Alum Shannon Scovel, Maryland student Shane Connuck, and Maryland's Mark Hyman collect the hardware for the school's project. Photo courtesy of Shannon Scovel.
June 25, 2024

Maryland students take first place in APSE Contest for sports gambling reporting

Olivia Janik

Student reporters from the University of Maryland won first place in the Division D projects category in the 2023 Associated Press Sports Editors contest for their reporting on sports gambling on campus.

Of the top seven honorees, the project from the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and Howard Center for Investigative Journalism was the only one produced by student journalists.

“Student reporters are really able and sharp and can do great work,” Povich Center director Mark Hyman said. “We often underestimate; we, meaning old people like me, underestimate the capability of student journalists, and we challenge them here.”

The project highlights how sports betting companies are promoting their businesses on college campuses and captures the reactions of students, parents and lawmakers. 

Reporters also compiled data on gambling policies at 145 Division I universities in states that legalized sports betting to understand what, if any, restrictions are put in place.

The gambling on-campus project was a semester-long capstone course at the university’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and was published by its news site, Capital News Service, before being picked up by the Associated Press and Washington Post.

Shannon Scovel, who served as a teaching assistant for the course during her PhD coursework and was a part of the Sports Journalism Institute’s 2016 class, believes the win reflects the topic's timeliness and the depth of reporting the team was able to accomplish.

“There’s so much to write about with sports betting, and it’s on people’s minds because gambling addiction is such a real thing and causing people to lose significant amount of money,” Scovel said.

One of the biggest challenges during the reporting process was obtaining information from the universities and sports betting companies, she said. The team later discovered that schools like the University of Maryland were partnering with outside marketing companies to make the agreements, meaning that they were not subject to Public Information Act requests. This discovery turned into an article and interactive graphic for the final project.

While the project was based at the University of Maryland, reporters also traveled to other universities to understand the different responses to the legalization of sports betting. Students traveled to the University of Colorado Boulder, the first Division I school to partner with a sports betting company, and Towson University, which received a grant to promote safe gambling practices on campus.

Julian Basena, a Sports Journalism Institute Class of 2023 member, visited Towson during its Homecoming weekend to understand how students felt about sports betting and their school’s response to it.

The capstone experience taught him the importance of paying attention to every detail, especially in bigger projects.

“We’re fortunate to have a group of students who make us proud and are going to be working in newsrooms three months from now,” Hyman said. “We have a lot of talent in our classrooms.”

Olivia Janik will intern at the Baltimore Banner this summer.

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