Daryn Kagan

Daryn Kagan

For 12 years Daryn Kagan anchored at CNN covering everything from news to sports to entertainment. In 2006, Kagan left the news business to form her own project. It was inspirational stories that have given her the most passion and www.darynkagan.com was born and has led to a new book release titled What’s Possible. Through her battles to be taken seriously doing sports in an Arizona TV market to moving to CNN to now reinventing herself, she admits Dancing with The Stars is part of that big change she’s made and wants do the show more than anyone else.

Listen to the Daryn Kagan CYInterview:

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Chris Yandek: I understand your contract ran up with CNN, but we could also look at Diane Sawyer and Meredith Viera and say these women are around your age group or a little older. You must’ve believed you had a chance to end up somewhere else correct?

Daryn Kagan: “Yeah. Well, they’re actually about ten years older. CNN came to me at the beginning of 2006 and told me they were not going to renew my contract after 12 years. I never asked why. It might have been some age. I don’t know. Part of my story is that I didn’t ask why. I knew it was time to go do something else. For me it was a chance to ask myself if I could do anything that I wanted to do what would I? The inspirational stories were always my favorite. I decided to make a business out of telling inspiring stories.”

CY: For someone who has worked with the Internet through my 7.5 years in this industry and runs a successful online media outlet like you, how much did you really know about Internet before www.darynkagan.com was launched and could you really see where this was all going?

DK: “Is there a number less than zero? I really knew nothing. Even to the point when I went to register the name of my website www.darynkagan.com. It said it was taken. I thought all I had to do was call the company, a domain company and let them know that the guy down in Boca Raton, Florida wasn’t me and they were just going to give it back to me. I thought it be that simple. I didn’t know about cybersquatting. I didn’t know that I should expect to pay tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars or get a lawyer. I knew nothing. There is a happy ending to that story. I did contact him and it turns out he was a fan of mine on CNN and he said, ‘Why do you think I have your name?’ I don’t know. ‘You know? I think I was meant to have it to hold on to it so nobody else would take advantage of you.’ So he gave me www.darynkagan.com back for free. No money changed hands. No lawyer. Nothing.”

CY: Could you see where this is all going as far as the industry is concerned?

DK: “One of the reasons I decided to go in the direction was that I could’ve gone and knocked on the door of MSNBC or Fox or local news, but I thought you know what? The way the TV news business is going, probably I’d be out the door in a few years anyway. At some point I was gonna have to reinvent myself. Meanwhile I saw all this exciting stuff happen online. I though wow! You can have a website where you do your favorite kind of reporting? I saw the beginning of videos being put online. I saw that I could create my online channel. I was seeing possibilities which is a big word in my story, but I really didn’t know how it all worked.”

CY: With the stories on your website and your book What’s Possible, do we not see enough of these stories covered in the mainstream?

DK: “People get really frustrated with news these days, the whole idea that if it bleeds it leads. I think news is very important. I think it’s important to be informed. I think it’s important to be inspired. I think one of the things that technology offers us today is that there is room for all of it. I don’t need to tell CNN how to do their job. I don’t need to redo the local news or the local newspaper. They do what their mission is and there is room for me to open up my own place and focus on what I want to do. Then the consumer of information can decide what they want, when they want it, the order they want.”

CY: The industry continues to move into different channels of topics. You have websites for different demographics, categories, and subjects. Where do you think the industry is going? You and me are doing our own projects. Is this where the future is going?

DK: “Absolutely. I think the whole power paradigm is completely shifting. On the end where we are I think is really exciting. On the end for the old traditional media companies I think it’s really scary. Gone are the days where you have to wait to seven o’clock at night for some people on the upper east side in New York to tell what you what news there was that day, the story you should be interested in, what order you should be watching in, and how much time should be spent on it, and point of view you should be getting information. The whole power is in everyone’s right hand, which is where most of them click their mouse. They get to decide what kind of information they want to consume and when. That’s changing everything.”

CY: Would you say then that the Katie Couric thing wasn’t really that big of a deal at all then?

DK: “Yeah. As a woman in the business I get asked a lot about what I think about Katie Couric. I think where they are going with the woman news anchor and to me as you picked up on, I don’t think the story is about being a woman news anchor at all. I think it’s what is happening to the evening news. Wait till seven o’clock? You’ve gotta be kidding. By seven o’clock I’ve been on ten websites twenty times looking at what I want, when I want, and how I want.”

