When SJI alum Chris Lopez came to speak to the SJI 2022 boot camp, he referenced one quote from ESPN analyst Michael Wilbon that always stuck with him: “Watch the (f’ing) game.”
I wrote Wilbon’s phrase in big capital letters when the Pardon the Interruption host came to speak to us last Sunday. But it didn’t entirely stick with me until I put that lesson into action at the Diamondbacks-Dodgers game.
Covering the matchup for our first in-person sports event, I decided to score the game.
The scorekeeping made me focus and keep up with all the action on the field. So did the open-air press box, which gave us a foul ball scare courtesy of Mookie Betts.
So, when I went to write my gamer from a relatively narrative-less 14-1 Dodgers blowout, I realized paying attention paid off.
Watching struggling starting Diamondbacks pitcher Humberto Castellanos’ reactions after he gave up key hits to Dodgers slugger Freddie Freeman helped me build out the lede of my story.
As Wilbon says, “Watch the f’ing game.”
This is my first time in Phoenix. I’ve run at Northern Arizona University during indoor track season. I’m learning more about sports journalism than I thought possible. Surrounded by my classmates here at Arizona State, I’m often reminded of the many firsts I’m encountering.
I don’t have a journalism degree; I had never written a game story on a deadline before this started. I didn’t study journalism during college. While I have three different degrees in communications, media, and now broadcasting, it’s easy to notice imposter syndrome creeping in.
Cognizant of this, I’m sure almost every class speaker has told us something to combat any doubt that we all belong here. Here are some quotes that will be playing in my mind through the rest of this journey:
“The key is not to get too excited,” SJI co-founder Mr. Leon Carter.
“Find your voice and stay out of your comfort zone,” SJI alum Cameron Wolfe of the NFL Network.
“Each of you have a story, and every story has value,” Jesse Sanchez, MLB.com.
In the first few days of the 2022 SJI program, many of us could adjust to the hours on the schedule for what time we had to zoom in.
For me, I could add three hours to the starting and ending times. Usually, that could provide three extra hours of studying, sending messages, working, or sleeping. It even gave me some time to plan out my meals.
The boot camp transitioned from “hybrid” to entirely in-person on Wednesday. Our colleagues and directors were more than just faces adjusted to a classroom background. We could interact with each other, walking around downtown Phoenix and sharing meals. Some people were used to the heat, but others from the east coast had to adjust.
We could communicate more directly to speakers with our questions in classroom settings. We didn’t have to press a button to do so, either.
However, with the move to Arizona, everyone was on the same accord with time. An early eight a.m. start truly meant the day began at eight in the morning. But fortunately, everyone experienced the adjustment together.
As a member of the first hybrid SJI class, we tasted what most recent classes have experienced. The last two years remained exclusively virtual, and all of the previous classes went to various campuses (some hotter than others).
But this class of 2022 gets a unique perspective on all that SJI offers.
ASU sports journalism professor Paola Boivin used to shrink herself whenever she walked in an MLB clubhouse.
As a young journalist she looked down at her feet and made sure not to wear perfume. The more invisible the better. That way she wouldn’t have to worry about players changing their clothes and harassing her about being a woman in a men’s locker room.
But one day a manager pulled her aside, and he told her to walk into the clubhouse with her shoulders back and head held high next game. She belonged here, he told her.
Los Angeles Times sports editor Iliana Limón Romero said she almost quit the industry, too. But like Boivin, she had a network of likeminded voices reassuring her that she had a place in this space. So they both stuck with it.
“If you have this interest, there’s a space for you,” Romero said when asked about recruiting diverse voices for one’s newsroom. The statement also seems to be a theme of SJI.
Over this last week of the Sports Journalism Institute, I’ve cultivated a family of these likeminded voices. They’re all dedicated to the craft, and they’re all really encouraging of each other.
There’s a comfort in sitting with a group of people – mentors like Sandy Rosenbush, Greg Lee, David Squires and (Mr.) Leon Carter as well as peers – who believe in you and would step in without hesitation to remind you, if ever in doubt, that you belong here.
One of the most infamous aspects of SJI is Mr. Carter’s sports checks.
These sports checks test our sports and news knowledge every day, from the origins of Invictus to the score of last night's game.
While it is a fun activity that makes us dive deeper into our Twitter and news feeds, these sports checks are more than just a fun quiz.
As journalists, we must always be on top of the news. Even if we are just covering or are interested in just one sport, it is still good to be aware of what else. Even more important is that we should not just follow sports but national and global news.
Being aware of the world around us makes us more informed, which can thus better inform our stories. While knowing the name of the elementary school where the mass shooting in Texas was located (Robb elementary) may not seem like an important detail, as journalists, we need to pay attention to and know those details when telling our own stories.
So while I do not expect to win or anything, doing these sports checks has forced me to become more aware of news beyond what I am interested in. I plan on continuing to dig into all information going forward because, in the long run, it will make me a better journalist.
There is no exact path to becoming an editor in the sports journalism industry.
Iliana Limón Romero, Los Angeles Times assistant managing editor for Sports, told the Sports Journalism Institute Class of 2022 that our journey to becoming an editor will not exactly mimic her path.
She explained how she had no desire early in her career to become an editor when she worked as a reporter at the Albuquerque Tribune. However, her motivations shifted once she experienced a string of unreliable editors, and she realized that she could handle the responsibilities. While she eventually became editor, she experienced at least six versions of rejections or delays in receiving her opportunity.
The directions that we go won’t match what most editors have done because the industry is evolving, and there isn’t a consistent trajectory.
Romero said previously that being a copy editor was the expected position that a journalist should take on if they wanted to get on the right track. Now, that is not necessarily true.
What she said about becoming an editor in our future was to not be shy in broadcasting our interest in the position to colleagues and editors at our respective internships or full-time jobs. It is rare for a journalist to demonstrate a specific interest in the path, and by volunteering for training workshops, we are more likely to get on the path of not just developing skills and getting on that track.
Toyloy Brown III
During SJI I have experienced a lot of firsts, and last night I added another to the list by covering my first baseball game. The sights and sounds of a baseball game were exciting in themselves, but actually being in the press box, with the windows open no less, was a whole new experience.
Luckily, we didn't have to worry about the Arizona heat as we were in Chase Field, the indoor baseball facility of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Growing up my family were big Cardinals fans, so I enjoyed watching the game but did not know a ton of the terms, and small details of the sport. Therefore, going into this game I really had to prepare myself by researching all there was to know about the two teams, as well as baseball in general.
While of course, it is nice to be in my comfort zone, taking on a completely new sport and writing about it was an exciting new challenge. While at first, I was somewhat lost, through patience and trust in my previous research I was able to come out with a product I am proud of for my first.
What made the experience even better was that I was alongside my fellow classmates who were always willing to help me or answer a question. Of course, the press box may not always be that friendly but I am thankful to have had my classmates help me along the way.
David Squires spoke to us about the art of reporting and editing. It was a simple presentation with some great tips, but I appreciated how much his enthusiasm for journalism shined through.
He told us stories, gave us pointers, and answered our questions, and I could see his excitement as he reminisced on some of the old assignments he had accomplished over his career. We also got some advice that I’ll take with me.
One of my SJI classmates, Alberto Camargo, raised his hand and asked a question I have also thought of: How are we supposed to gain sources in such a short period at our internship?
It’s true. We begin our internships in early June and are scheduled to be done about 8-10 weeks later in August. It’s a challenging task trying to gain people’s trust without being able to talk to them for a while.
But Squires said all people are different. Some people don’t trust you until you give them a reason. Others will trust you until you give them a reason not to.
My classmates, professors and I walked to Chase Field in over 100-degree heat from the Cronkite school to cover the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yet the dry weather didn’t deter the surreal feeling that I had when we approached the stadium. This was my third time entering the 48,519-person venue, but it was different this time.
Covering baseball was an unfamiliar experience for me after covering two basketball games: Phoenix Mercury vs. the Las Vegas Aces on May 21 and Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, with SJI. Although I covered one baseball game when I attended Clark Atlanta University, I didn’t know how to keep score and what a wild pitch was.
However, for this assignment, I used advice from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez and tips from Joe Gisondi’s “Field guide to covering sports” to ease my concerns. When I entered the press box, took in the D-backs’ field and read the “reserved for Sports Journalism Institute” sign on the table, it instilled renewed confidence.
