How long have you been working with TSN?
Julia Tocheri: I started at TSN when I was still in university at Toronto Metropolitan (then Ryerson). I started on the BarDown and social media team in September 2018, mostly pulling night time shifts after school helping man our social pages.
When did you first make the decision to get into sports journalism/broadcasting? What drove you to do so?
JT: I followed my love of hockey and public speaking all the way here! Grade 10 Careers class was the first time I ever thought seriously about what I wanted to do when I was older, and I remember my mom mentioning that she could see me on hockey broadcasts ‘like Chris Simpson’. At the time, I was still playing hockey avidly while also being in our school’s musical and excelling in writing and public speaking. It was a perfect marriage of sport, storytelling, and performing.
Is there a particular journalist that has influenced you in your career?
JT: Many - Kate Beirness, Jen Hedger, Kristen Shilton, Chris Simpson, and Tara Sloane were all women I was lucky to watch growing up and who made me believe I could be them eventually. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work with some of them, and for the women I’m currently surrounded with at BarDown and TSN that influence me daily.
What have the last 3 years during the pandemic meant to you personally/professionally? What were the biggest adjustments you made during that time?
JT: Honestly, I was one of those really lucky people whose career was almost expedited by the pandemic. Social Media was almost the main source of entertainment for people during the height for COVID, and that having a presence in that space was super beneficial. The era of interviewing athletes while we were all stuck at home on Instagram Live was huge for me. Personally, I’ve found a bit more balance during the pandemic. The ability to do some of my work remotely has made the work/life balance easier, and the extra time without a constant commute has also definitely made me healthier physically, with more time to cook and move.
What are your thoughts on how the media currently covers women’s sports?
JT: It’s an interesting question. Even five years ago I could very comfortably just respond ‘trash’, but there’s been major strides over the past few seasons. I know coverage of women’s professional leagues and international tournaments has become a priority for us at TSN and it’s not uncommon that women’s stories will lead Sportscentre. We also aim to keep a reasonable balance of men’s and women’s coverage across our social channels. There’s still a long way to go, though, because women are often still treated unfairly within their own organizations, face constant abuse online, and generally make a fraction of their male counterparts. Coverage-wise, though, things are on the incline.
That being said, I think that there’s an issue with women’s sports not being covered critically. I host a Leafs show, so we do a lot of honest criticism of the Leafs. It feels like we as media only cover women’s sports when there’s a fun story to tell, but won’t touch tougher stories when players aren’t performing. It infantilizes the players, who could definitely take the criticism, and results in the coverage being imbalanced.
With your job, sometimes the access viewers and fans have with you can be very rewarding but also very damaging; how do you take care of yourself?
JT: I take care of myself by muting and moving the heck on. Never blocking, it feels like blocking them means they win (laughs). Mean comments online used to really overwhelm me but it's unfortunately something that just gets a little easier with time and a concentrated effort to focus on the people that lift me up and enjoy what I’m putting out there. No one who has the energy to put out hate online can have a very pleasant life, so I generally try to feel pity for them.
In your words, why is it so important to have diverse voices and viewpoints in media?
JT: I am where I am today because I saw women on hockey broadcasts and I knew it was possible for me. That’s not the case for everyone. I don’t know that I'd be here if I didn’t see people that looked like me and that’s why it’s so important. Diversity also results in more balanced storytelling - the more people that are involved in telling a story, the more perspectives you receive, and the more nuance you understand.
Has your view of what Women’s history means now, compared to what it meant in the past, changed?
JT: I think I have more respect for how hard women worked even when women weren’t allowed to ‘work’. How hard women still work maintaining a home and children and the patriarchal views of a women’s role in the home and family while also working full time now. How things have changed a lot but at its core womanhood and its experiences haven't changed all that much at the same time.
What advice would you give to your younger self when you first started?
JT: The advice I would give her is to appreciate every phase while you’re in it and not to let outside voices get you down. I feel like I grind so hard that sometimes I forget to soak in the moments while they’re happening, and I spent way too long worrying about online trolls.
What’s the best part of your job?
JT: The best parts of my job are knowing how cool younger me would think it is, the people I work with, and the travel.
What does being a woman here in Canada mean to you?
JT: Being a woman in Canada means that I have the freedom to define what womanhood means to me, but the responsibility to respect what it means to others.