Talk about being adaptable...
If they handed out medals for successfully reinventing yourself, Jane Hawtin, Artsci’76, would have a stack of golds by now. Never content to rest on her laurels after a successful broadcasting career, in recent years the Toronto resident has done everything from joining the army to attending Harvard Law School.
Jane, who cut her broadcasting teeth at Kingston’s CKLC in the ’70s, spent many years afterward working in radio in Toronto, first as news director at Q107 then as a talk-show host at CFRB, and eventually guest-hosting such CBC Radio programs as The Current and As It Happens. She also started several TV production companies that produced thousands of hours of programing, including Jane Hawtin Live, which she hosted and produced, and The Link, an after-school program for aboriginal teens.
It was during a stint at CBC’s Metro Morning several years ago that it dawned on her that dawn was not her time of day, and so she began thinking of a career change.
First, she threw her hat into the ring for an Immigration and Refugee Board appointment. Then she attended Harvard Law School for a mediation course, with plans to work in family law. “It was intimidating at first,” she remembers. “Of the 54 students, only three of us weren’t judges or lawyers.”
From there, Jane went to work for the military, initially playing the role of a reporter putting together a daily newscast in what she calls “a synthetic Afghanistan.” “From the minute you walked in that door you were in Afghanistan,” she recalls. “We had a synthetic media tent, everyone stayed in role, and we did a newscast that basically covered all the materials officers were being trained on in this environment. It’s one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done.”
It was a short march to a job providing media training and crisis management skills to senior officers of the Canadian Forces deployed to Afghanistan, as well as NATO’s Rapid Response Team in France and EU forces in Germany. “I’d been looking to do other things and, boy, did I get other things!” laughs Jane.
One of her more recent ventures, a documentary film to which she’s putting the final touches, has pulled her back into the world of journalism. The Nazi Midwife is the harrowing story of a German nurse who murdered more than 50 newborns at the end of WWII. Jane happened on the story when colleague Gina Roitman revealed a tale her mother had shared with her – that babies had been killed at an American-run hospital for displaced persons.
Jane and Gina travelled to Passau, Germany, shot footage there, and then started looking for people who could substantiate the story. “It took us a couple of years to track down the person who knew what had happened and how the killings had been done. Just last year we contacted a legal expert, the former judge who convicted war criminal John Demjanjuk, and he started helping us to find documents for this.”
The film has been submitted to the New York Jewish Film Festival. Jane says that while she has produced thousands of hours of television programing, this is the first program she hadn’t sold before she started working on it. Still, she says, “It was one of those stories that had to be told. It’s an important piece of history.”
The documentary is being produced by Amberlight Productions, the company she runs with her husband, Chris Allicock. Jane says they work well together. She handles production while Chris tends to the public relations side.
Fittingly, Jane has been asked to speak at an upcoming conference in Mexico organized by the We Move Forward organization, founded to empower women around the globe. Her topic? “The Power to Reinvent Ourselves.”