While watching the game, the allure of the sport captured me. I recorded pitch counts and detailed athletic plays made by players, such as Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux, and incredible hits made by players like Dodgers’ first baseman Freddie Freeman.
When I returned home, my watch informed me I walked 4.8 miles and climbed 9,987 steps. These were steps well taken for the first professional sport I covered, and to many more in the future.
During the first inning of the Diamondbacks’ game on Thursday night, I posed a hypothetical to Roshan, another SJI student who was sitting next to me: if a foul ball came through the front of the open-air press box, and you tried to catch it with a bare hand, would it break your hand?
The answer is no, as I found out seven innings later.
With the crack of Mookie Betts’ bat, I looked up from what I was typing. Before I could process that a ball was flying toward me, I stuck out my hand in an attempt to catch it. It hit me on the palm near the bottom joint of my pointer finger and ricocheted into the second row of the press box before I could close my fingers around it.
And it didn’t break my hand, but it certainly left a welt. So there’s my answer.
Betts’ average exit velocity on his three hits that game hovered around 100 miles per hour. A trade from Boston in 2021 granted the Dodgers’ slugger the second-largest contract in MLB history at $365 million over 12 years, and his 3-for-5 performance on Thursday was indicative of why Los Angeles was willing to pay such a steep price to acquire him.
The moral of this foul ball story, at least to me, is that the best way to find out the answers to your questions is to do the reporting yourself. I wanted to know if a foul ball has the power to break your hand even when you’re two stories up, and I found my answer by putting myself in the right position to do so, which is a lesson I’ll carry forward in my career.
When I started my college journey at Florida A&M University, I never in a million years thought that I would earn the opportunity to attend one of the most well-known journalism schools in the country on a full ride.
While being a William C. Rhoden fellow with Andscape, I was exposed to the wonders of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University. Mr. Rhoden is a professor at the Cronkite School and I knew I had to jump at the opportunity to continue to be taught by him.
Due to the highs and lows I experienced during my freshman year at FAMU, I was naturally nervous to make a grand educational move that required thousands of miles between my new destination and my childhood home in Bowie, Maryland.
Every day at SJI, I have been reaffirmed of my choice to continue my education in Phoenix, Arizona especially after the tour we took today. I am excited to venture back across the country to obtain my master’s in sports journalism.
“One band. One sound.”
That's a line said almost every day of this boot camp. It's something that's rung true; we are all in this together.
Touching down in Arizona was eye-opening and a blessing. Being with my peers, 15 people with the same goals as me, from all over the country, is incredible.
I’ve found another family.
My path to ending up in this position has been, rockier than most. I graduated high school in 2014. I’ve been to five different schools, and I’ve failed in many places. I haven’t done as much as everyone here. I’m not as accomplished as the people around me, who are even younger than me.
A past version of myself would have been discouraged, but I recognize that even though I’m older, I am here for a reason, and I see that now. I have a hunger for success, which is fueled now by my peers. I'm learning a massive amount of information from them, which is inspiring me.
Since I haven't done much, I know that I'm just scratching the surface of my potential. That motivates me to work harder.
I have my peers to thank for that.
I have SJI to thank for that.
“One Band. One sound.”
It was always the slightest bit weird working at my college newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, some days because I knew I was one of only a couple of Latinx people on the editing staff. In my experience, our paper has always done a great job of making people feel included and welcome, but at the end of the day, there are just some experiences or phrases that only I and select others can relate to.
It sits in the back of my mind as a fear whenever I think about continuing a journalism career in the future — I don’t want to be the only Latinx person in my newsroom, or worse, the only Latinx journalist in the area.
But when Iliana Limón Romero, the sports editor of the Los Angeles Times, spoke to us on Friday, she emphasized that reality could be true at many prominent outlets across the country. She’s had it happen to her where she was the only Latinx woman at a publication, and that’s a lonely feeling.
But she also told me something hopeful — there are communities out there for you; you just have to find them.
It’s almost like a second job — networking, phone calls, and emails keeping a running Rolodex of people you know helping each other. There are prominent Latinx journalists and collectives everywhere, but they won’t always be obvious or immediately in front of you.
It’s an extra burden to build a network when so many others get one so smoothly just by walking into a newsroom.
But something seems to stand out about building your network and comunidad — the strength. You built that network, found those people, and they’re not likely to leave or stop helping.
On our second day in Phoenix, we heard from the Director of Talent Development and Diversity Outreach at MLB.com, Jesse Sanchez. While it was inspiring alone to see someone from a bilingual American household succeeding in a sport typically dominated by white men, the advice he gave was even better.
His most valuable piece of advice to me was one I need to keep remembering — if there’s something that you’re afraid of doing or feel like you can’t do in the journalism world, “acknowledges that that’s a tool you need to sharpen.”
This has often been a hard reality to get behind. Working in UNC press boxes and Charlotte, I’ve always been surrounded by people with tons of experience and many years of age on me, so I always beat myself up for not being as relaxed during interviews or as thoughtful about every angle of a story.
But the moments where I’m beating myself up are the exact moments when I need to remember, “Hey, acknowledge that that’s a tool you need to sharpen and move on.”
You’re always going to get another rep — another story, another interview. But we do this job for a reason: to tell stories. The only way you’re going to become a better storyteller is through repetition, and the only way to keep going is to acknowledge that you’re not perfect.
At the end of the day, I’m still a young journalist, and I’ve never worked full-time for a professional outlet. And that’s okay; I have time to grow. I’ll always have time to grow.
But even before that, I need to acknowledge that.
It’s okay to need growth. And I’m never going to stop growing.
Jesse Sanchez, the director of talent development/diversity outreach for MLB, spoke to the class about covering Major League baseball. The most interesting part of his discussion was his suggestions on approaching media availabilities.
In the MLB, clubhouses are open, allowing reporters to be around the athletes for around 45 minutes to one hour. Sanchez told us to take advantage of every minute of that time — arriving precisely on time and planning to make the most of the available time.
He described a simple plan: have topics and questions you’d like to ask different people in the clubhouse. That way, if you see them, you already know what you want to ask rather than fumble around to find a topic. That preparation can help ease nervousness.
Sanchez told us to treat being in the clubhouse like you’re in someone’s office and show respect. He told us to use that time to talk to players and the support staff, trainers, and security guards, who are constantly watching and can be vital to notice small details that could lead to stories.
The first sporting event I ever covered was a 7-on-7 summer high school football tournament.
It’s been almost exactly four years since that day when I interviewed former NFL player and coach turned high school coach Mike Singletary, and since then, I’ve covered dozens if not hundreds of other games, events and press conferences.
I’ve forgotten most of them.
But one of today’s guest speakers at the SJI 2022 boot camp, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, reminded me of my past.
Sanchez spoke about how covering Texas high school football shaped him as a reporter and person. When he talked about calling in stats after a high school football game, I relived a similar experience I had put out of my mind from my Friday nights.
Reporting on Texas high school football is where I got my start, just like Sanchez and so many others before me. But, as those experiences have grown more distant, I’ve forgotten many of the lessons I’ve learned on the job that I need to take with me every day.
Always have rosters ready before you head out for the game. Don’t start writing or tweeting after a touchdown — there’s an extra-point or two-point conversion still to come. And most importantly, look beyond the box score for an interesting, compelling story.
I learned those lessons the hard way, and to not make mistakes wherever I write, whether it’s back to high school athletics or sticking with college sports, Jesse Sanchez gave me a good lesson today: don’t forget your past.
Jesse Sanchez from MLB.com brought his 12-year-old son, Mateo, to speak with SJI at the Cronkite School.
Sanchez spoke about his journey from the inner city of Fort Worth, Texas, to talent development and diversity outreach at MLB.com. He explained how the origins of his passion for unity and equality as a bilingual Mexican-American translated to covering baseball, a sport with so many Latino players. Then he turned to his son and SJI’s 30th class and urged them to find a passion.
“Everybody has a story, and every story has value,” he said.
While the job and grind of a 162-game baseball season can get old, one’s mission and passion will remain steadfast. For Sanchez, his passion is diversity and inclusion. While he doesn’t write about baseball players as often anymore, he’s still able to fulfill his passion in his new position.
