HALIFAX – Katie Kelly rarely spends the supper hour alone on weekdays, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The native of Sheet Harbour is fulfilling her career dream as the entertainment host for CTV News at 5, which attracts – on average – more than 210,000 daily viewers from across the Maritimes. Her segment – Keeping Up with Katie Kelly – is a mainstay for television watchers from the region.
“It has been incredible,” the graduate of the former Duncan MacMillan High School tells The Journal – the publication that provided her start in media as a high school columnist.
Growing up along her beloved Eastern Shore in the 1990s, Kelly remembers that the “TV was always on,” with the mornings reserved for tuning into the wildly popular Breakfast Television on ASN. After having an opportunity to visit the show’s studio in Halifax, when she accompanied her older brother whose band was playing on the program, the youngster pledged she would pursue a career in the medium.
“I was a super fan,” she says of the show – which is now CTV Morning Live – where she makes frequent appearances.
After graduating from high school, she attended the Nova Scotia Community College’s Ivany Campus in Dartmouth, where she completed the two-year radio and television arts program.
“I didn’t know a lot about journalism,” Kelly remembers, noting she knew that “hard news” was not her passion.
She adds, of her media studies, “It was the best thing that I ever did.”
Kelly says the experiences she had, such as a pair of internships with CTV Atlantic, were invaluable.
She describes those times as a “perfect fit,” even though it would be another decade or so before she would appear in front of a camera with the flagship station for this region of Canada.
Kelly kicked off her professional career in radio, starting with a season as the summer cruiser personality for CKBW in Bridgewater. After stints in Halifax and then Toronto, she returned to the east coast and joined one of the top stations in Nova Scotia’s capital city – 101.3 Virgin Radio and C100, which like CTV Atlantic are owned by Bell Media.
Although she was highly successful – having reached the position of promotions and marketing director – her dream of a career in television never faded.
“One day, I walked across the parking lot [the radio and TV stations were in close proximity],” Kelly remembers, where she met with CTV Atlantic bosses; she wanted to know what she would have to do over the next year or so to secure an on-air shot.
She took their advice to gain experience – get in front of the camera as much as possible – and ran with it.
“I think I was volunteering every night,” Kelly says of her time over the ensuing months with outlets such as Eastlink TV, while continuing to work at her demanding full-time gig with the sister radio stations.
She continued to hone her on-air television skills as the host of Pop Culture TV1 – where she interviewed musicians, artists, stylists, chefs and others on Bell TV1 – and then with a do-it-yourself segment on CTV Morning Live.
“One thing led to another, and then I got my foot in the door,” Kelly says.
And, as the saying goes, the rest is history; regular appearances became daily ones on CTV News at 5, morphing into what is now Keeping Up with Katie Kelly. There are also opportunities to fill in for co-hosts Maria Panopalis and Jayson Baxter; not to mention her weekly culinary segments – CTV’s What’s for Dinner – where she joins ‘The Kilted Chef’ Alain Bossé to cook up something in the kitchen.
“It is not the case at all,” Kelly offers of the misconception of some that the CTV News at 5 crew starts its day at 3 p.m. by sitting in a make-up chair.
Her day begins much earlier; she has to write scripts and source footage. And, of course, she carries out interviews and edits stories – just to list a few of her responsibilities. Plenty must be done behind the scenes before she makes her appearance on the TV screens of Maritimers.
“The goal is to provide our viewers with the best product possible,” Kelly explains, noting the tireless effort of her colleagues – both behind and in front of the cameras – to make that happen.
Reflecting on the stories she shares with viewers, she describes having the chance to showcase Maritime artists as a “privilege.”
“It has been so amazing – there is so much incredible talent,” Kelly explains, noting people from the industry are “fantastic.”
Her dedication to the music industry continues to be recognized. A recent nomination for a 2023 East Coast Music Award (ECMA) for Media Person of the Year comes on the heels of a 2022 Music Nova Scotia Award for Media Arts.
Over the past couple of years, with most of the world in the grip of COVID-19, Kelly notes that – with increased access to celebrities with more time on their hands than usual – she “climbed out on a couple of limbs,” which garnered several blockbuster interviews.
When asked to name her favourite interview – global pandemic notwithstanding – Kelly takes a thoughtful pause.
“There are so many,” she offers, before taking another moment, while reiterating the difficulty with making a choice.
Kelly finally decides it is hard to top her two interviews with the iconic singer-songwriter Sting.
“I don’t usually get very nervous, but I was so scared,” she remembers, with a laugh, calling the international solo sensation and former frontman for The Police “amazing.”
There have also been memorable conversations with stars such as Reba McEntire and Keith Urban.
“I couldn’t breathe,” she adds of her conversation with actor Candace Cameron, one of the childhood stars of Full House – a show that Kelly adored growing up.
As for subjects on her interview to-do list, not surprisingly – if you watch CTV News at 5, or know Kelly – it is Canadian superstar Justin Bieber.
“Sadly, I didn’t get the chance,” she says of talking to Bob Saget, the accomplished comedian who starred as the widower father in Full House.
And, there are Maritime music legends – such as Anne Murray, who top her interview to-do list.
Kelly also fondly remembers her first “big” interview, which came with Canadian rock legend Corey Hart.
“Everybody loved that one at home,” she says, noting Hart made frequent references to the Eastern Shore during their conversation.
Kelly points out that the support she has always received from not only family and friends, but also residents of the Eastern Shore has been “amazing.”
“It was a pretty typical small town upbringing,” she offers of growing up in Sheet Harbour.
Because there “wasn’t a lot to do” – no malls or movies – Kelly says she and her friends spent plenty of time “walking along the harbour.”
Noting that it is “amazing and beautiful,” with “plenty of great people and places,” she adds her youth along the Eastern Shore means everything to her.
Kelly offers that it is a region of the province that is “a bit underestimated.”
“I am really proud of where I am from,” she says – a pride she doesn’t shy away from sharing with her television audience.
“Every time I get the chance, I always try to get in a plug,” Kelly adds, with a laugh.
It is also a place that taught her the importance of hard work, which has been a key to her successes.
Because of her “unconventional path,” Kelly offers that she “appreciates it more.”
“I am so happy, so lucky.”
CTV News at 5 airs weekdays on CTV Atlantic, from 5 to 6 p.m.