Soraya McDonald: ‘My feminism has always informed how I approach stories’

(Photo by Lucy Polly)
Soraya Nadia McDonald Photo credit: Lucy Polly

Soraya Nadia McDonald
senior writer and critic, The Undefeated
Howard University, B.A.

In January, Soraya McDonald joined the staff of the highly anticipated new ESPN web vertical, The Undefeated. In addition to writing feature stories, she is spearheading coverage of the fall TV season with Kelley Carter. Her first piece for the Undefeated illustrated how Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B should be used as a model for producing work by people of color. A more recent piece compared the popular musical “Hamilton” to “Shuffle Along,” the 1921 musical that featured an all-Black cast.

Such work represents quite the evolution. “I started out wanting to be a sports writer when I was in high school because I loved football. Initially, I wanted to be a color commentator because I thought it was ridiculous for female reporters to be relegated to the sidelines. And, then I went to college and realized I didn’t want to be on television. Later, I became much more inspired by highlighting the stories of people who might otherwise be ignored or forgotten. But my feminism has always informed how I approach stories and the ones that I choose.”

The Path

Following her freshman year in college, McDonald took an unpaid internship at “I was lucky enough to have a relative who could help me with the expenses my job didn’t cover,” says McDonald.

An early influence was an internship with the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Missippi. “I got that internship through the Sports Journalism Institute (founded by Leon Carter and Sandy Rosenbush), which basically served as a boot camp for a bunch of female and minority aspiring sports journalists. Every year, SJI selects a group of college students from around the country and puts them through an intense course of sports journalism training before sending them to their internships, which are part of the program. It was a really, really valuable experience for me.”

After college, McDonald did brief stints at The Colorado Springs Gazette, and the Los Angeles Times’ Daily Pilot before joining The Washington Post, where she’d worked while in college. She had been promoted from an assistant systems editor to a arts and culture writer when she joined The Undefeated.


“At some point, I’ll probably have a podcast. The great thing about the internet is that you get to experiment with storytelling in a variety of forms and voices. Sometimes I’m serious, sometimes I’m snarky, sometimes I’m somewhere in-between.”

Favorite hashtag: “#FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes was pretty clutch.”

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