Kevin Sweet is the arts reporter and theatre critic for Le Téléjournal Ontario, Radio-Canada’s nightly television newscast.
He is also featured every Thursday on CBC News Toronto at 11.
In 2006, a documentary he co-produced about the
Rwandan genocide earned him a national journalism award as well as an
international broadcasting award from the New York Festivals.
Kevin has been with the nation’s public broadcaster for the
past 10 years. Six of those were spent as an arts reporter and theatre critic in
An Anglophone from Québec, he is fluent in both French and English.
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other
careers were on
I always knew that I’d do something artistic and related to
performance, but what shape that would take didn’t clearly articulate itself
until university. As a child I remember at one point wanting to be
a teacher; I would always set up a mock classroom in our garage. Then as I got older,
I became fascinated by choreography. Like most people my age I remember
watching Michael Jackson videos and trying to recreate his dance
moves in our basement. And then I
became obsessed with watching figure skating. Kurt Browning and Kristi Yamaguchi were childhood heroes of mine.
But I never became a dancer or a skater. Then, when college came around, I thought I’d follow in my sister’s steps and become a psychologist. But
I’ve never been good in math or sciences, two pre-requisites for the
job. So, in university I decided to do a bachelor’s degree in communications. It was a
wide ranging enough program that I was able to touch on a lot of things,
including broadcasting. And, well, as they say…the rest is history. Through hard work and opening myself to being guided by the right people and their advice,
here I am. So now, even though I never knew that I wanted to be a
broadcaster, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. (PS – I still sometimes
dance to Michael Jackson music by myself, in my living room. Believe me, I
can still bust a move!)
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’ve always dreamed of having my own talk-show, either on
TV or radio. Anything that allows me to interview people and get to know
them well. Sometimes TV news is so rushed and fickle. A sound-bite
never allows you to go in-depth.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Work hard, but remember to make time for yourself and friends
– someone who’s happy in life will be happy at work. Be curious. It’s not always about who you know but WHAT you know. Constantly ask for feedback, be open to constructive criticism and then challenge yourself with it.
Offer feedback to people who are working with you. Say yes to every single
opportunity that is offered to you, even though it seems like grunt work that
doesn’t quite match your goals. Be yourself. People watching or listening
at home can tell when you aren’t. Always apologize when you screw up –
character is built by successes and mistakes. Take time to recognize when someone has done a good job, they in turn will validate someone else’s work. Know what you want, and say it – people will always align with a vision that is
articulated clearly. A French producer once told me “organize yourself, before someone else does it for you.”
What are your
favourite media outlets, not including your own?
On a daily basis I read the arts sections of the Toronto Star, the Globe
and Mail, the National Post, the Huffington Post and La Presse. At night,
before bed, I’ll usually go back and skim through the headlines (because in
some shape or form, news informs art). And I gotta vouch for my own team here: I can’t start my
morning without Matt Galloway, The Current and Jian Ghomeshi’s daily
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Adele. She said she found
herself talking about things she wouldn’t even tell her mum.
Norah Jones. Yes, really! I was surprised too!
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
From my mom: Be a nice person, see every day as a gift, and
make sure that whatever talent you’ve been given is used to accomplish
something good. And from a university professor: When you want something done,
give it to someone who’s already busy.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Curiosity and empathy. When we are curious about others, we learn more about them and the easier it becomes to empathize. Honesty: mean what you say, and say what you mean. Be responsible for your own
actions and your life. Listen: to others and yourself. Be self-aware: self-awareness is the first step to self-accomplishment. Be on time.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I am not your mouth piece. You are not my bitch. We work together.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear
I vividly remember getting out of bed one night at midnight
to answer an email. I didn’t know who the bigger loser was: me for
answering, or the person who was still at work at that hour. But because you develop a friendship and respect for one another, it isn’t something
you mind doing. It’s like getting a text message from a buddy. And, all the peeps at TIFF are pros. Class all around, grace
under fire. A huge event, but they make you feel like family.
People who can’t communicate properly.
moment I’m reading Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. It’s my third attempt at reading this mammoth 975-page novel
about the building of a cathedral in the 12th century.
Best place on earth?
Anywhere there isn’t cellphone
reception and time to do nothing but get lost in a book.
I’d love to sit down with Alanis Morissette and God.
My mother. For
raising three kids alone and not letting them stray off the right path.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
“Camera +”…a nifty little app that allows you to edit your pictures in
your iPhone. You
almost feel like a professional photographer.
Pool or ocean?
Ocean, always. As long as there is a beach close by. I’m terrified of being out in open water, especially at night.
Voicemail or email?
Email. The written word is beautiful.
Theatre show in the fall season you’re most looking forward
Honestly, all of them. Always go into a play with no expectations, and
allow yourself to be surprised. It’s one of the only art forms where you
are really an important part of the process.