We had the absolute pleasure to chat with Edmonton, Alberta born and raised, Natasha Staniszewski about her personal and professional journey. We learn about how her early years as a small-town journalist and broadcaster shaped her craft and passion for sports and lead to her being a pioneer in the industry as the host of TSN’s SportsCentre, the channel’s flagship news programme, for the better part of a decade. We also look into what the future holds for this amazing and truly genuine broadcaster, media personality and sports enthusiast.
Spotlight: Tell us a little about yourself and growing up in Edmonton, Alberta? What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not in front of the camera or covering an event?
Natasha Staniszewski: Well yes I was born and raised in Edmonton like you said. I played a lot of sports growing up from an early age. My parents always wanted my brother, sister and I to be active so we were always at the gym or at the hockey rink. So I guess that is kind of where I developed my love for sports. I guess currently as an adult my sport now would be golf. I just started playing about five or six years ago and I absolutely love it. I still like to run and in my spare time I like to bake a lot, to read and I like to travel. I have a nephew who I love to spend time with. He lives in Edmonton so that is one of the reasons I moved back to Alberta as I am looking forward to spending time with all my family not just my nephew. So ya I guess that is me in a nutshell.
Spotlight: We understand that you earned a business degree from the University of Alberta but then decided at the age of 26 not to pursue a career in business, but rather a career as a sports broadcaster and went on to complete your broadcasting degree at NAIT in Edmonton. Can you tell us what motivated that change in career path? Do you find having a business degree has helped you when it comes to branding yourself?
Natasha Staniszewski: Well, I would say the seed had been planted when I was in high school like I mentioned I really enjoyed sports. I was a big Oilers fan; I like the Eskimos and I just remember watching ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ every weekend and thinking you know I could probably ask a few valid questions during the intermission. I think I could probably be a decent reporter, but I never seriously considered it at the time. It just seemed like a wild dream to try and be on tv in any capacity and there were not that many women on tv covering sports at the time, so it just didn’t seem like a great idea really. So, I did the practical thing and went to the University of Alberta and got a business degree and I worked for a few years doing HR and marketing and I just didn’t like it. I was pretty unhappy, and I did not want to be unhappy any longer and so at that point I obviously had a degree under my belt and I really felt like I had nothing to lose so I decided to change it up. I was 25 or 26, quit my job and went back to NAIT and got my tv broadcasting diploma.
Spotlight: Now we are kind of curious as we have always considered anybody like yourself, that you yourself are your own professional brand. Has that business degree helped you when it comes to branding yourself especially where you say you did a bit of HR and marketing has it been a benefit to have that especially when it comes to promoting yourself as a brand?
Natasha Staniszewski: It is a great question, I would say probably early in my broadcasting career I would like to think that employers looked at my resume, noticed a degree along with my tv diploma and thought okay this girl is a hard worker at the very least. She went to school and accomplished that degree, but in terms of promoting my brand or using it to build my brand, I am not really sure. The fact that I am not currently working in the sports broadcasting industry I think maybe now it might come into play a little bit more, but I would say it is a little too early to know one way or another.
Spotlight: You began your career in 2006 as a news reporter at CTV Yorkton in Saskatchewan, before moving to sports reporting at CTV Prince Albert. Was it always your intention to become a sports reporter? How did your stops at CTV Saskatoon as the station’s sports anchor and reporter covering the WHL and university athletics get you ready for your return back to your hometown to cover the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Eskimos for CTV Edmonton in 2009?
Natasha Staniszewski: That was exactly right. I accepted a job in Yorkton just so I could get a job basically. The news director there highly encouraged it, he said the quicker you can get on tv and get anchoring experience regardless if it is covering sports, weather or news, the better. So yes I took that advice, but yes I always had the intention of moving into sports as quickly as I could.
I mean every single thing you do gets you ready I would say in one way or another. The great thing about working in small towns is that you get to learn sort of everything in a business from the bottom up. So like I mentioned previously I was a videographer when I first started so I was responsible for shooting my own material, editing my own material, writing my own stories, doing the interviews, doing the research all that kind of stuff. Then a little bit later in my career when I started anchoring at Saskatoon I was in charge of building the whole show, what was the lead story, what goes first, what goes second all that kind of stuff. So, I think being in a small town and getting the opportunity to do everything and work with other videographers, you get to work with producers, you just get to know the industry a little bit better. So, all of those experiences helped. I mean a story is a story is a story whether you are writing it about a garlic farm in Yorkton or whether you are writing about Connor McDavid winning the Hart Trophy. It is still a story and you build it the same way. So all those skills you learn in small towns will help you do that much better when you get on the bigger stages.
Spotlight: How did covering the 2010 Grey Cup change your career?
Natasha Staniszewski: Ya when I was, exactly like you said, covering the Grey Cup and I was out at some sort of gala event or some sort of welcome event or something like that I bumped into the Vice President at TSN, I think we had spoken on the phone previously I had sent him a tape a few months previous looking for some feedback in ways to improve so, he already knew who I was so we bumped into each other and met face to face for the first time. It wasn’t long after that he phoned me and asked if I would be interested in coming to Toronto and auditioning for a maternity leave position. And to be honest I hadn’t really been seeking it out and I was pretty comfortable in Edmonton that is where I was born and raised like I said, but the opportunity was presented to me then and I thought I would give it a shot, but the rest is kind of history from that moment on.
Spotlight: Once with TSN you became a broadcasting trailblazer. What was it like to be part of the morning SportsCentre show and co-hosting with Kate Beirness, becoming the first regular female duo to anchor the show for the network?
