Shanelle Kaul: Illuminating The Truth And Being Authentic

Fuelled by curiosity and her passion for storytelling, Shanelle Kaul navigates life one tale at a time.

Describing the Canadian Dream can be difficult. It is more than monetary success, clout, enjoying the rights of democracy and the freedom that comes with them. Although it is difficult to define, when a proud Canadian embodies it, it is truly special.

This is the case for CBS News correspondent Shanelle Kaul.

In 2018, Shanelle began anchoring and reporting for CP24. During her four and a half years there, she covered an array of assignments, moderating primetime panels discussing international headlines including Donald Trump’s impeachment trials, the war in Ukraine and the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa. In the process, she became a Canadian household name as millions tuned in daily.

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But, at the time of Shanelle’s birth in Sri Lanka, attaining news-anchoring prominence at a respected network seemed far from likely. Her Sri Lankan mother and Indian father both experienced civil unrest in their home countries and strived to provide safety and opportunity for their daughter no matter the sacrifices.

Shortly after Shanelle was born, the Kauls settled in the Middle East. But as the Gulf War erupted, they sought refuge in Canada, making Toronto their new home.

“Confusing and enriching” is how Shanelle describes her childhood.

“As an immigrant of colour, you’re always straddling two worlds. Culturally, you abide by the traditions and the rules in your house. But when you go to school and work, you almost have to be a different version of yourself or emphasize a different part of yourself to fit in. I remember in lots of aspects of my life being the only brown person in the room, and it was challenging to figure out how to fit into different spaces. But, now over the years, I’ve given myself permission to be proud of my roots, and over the years I have learned to lean on all those truly special things that make me who I am.”

Her path to journalism was unintentionally forged by her parents’ heavy reliance on the news. “Because of their experiences in war-torn countries, they always depended on the news. It was a huge part of my childhood,” says Shanelle.

She recalled a profound moment when she was 14 years old, in 2004, when she and her mother watched Canadian news anchor Anne-Marie Mediwake reporting on the tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka. “My mom had turned to me and said, ‘She’s just like us. It’s one of us on TV,’ and I remember something clicking. It was so impactful because there weren’t many women of colour on-screen in TV news in Canada,” says Shanelle.

“We all have emotions, and that cannot just stop when you’re doing an interview. When you’re telling a story, it comes from the heart.”

Shanelle pursued her love for writing during her undergraduate studies by enrolling in the School of Journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University (then known as Ryerson). Throughout that time, she took on multiple internships in the hope of finding a role that was the right fit. She eventually found her true calling in 2012 when she interned at Global News Toronto.

“I worked with a reporter, Sean O’Shea, who was an amazing mentor. He allowed me to sink my teeth into stories and conduct interviews for him occasionally. I got a feel for what it would be like to be a TV reporter beside him. I just had so much fun, and that was the moment I wanted to tell stories on television,” says Shanelle. While working at the assignment desk at Global News Toronto, she quickly soared to new heights by becoming the editorial assistant and assignment coordinator.

To no one’s surprise, Shanelle would go on to attain her first on-air job as the morning news anchor role at Global News Regina, where she developed a passion for breaking news, coordinating coverage for national stories like the Elliot Lake mall collapse and the Eaton Centre shooting rampage. In 2016, she worked as a weekend anchor and daily reporter with CTV News Edmonton, where her coverage of the Fort McMurray wildfires was featured on CTV National News.

After years of experience she can maintain composure even during the most emotionally challenging stories and make it look easy. How? She believes that empathizing and conveying human emotion is so powerful it resonates with the viewership and the interviewee.

“I aim to bring compassion and empathy to my work. For me, that’s been an advantage. In some of the most painful interviews I’ve done, the other person was open to sharing their story because they knew that I was there for them. I was emotionally available,” says Shanelle. “We all have emotions, and that cannot just stop when you’re doing an interview. When you’re telling a story it comes from the heart. Of course, we want our reporting to be neutral and not one-sided, but it is OK to feel.”

Shanelle is now based in New York City, reporting to the CBS News Special Events and Newsgathering units. Additionally, her incredible work can be seen on CBS Mornings, the CBS Evening News, the CBS News Streaming Network and Newspath.

Every day on the job, she aspires to be the kind of role model and mentor she admired as a young girl. She brings gratitude to every situation because of her loving family, culture and position in an industry where few South Asian women have cemented their careers.

The beautiful, authentic and exuberant 33-year-old teaches us how hard work, passion and being yourself can lead to a beautiful life. Although she is an avid traveller, no matter where she is, Canada is proud to call her one of its own.

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Marc Castaldo

Marc Castaldo