The rapid rise of Kate McKenna

Multi-talented Gaels alum has garnered a quick reputation in sports journalism, signing on with TSN

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Kate McKenna, ArtSci ’09, has travelled around the world solo with a video camera. She’s taken a train across Canada along with the Grey Cup for its 100th anniversary.

The former Gaels soccer goaltender and Journal contributor quickly branded a name for herself in sports journalism and broadcasting, after a succession of job stints landed her at TSN.

Today, she writes, edits, broadcasts and tweets avidly (@TSNKate) among several other job routines as a digital content creator for Canada’s leading sports network. McKenna’s made a rapid rise towards the top, and she has no intention of slowing down.

Can you take me through an average day of work at TSN?

It is so different each day, that it’s probably impossible to describe a typical day. In fact, we’re still toying around with what to call the position … it’s a new position that involves a lot of different things.

How often do you encounter confrontational or rude people on Twitter?

I’ve been fortunate that most people I engage with online have been positive. They haven’t been rude or insulting. Once in a while you get people who say pretty rude things, but you don’t engage.

That’s not to say there’s no room for people who disagree with me. I welcome that discussion and I love that discussion, but as far as when people are rude or insulting I don’t engage with them.

Any advice or tidbits for athletes on Twitter — student athletes in particular?

Be your most authentic self, but realize that what you’re putting out there can and will be consumed and judged. I think that’s the advice I would give — be as close to yourself as you can, because authenticity rules in the digital world.

People see that and they respect it, and by the same token, fraud and fakeness can also be seen and people hate that. But be weary about the fact that if you put that out there, it’s really out there and people associate it with you.

Can you talk about your career path, and when journalism became something you definitely wanted to do?

I knew that I loved sports. I knew that I loved playing sports — hence why I played varsity soccer at Queen’s and powderpuff football — and I knew I loved writing. So it was kind of a natural pairing.

I never really took that leap into journalism of any sort until I got an opportunity to work for the Hamilton Ti-Cats. It allowed me to develop my journalistic skills, meaning it allowed me to be in scrums every day, interview players, develop a rapport, allowed me to work on my on-camera skills which was crucial.

It’s been absolutely wild, and such a rapid succession of jobs. After my experience with the Grey Cup train across Canada, I continued my relationship with TSN, and asked what they had, and we tried to come up with a good fit. Now, I’m landed here doing this job that involves a multitude of things.

So you ask what a typical day is like, I’m still trying to figure that out — I don’t think there will be a typical day. It involves what’s formally known as social media, some content creation, some hosting, some producing and some on-camera stuff, so it really is a wide variety of work.

What was your favourite place travelling through Canada with the Grey Cup?

It was Iqaluit, Nunavut. It was so different I had no idea what to expect. And it was just so fulfilling, and I say this honestly, in every stop we made [in Canada] people were pumped to see the Cup — especially out West, where you have die-hard CFL fans. But in Iqaluit they were so grateful.

We brought both the Cup and Andre Talbot, a former CFL-er who’s won the Cup with the Argos. They were just mesmerized. It was such a different and unique opportunity, certainly it ranks up there as one of the most unforgettable.

How prevalent is sexism in your line of work?

I don’t want to say that sexism doesn’t exist. I’m aware of the fact that people aren’t just watching me as a journalist or as a broadcaster — but as a female broadcaster and a female journalist, particularly in sports where you have so many viewers that are males.

But what I will say is that quality stands out. And regardless of gender, I don’t think about the fact that I’m female at all.

My goal isn’t to be the best female content creator or the best female broadcaster. My goal is to be the best content creator, period.

What’s the atmosphere, working with professionals like Jay Onrait and Dan O‘Toole, and others

It’s still an experience for me to walk into a studio and be standing there with Bob McKenzie, with James Duthie, with Kate Beirness. That’s still an experience for me.

It’s also interesting to meet fellow Queen’s grads, Jock Climie, Chris Cuthbert, Rod Smith — I had my audition with Rod Smith. Those guys have been great — Jay and Dan in particular. I don’t work with them often because oftentimes I’m gone by the time they come in, since they work in the late show.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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