Whenever Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco looks into the camera to deliver the news on CBC Ottawa News at Six, he's talking to "Charlie."
That's the nickname he's given the lens — advice given to him years ago by a camera operator.
"It just makes it intimate and it allows me to be a bit more authentic because I feel like I actually have a relationship with it," Dabaghi-Pacheco said. "It's a stand-in for the viewer. That's the thing about television — you have to find a way to overcome that artifice."
Though he's been guest-hosting CBC Ottawa News at 6 since the departure of co-hosts Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld and Adrian Harewood, the station recently announced he'll now stay at the desk as the permanent host.
"I looked up to Adrian and Lucy. They taught me so much and were my mentors," he said. "Being named the permanent host of CBC Ottawa's News at 6 is an absolute honour."
Started as radio traffic reporter
Dabaghi-Pacheco has done just about every on-air job in the CBC Ottawa newsroom since joining in 2010.
His first gig was as the morning traffic reporter on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning while studying journalism at Carleton University, after he successfully freelanced mini-documentaries to the morning radio program.
He credits then-host Kathleen Petty for helping him get comfortable on air.
"We had a great rapport. I had this illusion in my mind that it was just me and Kathleen. That's the only way I could do it because I just couldn't imagine that people were actually listening," he said.
Then a few months into the job, Dabaghi-Pacheco went to a friend's wedding, where people came up to him and told him, "I listen to you all the time!"
"That was when it hit me that it was live radio … people are listening," he said.
He eventually gained his confidence on the air and went on to break some of Ottawa's biggest news as a radio reporter and video-journalist or as a "one-man-band" as he calls it — shooting video, recording audio, and editing both.
He covered the abduction and killing of an Ottawa-area businessman. In 2016, he was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for best local reporting on the 2014 Parliament Hill shooting. In 2018, he covered the Ottawa tornadoes, which brought a wave of destruction.
Dabaghi-Pacheco has also hosted CBC Radio network specials and radio programs Ottawa Morning and Ontario Today.
"I thrive in adventurous environments full of ever-changing tasks," says Dabaghi-Pacheco. "Delving into the stories of the community I call home has been one of the greatest privileges and highlights of my professional life."
The common thread for Omar has always been his passion for telling stories from a community perspective and his ability to connect with people.
That's led him to produce hundreds of news stories and documentaries for national and international audiences.
Multilingual traveller with a zest for adrenaline
Dabaghi-Pacheco was born in Ottawa with deep Ecuadorian and Lebanese roots.
Since the age of six, his mother raised him while backpacking the world for three months out of every year.
"My mom gave me the gift of curiosity," he said. "She'd arrange for my sister and me to have take-home schoolwork to finish our studies, and off we'd go exploring entire continents with nothing more than a backpack and a map. I learned more about the world through those trips than I ever could have in a textbook."
Dabaghi-Pacheco has travelled extensively across more than two dozen countries in six continents and his passion and pursuit of documentary storytelling has taken him across Canada and to remote areas in Africa, including Malawi and Tanzania.
He's fluent in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese and is working on improving his Arabic.
Dabaghi-Pacheco has a love for adrenaline and adventure — he's often giving paragliding lessons as a professional instructor, sailing on his boat along the Ottawa River, or reaching for new heights rock-climbing.
"When I'm scared of something, it's a challenge that I want to overcome."
Latest great adventure
Dabaghi-Pacheco's colleague Stu Mills once gave him another broadcasting tip that stuck: put a picture of someone you love and pretend you're talking to them.
These days when he needs a moment to get "in the zone" before he goes on air, he pulls out his phone and sees a face he adores.
"I look at my son and I'm like, 'I'm just having a chat with Mathéo,'" he said.
A career in journalism prepared Dabaghi-Pacheco well for parenthood when his son was born about two years ago — he had perfected the art of multi-tasking and pivoting to change at any moment.
"Fatherhood reminds me that the real adventure lies with not knowing where the next moment might take you ... but it's almost always somewhere interesting and beyond my expectations."
Dabaghi-Pacheco lives with his partner and their son in Ottawa's east end.
Tune in to CBC Ottawa News at 6 weeknights or visit cbc.ca/ottawa and CBC Gem to stream live.