh about the silly things we did in school).
- I graduated with a degree in International Relations. It was such a fascinating and enriching program. To this day, that knowledge has stayed with me and is so applicable in the work I do.