Drawing on his own experience, Sanchez told the class that your IQs will get you hired, but your emotional intelligence will get you promoted.
Christopher Lopez (SJI 2018) outlined an approach to dealing with my career that I’d never considered before. He said that you’d have the choice to focus on what you want to do or where you want to be in your career.
He provided both of these as equally appealing options. The choice depended on the individual. He chose to work more in a behind-the-scenes role as a push notifications editor because it allowed him to be closer to home.
Lopez said he enjoyed that role just as much as being a content producer, using the analogy of an amp for a rock band.
That has allowed him to live closer to home and enjoy that way. He still finds the creativity he desires in it.
As I move further into my career, my priority is to widen my view of the possibilities available in the media. That way, I can give myself more options for my future.
Jesse Sanchez described our lives as young reporters as “caldo,” which he said means soup in Spanish. I don’t speak a single word of Spanish, but the analogy makes sense to me, especially in the context of this week.
Sanchez said that our writing and reporting styles are a mixture of the styles that we consume from our favorite journalists, and we add in what we see fit to make it our own. In addition to my favorite writers, each speaker this week has given us something to think about — or, in a sense, they’ve given us an ingredient for our soup.
One of the most common “ingredients” we’ve added this week is the importance of connections and relationships. Kennedi Landry, Cameron Wolfe, Candace Buckner, Michael Wilbon, James Wagner, Tom Rinaldi, Matt Pepin, and Sanchez all spoke about that importance, though they did so differently.
In reporting baseball, for example, Sanchez noted the importance of at least trying to speak to players in their native languages, whether with a translator or not, to build connections and tell stories that may otherwise go untold.
My readership of and relationships with local and national writers — Mina Kimes, Bob Ryan, and Katie Woo, among others — as well as people I’ve worked with throughout college — Andy Backstrom at The Heights, Trevor Hass at The Boston Globe — all play into how I write. I imagine my style will continue to evolve as I grow in my career.
Jesse Sanchez, an MLB.com reporter and talent and development recruiter, shared tips about covering baseball ahead of SJI’s Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers coverage on Thursday night.
Sanchez, who’s been with MLB.com since 2001, said that speaking Spanish is essential to covering the sport. For reporters who don’t speak Spanish fluently, even an attempt to learn the language is good because it shows players that you care about talking to them in their native tongue.
He emphasized the importance of understanding the nuances between different Latino cultures. Frequently, players from Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, and so on all get grouped as Latino when there are distinct variations between their cultures.
In the ballpark, Sanchez touched on the unwritten clubhouse rules, such as not speaking to a starting pitcher on the day of the game. That’s to avoid disrupting their game-day routine. You should treat it like you’re going into someone’s office in the clubhouse.
For game coverages, Sanchez said providing context is essential. Anyone can read the play-by-play about what happened during the game. A story needs to give a bigger-picture context about the meaning behind those plays and players. A good game story hones in on the specifics of one moment or the context of a game compared to a whole season.
Today was our first day of in-person boot camp, which was beyond my expectations. Although virtual settings can sometimes have their challenges, I am glad we could meet and get to know each other over Zoom first because I already felt like I knew everyone upon meeting them in person.
This immediate ease among everyone felt like we had known each other for longer than we had. At the start, we talked and laughed with each other. I am truly blessed to have this group as a family.
Before boot camp, one thing I constantly heard from alums and directors was how SJI was a lifelong family.
Today I started to feel that, and I look forward to becoming closer with everyone in the next couple of days. I can see all of my classmates being life-long friends and can’t wait to follow everyone's careers.
Same with the directors, they are so supportive, and I have enjoyed getting to know them. Just from our short time together so far, I have not only gotten to know them but have been able to learn about how to be a better journalist and editor just from listening to their experiences.
This is why SJI is so powerful because we can learn from professionals and from each other to grow in our craft. I have already learned so much about sports journalism and myself as a journalist from boot camp.
For example, while my previous experience in game coverage was minimal, I have already gotten two opportunities to practice while at SJI and will have a third tomorrow. It will be my first time covering baseball, but I am just ready to jump in and learn instead of being nervous. Even better is that I know I have supportive friends and mentors by my side.
After months and months of buildup and days of fumbling with Zoom, the first in-person day of SJI Bootcamp in three years had arrived.
Up at 3 a.m., at the airport by five, takeoff at seven, and touch down at 9. The heat was on literally in Phoenix and figuratively, with the anticipation finally boiling over.
Meeting my classmates has been a breath of fresh air. My young career in sports journalism has revolved around one student newspaper and the handful of aspiring journalists who will be lifelong friends but surrounded by promising and talented people my age looking to enter the same cutthroat industry.
These are lifelong friends and possible future colleagues, perhaps even future competitors. The camaraderie was there from the beginning, and it has been a reminder that I have others in the world of sports journalism I can lean on for advice, feedback, and friendship for years to come.
After a short first day due to travel, we strolled two blocks down the street for ice cream, which felt more like a half-mile hike in the Phoenix oven. The connections were there immediately. The support was mutual.
We may only have a few days all in one place together, but we are the SJI Class of 2022, the 30th class. It’s a family, club, and bond that will last a lifetime.
I was anxious when I walked through the doors of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism for the first time as an official member of the Sports Journalism Institute. Although a master’s degree is an immense addition to my resume, the designation of SJI is a true badge of sports journalism.
Mr. Leon Carter went over social media ethics that we should follow, titling it “Twitter! Glitter! S—---!” David Squires revealed tips on reporting and editing our own and other stories. At the same time, MLB.com Jesse Sanchez gave us advice on covering a baseball game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks on May 26.
When we went on a tour of the Cronkite building, a site I have grown accustomed to for my two semesters at ASU, I remembered my purpose. It slowly reignited a fire in me to be my best and work hard in this industry.
I even got the chance to connect with a few of my master’s cohort classmates working in the sports bureau for Cronkite News. We reminisced about our time together over the last ten months.
I now have two sets of cohorts that allow me to help them in their careers and vice versa. While I may be the only student that feels these connections, I am happy that I can experience this.
A common theme in my journalism career has been the art of pitching. Pitching also stems from having a basic idea and turning it into a concept that a larger audience is willing to buy into.
The same question reigns supreme, from pitching a story to a media outlet to pitching yourself to be an on-air talent for a major network.
“Why does anyone care about this or you?”
While listening to Stephen A. Smith speak with us Sunday, I learned the importance of unapologetically showing up as yourself.
Being yourself was not the central message of any of the answers by Smith, but it still served as the glowing takeaway. In a world where NBC Sports, ESPN and Fox Sports all may have the same headlines for the day, it is about focusing on what makes you different as a reporter.
The key thing that makes you different is determining if viewers are watching Channel 6 to view your competition or tuning into Channel 4 to see you.
My main takeaway from Smith’s message is to show up as yourself every time, have faith that the time will surface for you to voice your views, take pride in your ideas and know your thoughts have value.
As many of us look ahead to our summer internships through SJI, we all bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table.
Whatever our skill sets may be, Boston Globe sports editor Matt Pepin gave us advice on the elements we should consider when beginning our time as interns. Specifically, what practices we should employ at our respective outlets.
A theme he harped on was going the extra mile as a reporter. Whether finding extra stories on an assignment or asking to work with different teams in the newsroom, Pepin stressed the importance of making the life of your editor “easier.”
Learning the history of the team you cover goes a long way for understanding context, and at the same time, paying attention to current trends and storylines enriches stories as well. Having a range of stories that you can write shows your versatility and will allow you to move upward both within the paper and at other jobs.
The advice that he provided on Tuesday comes as a quick crash course before many of us begin our internships, with most starting after SJI. Though some students have a degree of experience with other newsrooms, the advice also can apply for earning full-time jobs down the line.
It’s good to hear specific advice, particularly about applying for internships. The advice that Matt Pepin gave us touched on a variety of aspects surrounding interning in journalism— what to do in interviews and applications and what to do when at the job.
He gave us great advice on how to tailor our applications and interviews to make ourselves stand out.
The most notable example is his advice on how to formulate the three to five clips that we’d submit for the application. According to Pepin, a common trap that internship applicants fall into is putting too many feature stories. While those stories are an important part of journalism and showcase a long-form and in-depth reporting expertise — they aren’t everything.
