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Meet a Media and Communication Studies alum hitting his goals
Although he was on the other side of the world, University of Guelph-Humber Media and Communication Studies alumnus Brendan Dunlop saw some of his dreams come true during the recent Tokyo Olympics.
A lifelong sports fan who has dreamed of anchoring TV news since he was in elementary school, Dunlop was selected this past summer to host CBC’s live digital show The Extra Hour, a regular roundup of Olympic programming with interviews, analysis, features, and more.
That meant that Dunlop had the opportunity to interview some of Canada’s top Olympic athletes just hours after they climbed the podium.
Given that the Olympic assignment coincided with Dunlop publishing his first book – co-writing Canadian soccer great Dwayne De Rosario’s memoir DeRo: My Life – and hosting podcasts and vlogs for the Toronto Star, it has been a hectic but deeply rewarding time in Dunlop’s career.
“I’m living my dream right now,” said Dunlop, who has also spent time as an anchor, host and broadcaster with Sportsnet and The Score.
“If you told 10-year-old Brendan that I’d be doing what I’m doing, he wouldn’t have believed it. This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do and I get to live it every day. It doesn’t feel like a job.”
A unique Olympic approach
Though Dunlop has extensive experience as a sports broadcaster, his show with CBC was different than anything he had done before.
Broadcasting from CBC’s downtown Toronto headquarters with a smaller-than-usual crew due to the pandemic, Dunlop had the opportunity to interview freshly crowned gold medal-winning track stars Damian Warner and Andre De Grasse, as well as members of Canada’s Olympic gold medal-winning women’s soccer team including Vanessa Gilles and Erin McLeod.
Though he was speaking to the athletes remotely, Dunlop saw the show’s longer, looser format as an opportunity to have more intimate interviews than you might typically see during tightly packed Olympic TV broadcasts.
“What I loved about the CBC show is how organic many of the conversations were,” Dunlop said. “We talked about issues I don’t see in mainstream TV a lot.
“I loved that. I love that the conversations weren’t exclusively about what was on the field.”
For Dunlop, one highlight of the show was welcoming “fanalyst” guests – celebrities from other fields who were passionate about the Olympics. Those guests included Aladdin star Mena Massoud, NFL tight end Luke Willson, MMA journalist Ariel Helwani, and actress Elena Juatco – who is actually Dunlop’s wife, making for a fun and memorable interview experience.
Another highlight was a chat with retired Canadian women’s soccer stars Karina LeBlanc and Diana Matheson that went 20 minutes – easily Dunlop’s longest-ever on-air interview.
“That was great. I loved to banter and talk to them.”
Soccer was indeed the first love for Dunlop. Growing up in Windsor, Ont., Dunlop loved both watching and playing the game (though his goalkeeping career ended around the age of 8). One cherished childhood memory was a cross-border trip to watch the U.S. national men’s soccer team in action at the Pontiac Silverdome.
That is what made Dunlop the perfect candidate to write a book with De Rosario. DeRo: My Life was the culmination of years of collaboration between the two, with Dunlop often writing in the wee hours of the morning after filming the next morning’s sports news broadcast.
When he finally had the chance to hold the finished book in his hands, it was a moment Dunlop won’t soon forget.
“It was a great feeling, and a lot of relief to get to that point, because it was a marathon project and it oftentimes didn’t feel like we would get to the finish line,” Dunlop said. “It was a sweet reward in that sense, but I’m also very proud of the project we put together.
“It’s a great story about one of Canada’s greatest athletes who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.”
Soon after Dunlop’s childhood stint in the soccer goal ended, his professional goals came into clear focus: he wanted to one day talk about sports on TV.
That never changed, and as he looked into his post-secondary options, the University of Guelph-Humber seemed to offer the right mix of practical and theoretical education he thought would help him ultimately thrive in the field.
“The program was a lot more complex than I expected. I was hoping to be sitting on a desk within the first year replicating the job that I wanted to do and the job I have now. There was a lot more theory at the time than I expected, but I realized even before I graduated how important that theoretical learning was,” Dunlop said.
“The technical side was amazing too. That first experience sitting at the news desk at Guelph-Humber made me realize how great an opportunity that is and how great a feeling that is to sit up there, report on the news, and be that sports broadcaster I always watched growing up.
“That was the solidification of the fact that this is absolutely what I want to be doing with my life. I knew then that this is what I dreamed about and it felt great doing it.”
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