CY: What do you make of the political coverage by the cable networks as someone who worked at CNN for 12 years?

DK: “Well, I think CNN hit on something people are interested in. Clearly the way their ratings have been reflected, people are very interested in this election unlike one that we have ever seen in this country by who’s running and by how long they’re running. Just because it has drawn out as long as it has it has brought in people who wouldn’t have been included in previous years in the process. There is a lot of interest. News like anything else is a business. If they think there is eyeballs there that’s what they are going to produce towards.”

CY: I interviewed Robin Roberts last year of Good Morning America and you two both have a lot in common but specifically you both wanted to cover sports on the broadcasting level, which has been mostly a male dominated position. I know ESPN has a share of female personalities, but is it still hard for women to break into the sports media or be taken seriously?

DK: “Actually I mention Robin in my book when I am telling that first chapter of my story of how I came to do what I was doing. When I wanted to do sports I was a local news reporter in Phoenix in the mid 90s and I went to my news director and told him I wanted to do sports. He told me literally women don’t do sports. Men won’t watch women doing sports. At that time Robin was climbing the ladder at ESPN. Hannah Storm was at CNN. Hannah has just rejoined ESPN. I knew he was wrong. There were opportunities that people would be looking for women who were serious about sports, and that was the place of breaking out as a local news reporter in Phoenix. Indeed that was my ticket and how CNN first hired me. As a sports anchor I had a wonderful time doing sports. I got to cover everything. It was amazing. I was there for 3.5 years. It’s definitely possible and yes it still is a man’s world. There is only so far you can go. You probably could be a sideline reporter, but you’re not necessarily going to be doing play by play. The Yankees have a woman who does play by play for them, but in general there aren’t that many jobs. There is only so far you’re gonna go. Also as a woman in sports, one thing I came to realize is if a man makes a mistake with a fact error or a pronunciation of a name it would be oh he flubbed up the name. If a woman makes that mistake she doesn’t know sports. Those are the rules of the game. You understand it going in. If you don’t like it don’t come out to play.”

CY: I am thinking maybe you find sports stories to be inspirational like the ones you’re doing right now and might have been part of the reason you wanted to be a sports broadcaster?

DK: “You know? I think you’re absolutely right. One of the reasons I got really tuned in with sports journalism was reading Sports Illustrated magazine, which I still read today because they would have great inspirational stories. I grew up a sports fan with a dad and an older brother. I definitely like sports, but I think there is great storytelling that takes place in sports. I think that’s one of the reasons I was drawn in that direction.”

CY: I know you’re a fan of Dancing with the Stars. How badly do you want to do the show?

DK: “I think it’s not fair to say I am a fan of the show. I am more like a Dancing with the Stars freak. I’ve seen every episode since it has come on. My little sister and I love to have endless debates over who should be my dancing partner when I am on the show and we have very different opinions on that. I think it would be great. If I got a chance to do Dancing with the Stars, my whole platform and this is gonna sound like a beauty pageant, but I know people represent different constituencies on there, my whole platform would be reinvention. Of course I understand most people will never be a network news anchor or create their own online inspirational site, but most people go through a time when they need to reinvent themselves.

There are a lot of people that are facing corporate layoffs or maybe facing a personal crisis like a divorce. Maybe it’s stay at home moms whose kids have grown up. I know a lot of people out there where they’re at a point in their lives where the thing that they did has gone away and now what? Either a chance to let it completely beat you and stay under the cover for a couple of days, but then what? Then what do you do? What I have found through my own reinvention journey is that it is a chance to re-invent your life and do things that you never would’ve dreamed of including Dancing with the Stars.”

CY: I think you would fair better than Tucker Carlson.

DK: “Thank you for that vote of confidence. What was he voted off first the season he was on?”

CY: Yeah.

DK: “Kenny Mayne. He’s a sports broadcaster. I think he was voted off first. Just to redeem the TV people.”

CY: Finally, anything else going on and you’d like to add.

DK: “Just that my purpose for doing the website and the book is obviously to entertain and inspire, but I want people to come there and find the spark to make their what’s possible dreams come true. Have them see it’s possible to make a difference in their lives and the world around them.”

You can find more information about Daryn Kagan and her book What’s Possible at www.darynkagan.com.