Daily beat coverage, game stories and even short breaking news pieces are all important works to showcase in applications, giving employers the variety they need to understand the intern’s abilities.
Matt Pepin’s talk with the SJI class on keys to a successful internship on Tuesday really resonated with me as I prepare for my internship with the Denver Post this summer.
I enjoyed hearing his point of view of the internship process. Going into college, one of my major goals was to get an internship at a large publication, and thanks to SJI, I was able to achieve that. But ever since, I’ve been nervous about making the most of my experience. This is such an awesome opportunity but I can’t help thinking, “am I ready?”
This is my chance to grow as a sportswriter and get my hands dirty, and I want to soak up as much information and experience as possible.
Much of SJI’s first few days have been about working through adversity, but I would say the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is how to feel more confident.
If my classmates are reading this, I’m sure it’s with squinted eyes and your heads cocked to the side. How could I be gaining confidence amid failed sports checks and deadline writing assignments?
It’s difficult to explain, but let me start off by saying I’m usually someone who struggles internally with praise and opportunity.
“Good job on that story, Payton.”
Thanks, now I’m going to sit and stew over the idea that my next project might fall short of expectations.
“You’ve got a bright future ahead, kid.”
I appreciate that, except now I’m spiraling at the thought of letting you down.
But three days into SJI, I’ve (thankfully) yet to feel this way.
That’s not to say I haven’t wiped sweat from my brow or battled butterflies in my stomach before each Zoom call starts. I definitely have. But I’m surrounded by 15 other people who feel the same way. I’m hearing from people who’ve been in our position before and gone on to do great things. If they didn’t crack under the pressure, then surely I’ll be able to squeeze by.
While that thought may not be comforting to all, it’s helped me sleep these last few nights.
Baseball is unique when compared to other sports because of the level of access beat reporters get. The media has more access to the teams. And it’s more than just players, it’s also coaches and trainers. That is invaluable — as shown by James Wagner’s discussion of developing story ideas.
There’s no substitute for talking to people. Talking to the right people can be a great way to find new story ideas. Wagner said some of the best people to talk to are those who don’t play. Backup catchers, trainers and assistant coaches watch everything that happens in every game.
Often, the best stories are found in anomalies, Wagner added. Look for the people on your beat that embody a superlative. Are they the slowest, the fastest, the strongest, the longest-tenured or the newest? Any of these are good places to look for a story.
Wagner implored us to keep track of the story topics we thought of. Even if they never became anything, there is a value in having that wealth of knowledge there in case an interview or quote arises and unlocks the story.
When I first began the Texas football beat last fall, I came into the season with just a few goals. The key one was asking a question at every single press conference.
The first few times were nerve-wracking, waiting as the last one in the Zoom queue or in the televised Monday press conferences, a spot reserved for the student newspaper beat reporter, while my heart was beating and hoping that no one else would steal my question.
I might not have accomplished that goal every single presser, but I managed to get over that initial fear. Day 3 of the 2022 SJI bootcamp will help me get over the rest.
We spoke to Dr. Scott Brooks, author of “Black Men Can’t Shoot” and Arizona State University associate professor, about inequality in the sports journalism industry and imposter syndrome in press boxes.
Hearing fellow SJI classmate Alberto Camargo talk about an almost eerily similar experience covering the University of South Florida football beat for his student newspaper gave me relief that I wasn’t alone after a season as the only Asian-American in a majority-white press box.
Listening to SJI alum and New York Times baseball writer James Wagner dole out his wisdom about learning how to accept no’s and find the unique stories that help reporters stand out made me rethink what kinds of questions to ask.
And finally, soaking in advice from Fox Sports reporter Tom Rinaldi about his extensive career and the do’s and don’ts of interviewing helped me set another goal for the future to strive for this summer at my internship at the Kansas City Star.
I’ve become a more confident and better journalist because of Day 3’s jam-packed SJI session that ended with covering Game 4 of the Heat-Celtics game.
A long, but fulfilling Monday.
Fox Sports’ Tom Rinaldi spoke to the SJI class on Monday, dropping gems on how to ask questions and interview individuals.
He provided three questions that he asks when telling someone's story:
Rinaldi also gave us “sinful things” that should not be present in interviews.
Last, he revealed his “holy trinity” of journalism.
I strive to be a capable interviewer, but the advice that Rinaldi presented will exponentially improve my quality of interviews. The ability to ask direct questions versus loaded ones is a simple technique, but can be difficult when it’s time to ask questions. However, this session helped grow my confidence in asking questions to receive quality answers from people.
Each day of SJI gets better, and I am looking forward to what comes next.
On Monday, one of the many distinguished speakers the SJI class heard from was Dr. Scott Brooks, a professor who studies the intersection of sports, race and urban development. What that means is that it’s in his job description to understand how places and professions become more diverse and inclusive.
He left me with a thought in the middle of his question-and-answer session that I’m still wrapping my head around: “What are the different trajectories?”
Simply put, if you have a goal, what are all the ways of getting there?
It was a mental exercise, he explained — if you dream of being where Stephen A. Smith or Michael Wilbon are, how did they get there? What struggles did they endure, what steps did they take, what character traits did they exhibit and what did they do?
Beyond just being good case studies and a way to envision yourself achieving your goals, it reminded me of something very important. It reminded me that we are not alone, people have gone down these roads before.
We also heard from James Wagner, a national baseball reporter for the New York Times, and it was inspiring to see someone from a Latino background making it in a world dominated by people different from him. I saw myself in his story.
But I need to remember that there are examples everywhere. Our SJI directors, many of our speakers and even the peers around me have blazed or are blazing trails that we can follow. They’re hard trails to follow, but they’re not unprecedented.
Sometimes, when we feel alone and against the world, it’s motivating to know that there are people who have taken on those odds and won — the same people who want to see me excel.
Since starting boot camp at the Sports Journalism Institute, I have received invaluable pieces of advice that will undoubtedly benefit my endeavors in this line of work. Day 4 of the boot camp continued the trend. The last guest speaker of the day on Tuesday was Tom Rinaldi of Fox Sports.
The time that we had with him was special.
He gave sharp tips about interviewing that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.
But what resonated with me as much as anything Rinaldi said was how he carried himself. He demonstrated his genuineness for wanting to do everything he can to help some 20-something-year-olds through his Zoom was so gratifying and inspiring.
One of the countless pieces of advice he gave was to maintain our humanity even during formal interviews. Rinaldi epitomized that in real-time when he chatted with us for an hour and respected us as much as he would any other person he meets in his field of work.
I honestly marveled at his concern for us and the honesty he had from start to finish and hope that whatever direction my career goes, I can imbue that same feeling for others.
Toyloy Brown III
My senior honors thesis at Boston College has been hanging over my head like a Midwest thunderstorm since I started the literature review in January.
It’s a daunting undertaking, as I’m examining media framing of NFL head coaching candidates in hiring cycles before and after the implementation of the Rooney Rule in 2003, and I’m expected to write a minimum of 100 pages by my 22nd birthday in December.
But Scott Brooks provided some interesting context for me to consider in my research, which provided a sliver of sunshine through the gray clouds over my head. The idea of intersectionality is familiar to me, but Brooks emphasized the media’s role in portraying intersectional identities in a meaningful and accurate way.
The idea that life and jobs are win-loss situations may appear true on the surface, he said, but external factors reinforce that idea of it being a zero-sum game.
Systemic and routine practices of discrimination that often go unnoticed reinforce the “winners” and “losers” of our society in a traditionally idealistic way.
As a result, it’s the job of young media members — myself included — to shape a new system of evaluation in our writing to legitimize diverse perspectives, Brooks said.
As another member of this class put it, we have to break the monolith.
All sports writers are tasked with quickly turning in game stories, but what separates these journalists from each other is the ability to come up with story ideas.
That’s the message that James Wagner of the New York Times relayed on Monday to SJI’s 30th class. Wagner, an alum of SJI himself, stressed the value of finding players with superlatives or anomalies on sports teams. The biggest and fastest – or even smallest and slowest – players on a team can make for an eye-popping headline and an engaging story.
