Global anchor says j-school program “bang on”

Global TV’s Carolyn MacKenzie credits her Carleton journalism degree with giving her the tools to succeed. (Photo provided by Global TV)

Carolyn MacKenzie loves a challenge.

Shortly after joining Global Television’s flagship Toronto news operations as their latest reporter, MacKenzie received a note from a viewer taking exception to a recent segment about accessibility issues for the disabled improving on the Toronto Transit Commission.

“Take a walk in my shoes,” the viewer, who was confined to a wheelchair, said.

She could have thanked the viewer for writing and gotten on with her life but instead, MacKenzie saw an opportunity to take a popular news item, and turned it into a personal drama, told over three parts in a documentary that won the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Journalism in 2005.

Given her drive, the Global anchor probably would have been successful, but choosing to go to Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communications gave her a head start.

“No doubt, it was, and still is the best journalism school in the country,” MacKenzie says, “and Ottawa is one of the busiest news cities in the world. As a student, you couldn’t ask for any greater education.”

She says that now, but when she first arrived at Carleton 20 years ago, the then spunky 19-year-old from Etobicoke wanted to be an actress, and spent most of her free time writing and acting with the university’s Sock ‘n’ Buskin theatre company until her parents urged her to look ahead, and encouraged her to stick with journalism and act on the side.

“The more I got into journalism, the less I wanted to do theatre,” she recalls. “Journalism gave me the chance to write, tell stories and perform. I was hooked by the end of my first year.”

“I learned a lot at Carleton. The course was bang-on, very hands-on and practical. By the time I finished, I could shoot and edit stories. That was a huge advantage by the time I was ready to look for a career.”

After graduating with a Bachelor in Journalism in 1998, MacKenzie volunteered for Rogers Cable long enough to compile a decent audition tape. That led to reporting gigs in Sydney, N.S. and Barrie, Ont. before getting the call from Global in 2004.

“The news director said he saw the fire in my belly. The drive. I love telling stories, piecing pictures and words together to tell a complete human drama. I have a front-row seat on what’s going on in the city.”

Her boss saw her ambition. Viewers saw in MacKenzie a person they could trust to deliver the news with subtle emotion and fierce intelligence.

“Being real, not preaching or speaking down to viewers, but having a conversation with them. That’s what I want people to feel. Like we’re having a conversation. We’re asking a lot of viewers to give us an hour of their time. It’s a lot. Hopefully, I can make them think and feel differently.”

In 2013, she was promoted from weekends, to the station’s 11 p.m. news anchor. At only 39, she was already one of the top media personalities in the largest media market in Canada.

Though her own career reads like an uninterrupted fairytale, MacKenzie, too, has had to navigate the impact the Internet’s had on mainstream media first-hand. She views it, not so much as a threat to journalists, but an opportunity.

“I tell journalism students to not worry about the future of journalism. If you love it, you have to work hard, but mainstream media isn’t going anywhere. Journalists today need to be current, competitive and take risks and apply your old-school skills for new news gathering platforms. I’m on board with the new technology. It can be an exciting future.”

As much as she loves her job and its 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. routine, MacKenzie yearns to eventually spend more time with her two children aged six and three, and get back out into the field, making documentaries and chasing national stories across Canada.

“I’m still that person Global hired 10 years ago,” she says. “I still have that drive that got me into this business years ago and I hope to keep at it for a long time. I love what I do and I hope it shows.”

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