INDIANAPOLIS – For Kate Jackson, there’s a bigger picture.
The 16-year ESPN veteran will make history Sunday when she produces part of ABC’s telecast of the Indianapolis 500, becoming the first woman ever in the producer role for the historic race.
But for Jackson, a coordinating producer in ESPN’s Production department, it’s about much more than that. She’s looking to the future.
“Any time you look at incredible women who are examples to all of us, you look at the women who sort of broke through whatever it was,” she said. “For me to be the first woman to sit in a producer chair at the Indy 500 is unimaginable. I grew up loving this event – I am a racing girl at heart, and to be able to sit in the chair and produce something that I used to watch with my father growing up is an unbelievable honor.
“And I just hope that I can be that kind of example for younger girls and younger women who want to do sports or do anything, that if I can do it, anybody can do anything,” she said.
Jackson and ESPN Vice President, Production, Rich Feinberg made the decision that she would produce the pre-race show that leads to the Indy 500 green flag, and she was thrilled to get the opportunity. The program, which starts Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, goes for more than an hour and includes live segments, recorded features and critical timing around the traditional pre-race festivities the Indy 500 is known for.
“It’s a lot of moving parts to fit into one singular show, and the planning that goes into the pre-race show format is beyond anything I’ve ever worked on,” she said. “Your first brainstorming session, you’re already trying to have a strategy for how to make the format the best that it can be, to create good storytelling with the right flow while capturing the majesty and history of this event, which is a pretty tall order for one single show.”
Jackson is working closely with ESPN Monday Night Football director Chip Dean, who will direct the telecast, and SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak, who is hosting the show from the iconic Pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I’ve been incredibly blessed in my career to do all kinds of things,” Jackson said. “And I’m just grateful that ESPN is a company that if you say you want to do something and you put yourself in a position to be successful at it, they’re happy to have you do it.”