Wagner told the class about a feature story he wrote about a 4-foot-11-inch, 90-pound football player named Jawahn Preston. By observing that he was the team’s smallest player, he learned that there was a specific play for him in the playbook.
He said that establishing good relationships with the families of some of the high school athletes helps with the reporting process as well. Getting to know the SIDs allows for another point of connection to be made.
Wagner told the class that knowing how to write unique stories gives a writer clips that both keep them employed and get them hired at other places.
While writing game stories about the WNBA and NBA for the first time is already a nerve-wracking experience, imagine placing your future on it. Now, this may seem dramatic, but any time someone asks me what I want to do with my life, I quickly answer them with enthusiasm and say, “I want to be a beat reporter for an WNBA or NBA team and then work my way to eventually hosting a show similar to NBA Today (special shoutout to SJI alumna Malika Andrews).”
Luckily, I’ve been able to smile through what appeared to be a storm. I noticed that of course, I wanted to do well, not only for myself but for everyone rooting for me. And not to mention feeling like I am representing N.C. A&T’s entire journalism and mass communications department by being the second student from the department and first female student to attend SJI.
Although, I was nervous to embark on the coverage of both leagues, I caught myself smiling from ear-to-ear while in the Phoenix Mercury’s press conference. I always enjoy and admire how no matter what is going on or how serious the matter is. WNBA players always look like they are enjoying themselves.
I also felt younger me smiling back at me with those same Skylar Diggins-Smith posters all over my room from her Notre Dame days and her image as my wallpaper on my computer, phone and MySpace.
While Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard answered my question about her thought process revolving filling gaps in her roster, I looked up at the mirror in my room and noticed I was smiling from ear to ear.
This glowing smile made me realize I am in the right profession, with the right program, with the right people at the right time doing the right thing.
SJI alum Candace Buckner, now a Washington Post columnist, spoke with the class about her experience in the industry. She credited SJI with a lot of her success, particularly helping her transition from broadcast to print journalism during her time at Mizzou.
Particularly, Buckner was very candid about her decision to leave the Kansas City Star after six years and move to the Washington Post. She said she didn’t feel she was being challenged enough anymore — stories were straightforward enough that she could just mail them in, though she didn’t. Eventually, she realized that leaving would provide her with more opportunities for advancement and growth as a writer.
“Taking some Ls early on in my career but sowing some seeds was all worth it,” Buckner said in reflection.
Now, Buckner works at the Post as a columnist who focuses on how sports shape our understanding of culture and society. She writes sports criticism from the same “critic’s eye” as a fashion critic might evaluate the fashion industry, for instance.
Buckner examines sports-adjacent stories. On Mondays, her “imagination days,” she’ll read a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and plenty of non-sports content. Reading is important, Buckner said, but she tries not to read other commentary on a subject she’ll be writing on because that could cause her to “parrot” what others are saying.
“Trust yourself,” Buckner said. “Sometimes it’s like, ‘Man, I’m weird’ but bring that weirdness to the table.”
I’m not someone who is easily starstruck, at least not in the way we commonly think of it. It’s partly to do with the industry I want to break into. I think one of the most embarrassing things a sports journalist can do is be visibly starstruck.
I hate to say it, but I think I was when Stephen A. Smith popped up on my screen. It may not have shown in my face, but in retrospect, I think it showed in the question I asked.
Rather than ask Stephen A. about his early print career and advice for young reporters, I chose to focus on his high-profile position at ESPN. He told us he enjoys working for the “worldwide leader, arguably the most powerful sports network in the world” more than he enjoyed the independent newsrooms at the Philadelphia Inquirer or the New York Daily News, for example.
Stephen A. Smith holds the most exclusive and well-paid position in sports television. Of course he enjoys that more than the beat reporting grind on a beat reporter’s salary. Even if that’s all I know him to be —- the animated talking head on ESPN — I could have led him down the road of his early career with a better question.
Will we ever cross paths again? At least I know I’ll have done something right if we do.
Candace Buckner discussed the importance of knowing when to leave a situation. She’d done high school sports for an extended period of time and knew it was not challenging her anymore.
She also saw that the paths for advancement that she needed were not available in the place she worked so she chose to leave. Buckner then found the challenge she needed — writing about the Portland Trail Blazers.
That then turned into her covering the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards, but after years of traveling with NBA teams, she felt that same feeling of not being challenged.
So she found herself with a fresh opportunity on a new beat covering race, inclusion, diversity and gender. Soon after she became one of the four main sports columnists at the Washington Post.
Buckner’s journey taught me the value of being flexible. She took a risk in leaving her high school sports job, and it paid off. She didn’t keep herself in a situation she wasn’t happy in and one she felt didn’t benefit her career; she made a change and found herself in a better situation.
Malcolm Moran opened his discussion Sunday by talking about avoiding clichés in journalism. A few hours later, Stephen A. Smith began his talk with one well-known — but indeed apt — cliché.
“All that glitters is not gold,” he said.
Smith, an ESPN personality, is one of the highest-paid employees at ESPN. He makes 250 appearances per year on his show “First Take,” and he’s the self-described “face of ESPN.”
His job is coated in glitter.
But it certainly doesn’t seem like gold.
Smith spoke extensively on how his job is about playing the game. He has to know the business and focus on his employer’s bottom line, and he doesn’t do something if there’s a chance it would harm that bottom line, even if it’s what he thinks is right.
Though it’s important to work in your employer's best interests, it’s also important to stand up for what is important to your audience.
I don’t believe that journalism is a zero-sum game because either you stay quiet on important issues and keep your employer afloat, or you sink it. Journalists do sign on to an agreement with their employer, though that agreement doesn’t strip the journalist’s negotiating power.
In order to appeal to an audience, as Smith said is essential to journalism, it’s important to have a finger on the social pulse of that audience, and it’s the job of the journalist to bring up issues that arise in that audience to their employer.
This is not to say that Smith doesn’t use his negotiating power for good, but instead to say that a journalist’s focus should be less on “playing the game” and more on telling the fair, honest truth about issues that affect their audience.
But that’s just my take.
ESPN’s Mike Wilbon has been a sports journalist for decades, and he’s seen a lot of change around him–from the explosion of social media to the increased reliance on three-point range shots in basketball.
As he told the 30th class of the Sports Journalism Institute SJI, he’s an old-school guy. He respects the fundamentals of journalism and told the class that whatever medium he’s working in, he always seeks to answer the same question: “What’s the story?”
He stressed that he feels stories can’t be told simply with numbers and said that some of the best stories he’s written didn’t lean on stats. He even challenged the class to try writing a story without numbers.
These days, Wilbon is known less as a writer and more for his role on ESPN’s PTI with Tony Kornheiser, his long-time colleague at The Washington Post. Moving from writing to television wasn’t something he initially sought to do, but in the 20 years of PTI, he has stayed true to his journalistic fundamentals and built on what he learned at The Post..
He shared one important secret to his, and Kornheiser’s, success on TV. “We mastered the language first,” he said.
I was taken aback by what Washington Post sports columnist and SJI class of 2001 alumna Candace Buckner told us Sunday.
When I asked her how she managed to move the story forward with every column and offer a unique perspective on events plastered all over the news cycle, she said to use the very aspects of our identities the sports media world has often cast aside.
“Sometimes, just naturally, I am different than most of the columnists that you see in sports, especially newspaper columnists,” Buckner said, drawing on her experience as the only Black woman sports columnist at a major newspaper in the country. “I’m just going to have a different perspective.
“Everyone here is going to be different, whether you’re male, female, black, white, brown, Asian. Beyond the surface stuff, trust yourself. …Trust what you can bring to the table.”
Being a woman in sports comes with a built-in I-have-to-prove-to-you-that-I’m-worth-my-salt mentality. Whether that’s engaging in the LeBron James or Michael Jordan GOAT debate with guys you meet at parties after telling them you’re a sports journalism major or simply being the only person who looks like you in the press box every day.
At least for today, Buckner’s perspective helped me shed my hardened shell.
Prominent figures like Candace Buckner and Michael Wilbon spoke to our class on day three of boot camp, but the main event was “the face of ESPN” Stephen A. Smith, and he was brutally honest.
“All that glitters is not gold,” Smith said. “You've got to love the process. You can't be about the finished line because if that's all you're looking towards, you'll never make it to the finish line.”
