Shemar Woods always knew that one day he wanted to teach. Even as he worked in bustling newsrooms for ESPN and Sports Illustrated, teaching always was a goal that remained in the back of his mind.
Woods, an alumnus of the Sports Journalism Institute’s 2010 class, just finished his first year as a professor of practice at Arizona State University. There, Woods worked with students in the Phoenix Sports Bureau, a branch of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s flagship program, Cronkite News. In this program, students get real-world experience covering all the Phoenix metropolitan area has to offer.
“It’s been a huge priority for me to give back,” Woods said. “And there’s no better place to give back than as a professor and helping to mold and shape what I strongly believe is the future of journalism.”
According to Woods, Cronkite News succeeds in replicating a professional newsroom, a setup that eased his transition. But while the environment is reminiscent of a typical newsroom, Woods still faced an adjustment when it came to working with students instead of seasoned professionals.
“I think one of the challenges was certainly just resetting the expectations, understanding that you are working with students who, a lot of them, this is their first experience in covering sports,” Woods said. “I certainly think that it’s different, but at the end of the day, you’re really trying to help them be the best writer they can be and grow and learn.”
Students in the program cover a variety of sports beats and are provided with many unique experiences. This spring, students also got the rare chance to cover the 2023 Super Bowl in Arizona.
Woods cited this experience as one of his most memorable from the past year.
“I think that was, by far, a career highlight for me, not even just as a teaching experience,” Woods said. “All of that coverage headed into Sunday’s game at State Farm Stadium was really a culmination of my entire career, and I will always remember that. Hopefully, the students remember that, as well, because it is a rare opportunity for them. It’s not every year that you get to go to the Super Bowl.”
Through his experiences at Arizona State, Woods has learned a lot about himself and the industry. Being in academia versus being in the field has required him to change how he navigates his work. It’s also impacted his perspective on the future of sports journalism.
“Working with the students on an individual level, I know for sure the future is in excellent hands just with the creativity, how bright our students are, their knowledge and passion for sports journalism,” Woods said. “I think you're still seeing students who are hungry, eager to pursue this career, and so if anything. I think it certainly refueled me and certainly reinforced my views for the future is going to be bright.”