So Much More - Donnovan Bennett
"[Black history] should be in the fabric of our education system. Black history is Canadian history."
Donnovan Bennett is a writer, producer and host for TV and radio for Sportsnet. His work in sports covers race, politics, gender and pop culture and when reading, listening or watching any of his stories you know immediately that they come from a deeply personal place. A strong leader, advocate and role model in every aspect, Donnovan and his work play a key role in journalism as a whole.
When did you first make the decision to get into sports journalism? What drove you to do so?
DB: I wanted to be in sports journalism as long as I could remember. If I wasn’t playing sports, I was watching sports. Every school assignment or paper I ever did I found a way to tie to sports. I wasn’t good enough to do anything else so when the dream of playing sports died covering sports was the goal.
Is there a particular journalist that has influenced you in your career?
DB: The mentorship of Duane Forde. The example of Cabral Richards. I’m not in the industry or surviving in it if not for them being an example for me and investing in me.
As a Black sports journalist, do you feel pressure to pitch stories that focus on race?
DB: I do. If I don’t, who will? I don’t want to be the boy who cried wolf and interject race when it isn’t warranted but when it is, I do feel a responsibility to the community to speak up and say it.
What are your thoughts on how the media, as a whole, currently covers Black athletes/coaches/executives?
DB: We often cover them like they’re a niche topic not just human-interest stories like everybody else. Covering Black storylines aren’t philanthropy it’s storytelling. My main concern is how we cover them. Black athletes are praised for their athleticism and white athletes are praised for their ingenuity. It reinforces that our body is our talent which has been a racist ideology since the days of slavery. LeBron James isn’t just a physical specimen, he’s a basketball genius. We do him a disservice when we celebrate one and not the other. But most importantly we do the audience a disservice as we are sending cues as to which way certain people are valued in society.
The effects race has on the daily interactions in our lives can be very damaging; how do you take care of yourself?
DB: I recently started talking to a therapist. For a long time, it is something I wanted to do but never got around to it. In 2020 it became a must do. There is no critical issue, and I luckily don’t suffer from mental health issues, but I want to be proactive and make sure I’m being my best self. We talk to professionals about our finances, taxes, teeth, cars, the least we should do is talk to one about our health and well-being.
In your words, why is it so important to have diverse voices and viewpoints in media?
DB: Because our country is diverse. That diversity should be reflected in all walks of life. If only one or two viewpoints are shown, the message that it sends is the other viewpoints don’t matter and aren’t valued. And that is the antithesis of equality.
Has your view of what Black history means now, compared to what it meant in previous years, changed?
DB: It hasn’t changed. It’s always been important to me. Only difference is now there is more of an audience willing to engage.
How do you think we can make Canadians more aware of the ‘history’ in BHM?
DB: It should be in the fabric of our education system. Black history is Canadian history. The reason Black history month was started was to counteract the lack of Black history in our curriculum.
What lessons from 2020 will you take with you into this year and beyond?
DB: Focus on what matters. Invest more time and energy towards the core things that are important and be comfortable letting go of anything else that’s just a distraction.
What advice would you give to your younger self when you first started?
DB: Embrace the grind. Attack the hurdles. It won’t be easy but that’s why it’s worth doing. If it was easy everyone would do it. So, don’t be discouraged - be determined.