Hearing one of the most established sports personalities voice what I have listened to for over three years reinforces my hunger to leave my mark in the industry. Like rapper 2 Chainz said on “Big Bidness,” “I get a rush from the grind.”
Although it was stressful, and my heart was beating from the opening tip of the Phoenix Mercury and Las Vegas Aces game, writing on deadline gave me an internal fire to tell and write the story.
Smith also acknowledged that younger journalists should pay attention to the world. “Sports serves as a microcosm of society to some degree… if you're not paying attention to what's happening in the real world (and) in business, you are missing something,” he said.
The constant advice to be well-versed in things out of my comfort zone is ringing true. As the sports industry evolves, I have to be on my p’s and q’s for anything my editor sends me to cover or any news topic that arises.
Today during SJI, we heard from one of today's most well-known sports journalists: Michael Wilbon.
Wilbon, co-host of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption and former sportswriter for the Washington Post, gave us valuable insight into navigating the industry.
One of his topics that stuck out to me the most was his comments on getting out of your comfort zone. He explained that while we may be interested or are most comfortable in one sport, it is important to gain experience in various sports. This increases your marketability and expands your skills as a writer.
This advice made me reflect on my experience in covering sports and where I want to go next. Although I do not yet know what sport I may want to cover in the future, his words have encouraged me to take on a sport I haven’t before possibly.
Another line of his that stuck out to me was to try writing a piece without numbers. He explained that this allows you to focus more on the story and the bigger picture than stats that do not always matter.
Yesterday’s exercise covering the WNBA was my first basketball gamer, and I struggled with figuring out what stats to include and not to include.
Still, Wilbon’s’ words made me reconsider my approach. While I want to have numbers to contribute to the overall story, that should not be my main focus.
Michael Wilbon told members of SJI’s Class of 22 that he tried to write three game stories in the middle of a baseball playoff series without any numbers beyond the score. And guess what? “It was the best thing I'd ever written,” Wilbon said.
The ESPN analyst and longtime Pardon The Interruption co-host said often, sports writers lean too heavily on numbers and forget about telling the story of the game. He said part of what made PTI successful was the emphasis on finding the story.
“There can be statistical analysis, but only to get at, ‘what’s the story here?’” Wilbon said. “What PTI does is we strive to get at what’s the story.”
Wilbon spoke to our SJI bootcamp on Sunday, the day after he was part of ESPN’s coverage of the Miami Heat’s Game 3 win over the Boston Celtics in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. He said he told Mike Greenberg asked him during a studio segment what the story was for the game about to unfold.
“The story is Bam Adebayo, and it has to be Bam Adebayo for the Miami Heat, or they’re not going to win,” Wilbon said.
Sure enough, Adebayo proved to be the story of the big Heat win. As Wilbon stressed over and over to us, finding the stories beyond the numbers is “as fundamental a question as there is about what I do.”
I needed a quote to tie my story together, hoping like hell Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon would deliver in her press conference. I had the points I wanted to make in my piece, I just needed her to touch on at least one of them, and I was done.
That’s when my internet decided to troll me.
I didn’t know it at first. It looked like Hammon was …. After about a minute, I tried to message some classmates in the press conference. I got no response. I knew it was a wifi issue because my Google doc was greyed out. I couldn't even type. So I could not hear the press conference, and I couldn’t maximize my time.
I was stuck. I tried to find some patience. The deadline was already tight. Panic was winning. When my internet returned, I felt it was wiped out when Greg Lee popped up: “You have nine minutes to write.” Bone-chilling shock.
So Greg Lee and my internet were now the opps.
Let’s go, Devin. You got this. Adversity reveals character.
I tried every internal motivation tactic I knew. There was no match for the dwindling time.
Someone had shared a recording of the Hammon interview, but listening to it would’ve taken all of my nine minutes. Eight minutes now.
The odd part? I was prepared. Thanks to the advice of Malcolm Moran, I had done my research and knew what I had seen in the game. The bulk of my story was finished even before my internet decided to head out. But that would’ve been too smooth. Things don’t just go normal, it seems. Six minutes.
The first couple of days of this boot camp has been anything but comfortable. In my effort to find the positives from the whole process, I appreciate the lessons on how to be comfortable in that discomfort. I'm being tested in my ability to weather storms, endure nuisances, and persevere. I'm still standing at the moment.
I’m well aware that this profession I’m entering isn’t all glorious, even though my favorites in the industry make it look like it is. Clearly, SJI is determined to make sure I understand the other side of this game — the grind, the frustration, the need to keep pushing. I know the journalist within me will be the better for it. Do you know what they say? That which doesn’t kill you … makes you panic.
It’s like an unbearable force field that keeps my mind from doing it.
I want to read other work. But I always feel like I’ll grapple with that author’s words and clasp onto their style. I want my words to sound like me. It’s why I often stray away from reading other writers.
But Michael Wilbon raised a good point about reading Sunday.
“Consume information you don’t think you should,” he said.
I’ve listened to instructors tell me to read general news, most of which I’ve avoided because real-world problems are either dull or frightening, with little in between.
But to hear from Wilbon, who carved his way to an enormous following by being versatile and consuming content he probably didn’t expect to be indulging in even a week before, meant everything.
It’s almost like your parents forcing you to eat your vegetables growing up to get your nutrients. Had Terry Crews told me, as muscular as he is, perhaps I wouldn't have second-guessed the wisdom.
My parents and instructors don't hold value to me. Wilbon is a monstrous presence in our business. His speech was like Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares to college pregame routines. It put me in a sort of mode. One that has me ready to consume and do anything to carve out that platform.
If it takes reading everything in sight to reach his status, I want to do that and more.
I was so excited when I saw Cam Wolfe join our Zoom call on Friday, and when he started telling us his story, I lit up even more.
He sounded just like me. Someone who loved playing and watching football but maybe didn’t have the physical talent to excel at the sport. Nevertheless, he knew he wanted to be around the game and decided to pursue a career covering it, which is exactly what I want to do.
I raised my hand and asked him how, at his internship after graduating from SJI, did he make it known he wanted to be a football reporter, while still being open to doing other assignments, and his response surprised me a bit.
He said that he doesn’t even think anyone at his internship explicitly knew he wanted to be a football writer. He made himself as versatile as could be, but his work covering football shined through and that got him his first job.
Two days later, Michael Wilbon shared some similar sentiments.
Of course, I know as an intern I’m going to do multiple things, and I’m excited to do them, but to hear Cam say that he didn’t even have to make his intentions known is a piece of advice I’ll take with me to my own internship this summer in Detroit.
For months, I’d asked writer after writer different variations of the same question.
Cam Wolfe — who’d been thrown onto a beat with national eyes as the Denver Broncos went through their journey to win Super Bowl 50 — had words as thorough as anyone’s.
I’ve covered basketball confidently for nearly the entire time I’ve been covering it — basically a year and change. But I’ve been questioning why things are happening to me so quickly, and why, just four months removed from college, I got offered to cover a Big East program that’ll enter next season as a top-five team.
Wolfe answered what’s secretly been plaguing my mind for weeks.
He didn’t even say anything revolutionary. But to phrase it the way he did, it stuck with me.
“If they wanted to hire a 50-year-old white dude to do your job, they would’ve,” he said.
I’ve been questioning how I’ll handle being looked to on a beat that’ll demand national attention. Contemplating how I’d change my writing to fit the bill. Trying to compensate for the little devil on my shoulder telling me that I’m not ready.
I’ve never felt more clarity from simply being told to be myself before Wolfe. I’m comfortable being the ‘new school.’ Being in. Because no matter the reason I was hired, I’m going to rock out in a way I guarantee that paper has never seen. I’m going to do exactly what they hired me for — me.
My experience as a member of the 30th class of the sports journalism institute has been fun and challenging.
Those feelings were perfectly encapsulated in my experience covering the Phoenix Mercury and the Las Vegas Aces matinee game on May 21. The challenge was submitting the article 10 minutes after the postgame availability ended.
One day ago, Malcolm Moran, a longtime sportswriter, taught my classmates that reps and preparation were central to improving as a game-story writer on tight deadlines.
