McQUEEN, TRINA

Canadian Broadcast Journalist and News Executive

In her twenty-seven years with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Trina McQueen's singularly successful career has constituted a series of "firsts" for women. In 1992, she became vice president of English Television News and Current Affairs and of CBC Newsworld (the all-news cable channel), the first and only woman to hold such a high-ranking position at the Canadian network.

The following year McQueen was made vice president of Regional Broadcasting Operations, which included equity in portrayals across all broadcast services and foreign bureaus. This move was widely regarded as a demotion as well as a backward step for the future of high-level female broadcast executives. The network, however, denied that charge and McQueen remained uncomplaining even after her departure. The only other female vice president, however, Donna Logan, who was head of English-language CBC Radio, was also demoted, leaving the executive suite all male. McQueen had been opposed to the changes being initiated by head office to move the successful flagship nightly 10:00 P.M. news The National, to the all-news cable channel, Newsworld. The switch also involved canceling the acclaimed in-depth nightly documentary news series that followed, The Journal, and launching Prime Time News at 9:00 P.M. CBC brass brought in news head Tim Kotcheff from the rival network, CTV, to implement the changes, which proved to be disastrous.

McQueen's quiet, soft-spoken and tactful negotiating manner combines with a toughness attested to by long-time colleagues. She has been called "something of a Patton in Pollyanna's clothing." It was reported that McQueen lost a power struggle for the position of senior vice president of TV services to fast-rising wunderkind Ivan Fecan, in a management arrangement in which their duties, previously carried out by vice president Denis Harvey, were split into two vice president jobs. McQueen oversaw a thousand people and more than 200 hours of information programming per week in her position.

McQueen began in journalism at the entry level, parlaying student jobs on newspapers to a stint with the Ottawa Journal. From there she became the first female reporter for CTV's local Toronto station CFTO and co-host for CTV's current affairs magazine show, W5. When CTV execs indicated that a woman would not be hired as a national reporter, McQueen quit and joined the public network, CBC, in 1967. There she became the first female on-camera reporter for The National news. After nine years as reporter, producer and assignment editor, she became the first female executive producer of The National in 1976 when she was 33.

Having grown up watching The National in Belleville, Ontario, she has said that it was a glorious dream job for her. She presided over a virtual revolution of the news, replacing the old guard with the then-new faces of Hike Duffy, Peter Mansbridge and Knowlton Nash. She guided the new management through the 1980 Quebec referendum as well as two federal elections, in addition to daily news stories. She also stood up to the chauvinists' stereotypes of women in news and won respect and success.

 


Trina McQueen
Photo courtesy of the Discovery Channel

McQueen returned to news, after nine years in CBC administration, as director of news and current affairs. It was a time of huge budget cuts which decimated jobs, regional CBC stations and employee morale. Then as vice president, she also became manager of the CBC broadcast centre, the new downtown facility which gathered together the disparate TV and radio production entities which had inhabited various spaces throughout Toronto. In addition, she was head of English network finances and human resources.

In 1993, when the federal government handed down more budget cuts for CBC, as it had every year since 1985, McQueen decamped for a job in the private sector. She is still vice president and general manager of the newly created The Discovery Channel, Canada, largely owned by Labatt Communications Inc., the entertainment arm of the giant beer conglomerate. The Canadian specialty network produces shows on science, technology, nature, the environment and world cultures. Both a journalistic pioneer and an active senior broadcast executive, Trina McQueen has already devoted three decades to national and regional Canadian programming.

-Janice Kaye

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TRINA MCQUEEN. Born Catherine Janitch in Canada, 1943. Educated at Carleton College, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Summer relief reporter for CBC National News, 1967; Reporter, Journal, Ottawa; reporter, CFTO-CTV, Toronto; co-host, W5 magazine show, CTV; reporter, producer, editor, The National, from 1967, executive producer, 1976; vice president, news and current affairs and Newsworld cable new service, CBC, 1991, vice-president of regional broadcasting, 1992; general manager and vice president of the Discovery Channel, from 1993. Address: Discover Channel Canada, 2225 Sheppard Avenue E, Suite 100, Willowdale, Ontario, Canada M2J 5C2.

 

See also National/The Journal