FINDING THE WHY
by Gillian Smith-Clark
Editor in Chief, Inspire Magazine
First things first. Who is Graham Beer? He is a young freelance journalist, a student at Ryerson University in Toronto and the Executive Producer, Host and founder of Cobourg Media. Based in Northumberland County Ontario, Cobourg Media is a company offering local news coverage, video and multi-media production services. Originally known as Cobourg News, Beer launched the endeavour in September of 2012, at the age of twelve. That’s right, Graham Beer was still in middle school when he first launched his career in media production.
Since the initial video broadcast when Beer covered a local story in the wake of a huge storm, he built up Cobourg News gradually. The young reporter eventually made the transition from covering Cobourg news and a variety of local stories and events, to covering international events such as the Vimy Ridge 100th Anniversary and the D-Day 75th Anniversary in France. He has interviewed a range of noteworthy people, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premiers Doug Ford and Kathleen Wynne, WE Founder Craig Kielburger, and Olympians Clara Hughes and Hayley Wickenheiser, to name a few. How did he get there? Let’s back up to the beginning.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Graham Beer found his passion for media early in his life, and somewhat surprisingly (or maybe not), it began with Lego. In Beer’s own words, he was “a boy who loved Lego. I loved buying new sets, tearing them down, getting a Lego City set for my birthday or Christmas and building something completely new.” As a young guy growing up in Cobourg, Ontario, he also watched Breakfast Television every morning, it was how he started every day. He had a passion for stories and enjoyed watching the popular morning show.
Combining his love of Lego and his love of Breakfast Television seemed like a natural combination and he decided one day that he would build the Breakfast Television set using Lego. “I built the cameras, the set, I had Dina and Kevin… the whole thing. That was when I found my passion for TV and media. I thought this might be something that I would really like to do when I got older.” That first BT Lego set, and a subsequent more complex version he built 2012, landed Beer both a guest appearance on the show in 2009 and then in 2012, the chance to be an honorary producer for the day. That day, as he was on the set with hosts Dina Pugliese and Kevin Frankish, he found his “why”. Despite speculation from crew members about his future as an architect, Beer says he “realized that day what a cool place this would be to work and be at. That was the day I found my “why”, the day that led me to where I am right now.”
He started in Cobourg as a young reporter by covering local stories that weren’t being told, beginning with the day his mom and her friend were almost killed by a falling tree branch in the aftermath of a storm in 2012. “The power had gone out, and there were a lot of local stories to be told. Where was the media that day? I thought, I’m going to tell this story.” The next day he grabbed a friend to be his cameraman and they covered the story – and Cobourg News was born.
BRINGING COMMUNITY TOGETHER
Over the next few years, Beer became well known in the community and people began to take his work seriously. What started out as making videos for fun grew into legitimate work: Cobourg News evolved into Cobourg Media. Beer launched it as a small business in 2013, when he was able to register the business and develop new entrepreneurial skills. Getting his videos online was also a service that would benefit the community, and from there he grew his clientele, services and the company. It was not only community reporting and programming, they also offered services like videography, multi-camera and live streaming. In the process he learned a tremendous amount about networking, how to work with others, and “all sorts of stuff that you don’t necessarily learn in a high school business class.” And while he took the business part seriously, giving back and serving the community were a priority. “It wasn’t just about the money; it was about bringing people together. That’s what I really loved about Cobourg Media – we were able to bring people together in so many different ways.”
Beer has always taken the time to give back, producing local community events like the annual Canada Day Event and the Cobourg Community Christmas special, which for three consecutive years raised over $7000 for the Salvation Army and Northumberland Fare Share Food Bank.
FRIENDS & MENTORS
Beer is open about how much his friends and mentors have contributed to his current success, saying “My friends were my crew. If I didn’t have my friends to be there with me, I don’t know where I’d be. They were always there and willing to support me. I don’t have the same crew around now that we’ve moved on from high school, but I’m so grateful to my friends, they were always there for me. So many people were there to support me in my dream of growing Cobourg Media.”
As for mentors, Beer counts his parents, Cobourg City Council members and former mayor Gil Brocanier, as well as prominent philanthropist and Member of the Order of Canada, Helen Vari among the many who have both mentored and inspired him along the way.
CREATING YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES
A recurring theme in our interview was Beer’s ability not only to take advantage of opportunity when it arose, but to craft those opportunities for himself. Starting with that first appearance on Breakfast Television in 2009: Beer had the idea to build the Lego set, but beyond that, and with his parents’ encouragement, decided to photograph it and drop the photos off at City TV in Toronto. That led to his guest appearance on the show and ultimately, to finding his passion early in life.
“It’s always about finding your own opportunities and creating opportunities. I created a lot of opportunities for myself and that’s kind of what I live by, always create opportunities for yourself. Always believe in yourself. Believe in the possibilities and have a strong vision. Some days, it feels like it’s not going to happen, we can’t do this. But time and time again I’ve been like, I can do this.”
Beer’s advice for those who might be struggling right now? Look ahead to the future. “I often remind myself that there will be so much opportunity and excitement ahead. I always write down everything I’m grateful for.” He suggests letting people know that you’re grateful for them and to look forward to the good things that lie ahead. “If you’re grounded in your values and your beliefs and always stick to your passion, you will get through this and great things will happen. This is a great time to learn new things, to invest in yourself.” Wise words, Graham.
Follow Cobourg Media and Cobourg News on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube via @CobourgMedia & @GBCobourgNews, visit the website at cobourgmedia.ca