Career Insight - Lee McKenzie - Journalist & Presenter.

Introduction portrait of journalist lee mckenzie.
Lee has become one of the most recognisable faces on national television as she regularly works on Channel Fourís F1 coverage and also previously for the BBC. Lee has covered many other sports including the Olympics, international athletics and one of the sports that helped Lee on her career journey, rugby. From an early age Lee was around the world of sports as her father was a sports journalist which led to her own interest in journalism. In our interview Lee tells us about her career journey and working in the world of televised sport.

Your journalism career started at a young age at 15 you had your first job. Did you prefer the work route rather than further education to start your career?
I went to Napier University to study journalism but wanted to get as much experience at as young an age as possible. I was able to write for many national newspapers whilst at Uni by covering rugby at the weekend and was also doing this whilst at school. I grew up in a Fleet Street environment so was never shy of pushing myself and was fortunate to learn from some of the best: family and shadowing people at national and local newspapers and TV.

How did you land your first job as a journalist at such a young age?
I wrote rugby and an equestrian column whilst at school at the age of 15. If you donít ask, you dont get and my work was good enough to be published. I worked for free at first and then a nominal sum.

You started with the written word but moved to a trainee role at Border TV. Why did you make this switch?
I was offered a job on TV as a trainee and decided to try this route. I didnít ever want to be on television but writing for TV interested me. It is a very different way of writing and I could always continue to freelance and write for newspapers and magazines.

Within 12 months you were setting records and reading the news as the youngest ever person in the UK to present the news, what were you doing in your first year?
I started reading the local morning bulletins into GMTV and then progressed to the 6 oíclock news when someone left. It wasnít really the plan as I like writing but it was another string to my bow and a new thing to learn.

From a start in news you're now best known for your work in the sports world. Why did you make the switch from current affairs to sports?
I was always working and writing about sport. My father was a Fleet Street sports journalist so by the age of 12 I had been to most major sports events and in the press box. As so often, a job came along that was too good to turn down and then you go down a path that might or might not have been intended.

lee mckenzie with four-time world f1 champion sebastian vettel. Smooth and effortless presenting to camera is an art form you mastered a long time ago. What skills do you need to make it look so easy?
Be yourself. Itís what you know best. And preparation is key. If you know what you are talking about then you will be much calmer and more authoritative whilst presenting. Also include the audience, be aware of how you speak to them.

Sports, especially motorsport, can be technical, how do you keep on top of the ever-changing detail you have to talk about?
I love my job and work on sports and programmes that i am enthusiastic about. Thatís the difference. So many people get in touch and say they want to be on TV. As what? If you donít genuinely love and absorb what you are talking about then it is obvious.

What do you enjoy about working in the world of sports broadcasting?
I love the fact that you are watching history being made. Also never forget people pay to attend something I get paid to be at. Sport, done properly and at the highest level can be a unifying thing.

What are the parts of the job you don't enjoy?
There is nothing I dislike but there are some aspects that make it frustrating. Airports and at the moment quarantine and self-isolating isnít much fun!

You've achieved a great deal in your work, what ambitions do you have for your journalism career?
I have just finished a childrenís book but not tried to get it published as yet and I'm working on another project.

What advice would you give to someone who's looking to make sports journalism their career?
Don't expect anything to be given to you on a plate. Be keen, be passionate about what you are working on and be prepared that of all the work and prep you do, only about 10% will be used!

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All images © Lee McKenzie and used with permission.

Article Date - June 2021

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