I took that advice to heart. Although there’s nothing I can do about my prior experience of submitting a story several hours after the game is decided, I prepared my butt off.
Even still, no amount of prep could compensate for my lack of experience in doing a story in such a short amount of time.
So I panicked when the lights were bright, thinking I would deliver something atrocious or not resembling a coherent story.
An article under the 400-word limit was produced in time and wasn’t atrocious. But it wasn’t work I was all that proud of.
Seconds after submitting, I spotted errors I don’t typically make — misplaced commas, incorrect spelling, etc. Overall, I could have better-phrased game details and incorporated quotes.
Moran talked to us again on May 22 and answered questions, regarding our stories. I asked how to avoid and handle small errors inspired by the clock ticking.
He advised that it is a great practice to continue self-editing even after a journalist's metaphorical buzzer sounds. Inform editors of mistakes that you caught even if they may have already been found because it is at least a sign that you have pride in your work.
I’ll do that next time and will continue adding reps.
Toyloy Brown III
As a college sports journalist, I’ve covered events of all shapes and sizes.
From midweek swim meets and softball series to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, I’ve been the only journalist at an event, and I’ve been one of the hundreds. But even after just three days of SJI, the lessons of those events and this week have become more apparent than ever.
One — you’re never too big for an event.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t love a particular sport or the event has more media members present than it does fans. There is no such thing as a “small event” in our line of work. Every coverage opportunity is a chance to prove yourself and the skill and passion you have for writing and storytelling.
But the adverse of that is also true, and it’s an important lesson to learn: you’re never too small for an event, either.
When you least expect it, a big opportunity is going to arise. It could be a March Madness run, or a bowl game, or the chance to interview Diana Taurasi — one of the GOATs of women’s hoops — after a blowout loss as we did on Saturday.
Those are opportunities you have to rise up to and meet; you can’t shrink away. And why can’t you?
Because one day, you’re going to have those responsibilities every day.
You can't back down when you’re covering a beat or reporting on a sport nationally on TV in front of millions. You need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. You need to become dynamic.
Though I’ve covered many different events, I don’t know how dynamic I am yet. By the end of this week, my only hope is to be more dynamic than I was.
This thought can cross the minds of young and experienced writers alike while crafting game stories on tight deadlines said Malcolm Moran, director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI.
The experienced sportswriter of over 30 years told the 30th class of the Sports Journalism Institute that a lack of confidence in our abilities to write solid game stories is not uncommon nor something to beat ourselves up about.
It should be understood that writing strong gamers doesn’t happen overnight. It’s reached through practice — the more reps the better.
“Repetition leads directly to confidence,” Moran said.
Another ingredient to confident deadline writing is preparation.
Hours or days before a game happens, we should research specific information and collect useful tidbits that we may or may not use. This practice will make the deadline writing process smoother. Additionally, the prep work we do when we aren’t under pressure will allow us to freely explore creative angles in advance of a contest.
It’s OK to recognize that we may initially be lousy deadline writers. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. Reps and prep are the best teachers.
Toyloy Brown III
Cameron Wolfe spoke about the importance of reaching out and networking — whether it was to your boss or impressive professionals in other companies. His advice on how to do that was to be “intentional.”
As I head into my internship with The Charlotte Observer, I want to be intentional in networking. While I’d already thought about having semi-regular meetings with my direct editor, Wolfe’s suggestion to talk to managing editors to get feedback and connections wasn’t one I’d considered.
He also told us to reach out to professional journalists, particularly SJI alums. Again, that idea of intentionality comes into play. He talked about how he’d point to specific pieces that journalists he was reaching out to handwritten and compliment them on their work.
He’d try to build a connection with them, asking for feedback and advice along the way. Sometimes he’d have to reach out more than once to get their attention.
He’d be intentional about it rather than passively waiting for a response. Of course, he’d have to toe the line between being intentional and being a pest, but he’d do just that.
As I reach out to journalists, these are things I’d like to do. Asking for help and advice is massively important, and I plan to be intentional about it.
The first day of SJI has wrapped up, leaving our minds reeling with fresh ideas and insights. Today covered a lot about deadline reporting, one of my key takeaways from day one was from sportswriter Malcolm Moran who talked about deadline reporting.
While he offered many great insights, one that stuck out to me the most was that over-preparedness is key to deadline reporting and game coverage. He advised us to research the teams, players, and storylines as much as we can ahead of time to have a reservoir of information before the game even starts. This makes it easier to write on the fly, thus making it less stressful to meet deadlines.
Furthermore, he also noted looking for the bigger picture rather than getting bogged down by stats. While these two insights may seem fairly straightforward, they are integral to a successful story. Moran’s discussion on deadline reporting was also fascinating because I have not had a ton of experience yet with game coverage and meeting deadlines. Features and profiles have always been my strong suit, so writing a story minutes after the buzzer seems intimidating. However, Moran did help me understand the process more and a starting point for when I take a crack at game coverage. For tomorrow’s WNBA game, I plan to take Moran’s advice by doing as much research as I can ahead of time to feel ready for my first basketball gamer.
After nearly six months of build-up, my main goal for the first day of SJI Bootcamp was to not drown in the information overload. Though I consumed plenty, one piece of advice from NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe stuck with me more than the rest.
Speaking on his 2015 internship at the Denver Post, he stressed the need to be intentional as an intern. He said it’s easy to be passive, but taking the initiative could help dictate how we contribute to our publications this summer.
I’m heading to Knoxville, Tennessee this summer, and though the Vols' dominate the sports scene, this year the city welcomed a semi-pro soccer team — One Knox SC. It’s a small-time team with a big-time buzz, as it’s the first soccer franchise in the college town’s history.
In the lull between the end of college baseball/softball and the beginning of UT football, I think there’s an opportunity to provide strong community-based coverage of the team. I believe the culture of the sport fosters a connection with its fanbase unlike any other. I will take Cam’s advice to heart and find great stories to tell about the sport I love.
During Malcolm Moran’s seminar, “Thriving, Not Just Surviving, on Deadline,” the director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program emphasized the importance of pre-game preparation.
Covering a game is about more than recapping the events that occurred in front of you, and including the final score. Game coverage should include context about the game, Moran said. “This is where the minutiae leads to big-picture thinking,” he said.
Moran cited the NCAA Tournament game between bluebloods Kentucky and UCLA in1998. Before the game, Moran said he had a feeling the game could turn into a blowout, so he went fishing in the history books. He found UCLA’s largest NCAA Tournament loss—a 27-point defeat—and noted that ahead of tipoff. Then he watched UCLA’s deficit fluctuate between 28 and 26 in the fourth quarter. “I feel like I’ve got this piece of gold,” Moran said of his pregame research.
The final score was a 26-point defeat for UCLA, but Moran was still able to use his stat in his story to provide bigger-picture context. It helped inform the story he filed right after the buzzer, and the questions he asked in the post-game press conference.
It didn’t win him a Pulitzer Prize—nor should it have, as Moran himself said—but it underscores how research can help distinguish your story from those whose authors just report what they see.
As students walk across the stage, they are constantly given spiels about how to have a career with longevity, but no one gives them guidance on how to have a balanced life.
Everyone wants the career, houses, cars and nice things. What about the children, family time, creating traditions and even the matching Christmas pajamas? It is natural human instinct to want to be successful. The same way someone desires to see their name in lights is the same way they should desire to have a balanced life. For some people a balanced life may not look like chaperoning an elementary school field trip or making gingerbread houses. It could simply mean having time to take that afternoon cycling class downtown.
During Cameron Wolfe's question and answer with SJI's 30th class, he mentioned that he may not get back to the students immediately because he has a wife and baby. When the concept of family was indirectly posed it showed the emerging journalists that you too can have it "all."
Being prepared for anything in life feels so simple. Whether it’s studying for an exam or training for a feat of athleticism, going into an event ready and confident is a great feeling.
Without that preparation, however, it’s nerve racking, and that’s the feeling Malcolm Moran tries to avoid by putting in work hours in advance when writing on deadline. He described a story in which he was covering a men’s basketball game in the NCAA tournament between UCLA and Kentucky in 1998, a blowout game in which the Wildcats won en route to a national title.
Moran combed through some history of UCLA before tipoff and found a nugget of information that later led him to have a unique lede for his game story, a tactic he described as panning for gold. It wasn’t much, but it was something that set him apart from the pack.