Natasha Staniszewski: Well at that point by the time we had kind of got together, Kate and I, I had already been on TSN for three or four years before then so I was sort of a regular anchor at that point as was she and we had already worked many shows together and so when we were put together sort of permanently it honestly didn’t feel really different or anything it was just normal, it was fine for myself to be anchoring and normal for her to be anchoring. It didn’t feel like any big deal to throw us together. We got along well, we had good chemistry, viewers seemed to like us and I know it is significant for sure to have two females working together for the first time on that national show and it is very cool to have been one half of that team, but in the moment it just felt like the most natural normal thing.
Spotlight: What advice do you have for females or any readers for that matter when it comes to getting into broadcasting?
Natasha Staniszewski: Well, I think I touched on it already a little bit in that I just think the benefit you get from working in smaller markets is huge. I would say that the tendency is that as soon as you finish school you just want to get into a big market and you want to get on tv as fast as you can and you want to become a big star or whatever, but I think there is such value in going into small markets and gaining all that experience that I spoke about earlier. The chance to build all those skills from writing highlights, interviewing to shooting your own footage are huge and I think they will make you a better reporter as you advance in your career. I loved my time in those small towns, they are not for everybody, but I would say enjoy the journey it is a great experience and it’s a great chance to experience new places. To move away from home you get the opportunity to experience something different where you have never grown up or lived, I think the experience you get from that will be valuable. So I would say for sure think about the small towns. I think, I mean the industry has changed a lot I would say since I got into it. There are so many different ways now to break into the industry so be open minded and be prepared to work hard because it is so competitive and you will need to do the little things and you will probably have to put your time in, but if you are good, people will see you eventually. They will 100% see you.
Spotlight: What is the biggest lesson you have learned along the way in your professional journey? What was your biggest surprise? What was your biggest disappointment?
Natasha Staniszewski: I would say the one thing that I really had to work at or the one thing I really learned was try and be the best version of yourself on tv. It doesn’t serve you or anybody else to be fake or just to be something that you are not. So the more comfortable that you are with who you are I think the more comfortable you are on camera and the more people will relate to you, I think. So trying to be funny when you are not a funny person or you know trying to do some jazzy highlights in some sort of loud or crazy way when that is really not who you are is not going to work on camera and I think people sniff out fake really quickly. People can tell when you are trying to be somebody who you are not. So the quicker you can figure out who you are and get good at that on camera the better off you will be.
As for big surprises there weren’t any along the way I would say. Sorry that is a boring answer for you.
Fortunately, I have not had many disappointments either. I feel so fortunate I am so lucky I had jobs open up right when and where I needed them to at the time. I moved up the ladder fairly quickly. I would say the only thing I feel is a little bit unfinished business is I always wanted to cover or have some sort of show that was just hockey focused. Hockey is my favorite sport to cover, the NHL. I never really had the chance to do something just hockey focused, which isn’t to say I won’t in the future, but that is one thing I will say I haven’t quite done yet in my career.
Spotlight: So, you are looking for a full-time hockey gig is what you are telling me?
Natasha Staniszewski: I would definitely be open to it 100% yes. That is what I am telling you.
Spotlight: Since we follow you on social media we see that you have become a brand ambassador for the upcoming RBC PGA Scramble and are doing some promotional work with Windmill Golf Group. Are you open to other similar opportunities in and out of the sport industry? If so, how would someone go about contacting you about these opportunities?
Natasha Staniszewski: Definitely. I still haven’t, I mean how long has it been since I got laid off, six months, so it hasn’t really been that long. It has been a whirlwind. I moved provinces obviously and I am still trying to settle in, that sort of thing. So at this point I am still open to anything, I am hoping that opportunities may present themselves that I have not even thought of. I don’t think I am finished in the broadcasting industry. I would like to think that I am not. I am hoping that there is something still out there, but maybe not. Maybe there is something else out there that will come my way so I am all ears at this point. I haven’t ruled anything out.
Spotlight: For businesses and organizations that are interested in reaching out to you and having you be part of their project as a quest speaker, brand ambassador or anything of that nature, what would be the best way to contact you about these opportunities?
Natasha Staniszewski: So, I have somebody who helps me with that stuff. His name is Jeff Dykeman and he works for One Eleven Management Group Inc. so if you go to my instagram page the link is right there on my bio so you can just hit that and you will be in touch with him, plus there is also their website https://oneelevenmg.com/.
Spotlight: Any chances that we will be seeing you on the small screen any time soon and where do you see yourself professionally in the next 5 years?
Natasha Staniszewski: No plans at this moment to be on the tv screen but like I said I am definitely open to it. I am hoping something will transpire in let’s say in the next year or so. For the next 5 years I have no idea. I just feel like I could be anywhere I am really not sure career wise. I wish I knew, but like I said I am doing some consulting work with this golf company. I really enjoy golfing so I wonder if I will still be in this industry in five years. I definitely won’t be surprised if I am. But I think I do hope that I am back on tv sooner rather than later.
Spotlight: We have gone through a very unique time and think that everything is still balancing itself out and it will only be a matter of time and we will see you on the tv screen again. That is our opinion, we know you are missed. There are a lot of opportunities out there on different media platforms, have you ever thought of a sports blog or something like that, as Don Cherry has done very successfully with that transition?
Natasha Staniszewski: Ya a little bit. Blogs and podcasts aren’t the first thing that jump to mind but I’m trying to stay open to everything so never say never if the right opportunity comes along.
It goes with out saying that the last six months have been crazy times for Natasha, but one thing that we are very confident in is that this truly genuine person, broadcaster, media personality and sports enthusiast has yet to show her full potential on the industry and we are very exciting to see what the future holds for her and we know that it will be bright.
by Lee Ann Atwater