So Much More - Duane Watson
"There is a limitless amount of Black greatness out there and it should be amplified."
Duane Watson is a Producer and Writer currently working for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment as Supervising Producer for Community and Culture. After establishing a career in the business side of the music industry for 12 years, he made the decision to step away and focus on what he'd rather be doing: working in journalism. Since then, Duane has ingrained himself in the DNA of Canada basketball and is inspiring others to do the same.
When did you first make the decision to get into sports journalism? What drove you to do so?
DW: I've always had a passion for sports and could write a little and when I realized it was time to make a career change 10 years ago, after being in the music industry, I made the jump and started freelance writing full-time. Somewhat of a leap of faith, but I landed firmly and have kept it moving since.
Is there a particular journalist that has influenced you in your career?
DW: Scoop Jackson. It's funny, when I used to read his writing at first I really wasn't a fan. You always knew when Scoop wrote because he would be a part of the story and I felt that the writer was supposed to convey the story, not be a part of it. I never really paid attention to his storytelling and he is a part of the story because of the relationships and respect he has with a lot of his subjects. The cultural nuance he has and the way he wrote and moved was something I truly and easily related to. In addition to his work ethic grind and how he can move between different mediums is what made me really want to move in a similar path.
What did 2020 mean to you personally/professionally? Positives? Negatives?
DW: 2020 really made me step back and take stock of everything, but it also offered a lot of time to slow down and look at things from a different perspective. It allowed me to do some things I wouldn't make the time to do, so there were a lot of benefits. I've only played ball once since the pandemic hit so that sucks and playing for me is my escape.
As a Black sports journalist, do you feel pressure to pitch stories that focus on race?
DW: No, not at all actually. I started in this as I felt that our stories were underrepresented, or that the people trying to tell our stories weren't Black or understood the experience. I never looked at it as pitching Black stories, just really stories that I know people want to hear. Were they Black? Sure but it's important that they speak to our community and be authentic, yet also offer something to a wider audience.
What are your thoughts on how the media, as a whole, currently covers Black athletes/coaches/executives?
DW: Mainstream media definitely tends to boilerplate Black athletes/coaches/executives, which is a shame. You already know the story before you hear/read/watch it, there's still an unconscious bias. That's why I seek out other outlets, we aren't in the 80's anymore where you only have limited sources. Find the voices that speak to you, contribute to those outlets that share your voice.
The effects race has on the daily interactions in our lives can be very damaging; how do you take care of yourself?
DW: I think as Black people have a thicker skin when it comes to dealing with these daily interactions. But I will say that I am less tolerant with certain types of behaviour. then I have been in the past. I also feel that within our community, we are taught to endure. Truthfully, I don't think I have done enough to take care of myself in that regard, mentally and emotionally.
In your words, why is it so important to have diverse voices and viewpoints in media?
DW: Because we live in a country full of diverse voices, we need to hear and share different perspectives. Why would we only want to lean into one dominant voice all the time? Not having diverse voices is like not seasoning your meat.
Has your view of what Black history means now, compared to what it meant in previous years, changed?
DW: Funny, before it was really about education to me, but now it's more about Black Excellence and Black perspectives. We should celebrate the leaders, pioneers and innovators who have paved the way, as well as those who don't receive the shine, it doesn't need to be the same voices all the time. There is a limitless amount of Black greatness out there and it should be amplified.
How do you think we can make Canadians more aware of the ‘history’ in BHM?
DW: Education, not only others, but also for ourselves. The more everyone knows, the more we can grow.
What lessons from 2020 will you take with you into this year and beyond?
DW: Take time. Make time.
What advice would you give to your younger self when you first started?
DW: You will have to put in the work, but the rewards are worth it. Be true to yourself, tell your story, tell our stories. The journey will take you on a varied path you won't expect, but it will be worth it. The final destination is not one you expected, but will definitely be fulfilling. Don't forget to give flowers and take time to smell the roses. ...and don't stop pitching!