It may seem silly, and at times those hours of preparation may prove to be futile, but consistently putting in that extra work is what separates good journalists from great ones. Athletes often say it’s the work no one sees that makes them so good at what they do, and that’s how I aspire to be in my career.
Preparation is key in most jobs, and in sports journalism, that preparation takes on many different forms.
For Malcolm Moran, the director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, preparation means digging through years of playoff games to find UCLA’s biggest NCAA Tournament loss just in case Kentucky broke that record—which it almost did.
For Texas Rangers beat writer Kennedi Landry, it means buying a shelf full of books about the Rangers the minute MLB.com hired her.
And for Cameron Wolfe of NFL Network, it meant taking TV production classes in high school so he could be a versatile reporter even though he knew that written journalism, both print and digital, was his favorite.
Whether it’s before a single game or at the beginning of an entirely new career, preparation precedes successful reporting, as the examples of Moran, Landry, and Wolfe show.
The three have taken on wildly different career paths, as they explained during Friday’s inaugural session of the 30th class of the Sports Journalism Institute, but doing above-and-beyond research ahead of time was a common thread between all three.
Though UCLA lost that tournament game to Kentucky by 26, just two points away from suffering its biggest playoff loss in history, Moran explained that it was essential for him to have done the extra research before the game in order to put the loss in context. It’s a small piece of information that came from 20-plus minutes of research, but it made the story all the more impactful.
Just one day into SJI and I already feel like I’ve heard a quote that taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.
Our class heard from Malcolm Moran, a veteran journalist who is currently the director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He was explaining the importance of preparing for writing on deadline and not leaning too hard on a preconceived story idea during a close game. The way he framed it spoke volumes.
“What happens if they don’t show us the script… but you have to get something to the office?”
Sure, I knew what the journalism answer was — prepare for every scenario, do your best research and don’t become too attached to a storyline. But after mulling it over, I think there’s a deeper lesson.
The real answer to that question, to me, is even simpler than the journalism one: Be ready.
Experiences, like games, have twists and turns, and you’re never going to know all of them in advance. I didn’t know how the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship final would end, just like I don’t really know the script of this coming week with SJI. There’s still a lot to take in and understand.
I’m just going to have to be ready. And after Friday, despite all the challenges ahead this week and beyond, I think I am.
I let myself down.
Being a member of the Sports Journalism Institute was a dream come true after previously missing the mark. However, my first day was a disappointment because I did not live up to my standards.
Sports journalism royalty: Malcolm Moran, Kennedi Landry and Cameron Wolfe, visited our class, and my classmates were engaged. Yet, I could only listen because I was attending my girlfriend’s graduation at LSU.
I wanted to fully enjoy my first day of being a part of SJI, but life intersected with my career. While various families cheered for their loved one’s walking the stage, their applause was a distraction. During a time of love and adoration, anxiety overcame me as I listened to each day-one speaker because my heart couldn’t be in two places.
However, one thing that stuck with me was Moran’s reciting of a quote from esteemed sports writer Red Smith.
“Writing is easy,” Smith said. “All you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”
I opened my vein for this blog. Who knows how much more would have come out if I was 100% focused like my peers?
I enjoyed the challenge of balancing my life and career, but from this day forward, I will be at my best and live up to my potential.
Contrary to popular belief, one’s comfort zone can be a dangerous place.
NFL Network reporter Cameron Wolfe, a member of SJI’s 2015 class, said comfort zones are dangerous because they impede growth. And he should know, considering what learning new skills has done for his career.
“Find stuff that you’re uncomfortable with,” he told SJI’s 30th class. “Stretch what your comfort zone is, because that makes you more versatile and you can also learn that you enjoy something a lot more than you thought you did.”
When Wolfe attended the University of Houston, he said there was no NABJ student chapter. So he turned to a Hispanic journalist organization that helped him find real-world experience covering the Houston Rockets, Dynamos and Texans. Wolfe was the only non-Spanish speaking member, he said.
Wolfe stepped out of his comfort zone at the Denver Post, where he did his SJI internship, and it paid off. He asked editors and reporters for feedback and told them how much he admired their work. That led to an invite to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of the Post’s editor as well as a full-time job covering the Denver Broncos after his internship.
After the Post, Wolfe moved to ESPN, where he was an NFL Nation reporter, a job that often involved shooting his own video. A writer at heart, Wolfe initially felt uncomfortable in front of the camera. Now, his job is TV.
As journalism evolves, Wolfe’s advice is to stay pertinent. Rather than sticking to what you know, stay steadfast in your commitment to trying something new.
Through the guest appearances made on the first day of SJI this year, a common theme was hammered home: “Give it your all.”
This was said in the program’s first hour by 2019 alum Liz Finny, who spoke about her experience with the program. She talked about having transferable skills outside of sports writing and the value of learning as much as possible in bootcamp. She also offered insight on sports checks and the best ways to prepare for them, scanning websites to find the best information you can.
Malcolm Moran of IUPUI’s Sports Capital Journalism Program discussed the importance of preparation in deadline writing. His main point of advice was to do your homework to make the writing process more seamless. In taking that extra step, you may find a valuable piece of information that competing writers missed.
In the last stretch of day one, Kennedi Landry from 2020’s class and Cameron Wolfe from the 2015 class remained consistent with the message. Landry offered insight on how to best own your beat, learning the sport as much as you can and collecting an abundance of knowledge of the team you’re covering. Wolfe stressed the value of getting outside of one’s comfort zone and not being passive as a young journalist.
With the advice of four media professionals remaining consistent all day, their words should serve as a catalyst for the rest of the bootcamp.
I was awakened this morning by a bang on my door.
“Devin, I need you to take me to school.” A voice blared through my head.
It was my little cousin, who is more like a sister, standing in my doorway. It was before my alarm had gone off, so I was thrown off. I got up frantically, got her clothes out, made her breakfast and had to rush her to school.
The anticipation of SJI had been at the forefront of my mind. Gone were the thoughts of anything else. I had been overwhelmed by a morning of single parenting. I thought it would be fine because it's only day one; that could only mean introductions and light activities, right?
The next thing I know, I'm trying to remember if I saw any WNBA scores on the ticker.
It wasn’t the start to SJI’s Bootcamp that I had envisioned. I was forced to adapt, forced to try to ground myself in a spot where I was uncomfortable.
It felt like each of the speakers, addressed that in some capacity. It was a key theme that lets me know, that quality is an important piece of being a professional in this industry.
Cam Wolfe spoke about, covering all your bases and putting yourself in situations to be uncomfortable and pushing through that barrier.
My situation Friday wasn’t by choice, I would’ve rather been able to be at home and not have had to worry about making sure anybody else was good. But I had to adapt and find ways to deal with being uncomfortable in that moment.
Knowing this industry and how things can change at a rapid pace is essential, as Malcolm Moran pointed out in referencing the Patriots' comeback in Super Bowl 51. Being comfortable with sudden changes is something I will strengthen throughout this Bootcamp, internship and my career.
When NFL Network reporter Cameron Wolfe speaks to aspiring journalists, he said he always tells them to reach out if they need anything.
But, only about five percent actually end up taking him up on that offer, the 2015 Sports Journalism Institute alum said.
Wolfe spoke Friday on our first day of SJI bootcamp 2022.
He stressed the importance of finding mentors, creating connections at our future internships and being “intentional” to build and maintain those relationships.
Wolfe learned those lessons first-hand. He said his mentors helped him get over some initial nerves doing on-camera work. Then, during his SJI internship with the Denver Post, his video coverage helped him stand out before earning a full-time offer as a Broncos beat reporter.
Now, even though Wolfe calls himself a writer at heart, the University of Houston graduate is a national TV reporter for NFL Network after a stint with ESPN.
He attributes part of that success to being a part of that five percent, and pushed our class to do the same.
I’ve always been hesitant to reach out to guest speakers or people I look up to in the industry in fear of being a burden or just not having anything meaningful to say.
But, as Wolfe said, the people you reach out to are there to help, and also won’t mince words: They’ll tell you if you’re annoying.
So, with Wolfe’s advice in hand, I’ll be making a more intentional effort to become part of that five percent.