The Class of 2023 prepares to cover Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
May 25, 2023

SJI Live: Class of 2023 Boot Camp Thoughts

SJI Staff

June 3, 2023

‘Be an asset, not a liability’

When deciding who to put on the court, diamond, turf, or any playing field, a coach looks for players who can help their team win in any way possible.

However, on the final day of the Sports Journalism Institute, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith expressed that this idea isn’t just for athletes. The concept can be incorporated into all industries, especially journalism.

In an interview with Good Morning America this past January, Smith noted the need for journalists to “be an asset, not a liability,” and doubled down on this Saturday, expressing the importance of being marketable. He added the necessity of knowing what people want, and understanding what you can give them.

Of course, Smith’s experience playing basketball might’ve inspired the saying, but its transferability to journalism rings loudest.

Throughout this boot camp, we’ve learned from instructors and guests that our dream job will most likely be impossible right after graduation. But it could happen with hard work, persistence, and commitment — all through being marketable.

Reaching your desired destination, outlet or role may mean taking a position outside your prior plan that gets your foot in the door.

Smith noted that after being let go from ESPN in 2009, he pointed the finger at everyone else but himself. This was until his mother placed a mirror in his face — signifying that he needed to make changes inside himself.

I’ve produced content on multiple platforms as a beat writer or on-air talent and behind the camera as a producer. But Smith’s driving message homed in the idea and the importance of doing whatever it takes to reach the level I aspire to.

-- Lawrence Price

Finding your voice

When it was announced that Stephen A. Smith was going to speak with the class, I was ecstatic. Watching Smith on First Take and SportsCenter, I realized that this industry is more than writing articles and breaking news.

It’s also about finding your voice. I struggle with self-confidence growing up, and finding my voice through journalism has been a boost for me. But I also noticed that I tend to become a people pleaser at times. So, while reading Smith’s Straight Shooter, I really admired how he was able to stay true to himself and his character despite all the critics.

Smith gave me very sound advice: How can you possibly find your voice when you’re so concerned about pleasing people instead of being you?

While we understand that no one wants enemies, at the same time, we have a job to do as journalists. It’s our job to seek and report the truth to the best of our ability. To establish trust with our sources, we have to be genuine, professional and moral. If we stand by those principles, then we’re going to go a long way.

– Jerry Jiang

Making the next step: Lessons from Tashan Reed

As boot camp continues into the final full day, we’ve had the privilege to hear from many talented and experienced journalists.

One person whose words stood out to me today was Tashan Reed, who covers the Las Vegas Raiders for The Athletic. I asked Tashan about the adjustments from covering a big-time college football program to covering an NFL team. Though many of the principles are the same, he shared some good insights to remember.

He talked about dealing with the pressure of having more eyes on you when covering a team in the NFL. There can be a great deal of adversity that comes with what people say about you and your work, something I have experienced in small doses covering LSU.

With the extra attention, though, the most important piece of advice Tashan shared was staying true to yourself and your reporting. Especially as a young, Black journalist, a lot of shade can come our way, and not being affected by that is important.

-Peter Rauterkus

The Class of 2023 chatting with Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo.

Covering my first MLB game as a journalist

As I walked into Chase Field Saturday afternoon, excitement began to zoom through me. I have been to hundreds of baseball games, but this is the first time I have had the opportunity to cover and write an MLB game.

If that wasn’t enough, the feeling grew as my peers, and I stepped onto the field. I soaked up every moment possible, knowing that one day this could be a daily ritual rather than a thrilling moment that comes by once in a blue moon.

Getting the chance to speak to Torey Lovullo was also an amazing feeling. Not only did he take the time out of his busy pregame to answer our group's questions but to congratulate us on our work and sprinkle in some advice.

I also got to meet some great baseball writers and learn a few new tricks I didn't know just because I was so used to college ball. The number of different sites to access baseball data is insane, and I found stats I wouldn’t have even considered adding to my pieces.

I learned so much from this experience, and I look forward to my life being a little more like that every day.  

– Lanie De La Milera

‘Is this really happening?’

As I was sitting in the press box at Chase Field, covering the Diamondbacks and Braves game, I thought to myself, how is this happening?

Having grown up around baseball since I can even remember, watching, playing and reading about baseball has been sort of a pastime for me, as what the game is considered for America. So when I first heard the news that we would be covering the game, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.

I was so thankful to SJI and the Diamondbacks media relations for letting us cover the game. Being on the field, interviewing Arizona’s manager, and being around professional journalists was something I would've never thought would happen to me at this stage of my life. But it did, and I couldn't be more grateful.

Covering my first MLB game was something to remember, and it’s still hitting me that it happened.

-- Michael Chavez

June 2, 2023

‘Invictus’ broken down

“Out of the night that covers me black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.”

According to Garry Howard, sports journalism is a tough industry. With as much outside pressure and adversity, Mr. Howard advised us to look within ourselves and determine if we are tough enough for this business. It takes an unconquerable soul to succeed.

“In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced or cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloodied, but unbowed.”

By chance, we were born as minorities and thus subjected to the challenges that come with it in this industry. Nonetheless, we must push through and keep on the path to success just as Mr. Howard encouraged us.

“Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find, me unafraid.”

Even after college, adversity awaits us in the professional industry. Sports journalists of all ages with careers spanning many years have faced issues and continue to face their problems head-on. So can we if they can do so without being discouraged all this time?

“It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

“They can’t guard you.” That’s what Mr. Howard told us. Strive to be the best journalist and be better than those next to you. They can’t guard you—nothing from the outside matters. As long as you believe in yourself, you determine your path and are the captain of your soul.

– Tia Reid

Maintain your confidence, be your own biggest motivator

Throughout this past week, Mr. Carter has relayed to the group the importance of memorizing Invictus — a poem implying that your own success is indicative of your ambition.

Ambition and confidence go hand in hand. Your confidence makes you ambitious to go out and get what you aspire to have. Whether that be attaining things as cliche as money, cars, and clothes or as needy as respect, to receive, you must earn through

Instilling confidence in your abilities was a recurring theme of SJI’s pristine panel of speakers today.

Shemar Woods, professor at Arizona State and former writer for ESPN and the Philadelphia Inquirer, honed in on that ambition that drove him from Hampton University to Tempe, Arizona. Woods wrote all of his short and long-term goals on a sheet of paper back when he was selected into SJI.

Over ten years later, he has accomplished everything on that list and still keeps it in his wallet to this day to motivate himself in future endeavors.

– Jordan Davis

‘I am the master of my fate’

On the second day of in-person instruction with SJI, I started on the wrong foot, as I needed to understand the time of our first class session.

Once I arrived, we learned valuable lessons from Los Angeles Times sports editor Iliana Romero. She emphasized the importance of being accurate with names, scores and venues. In addition, she referenced how it’s common to make innocuous mistakes, but journalists should allocate time to prevent errors.

Later, we were joined by the Director of Corporate Initiatives at American City Business Journals in Garry Howard. He emphasized the importance of striving for greatness to advance in sports journalism. Howard also noted the importance of believing in yourself, as confidence is a prerequisite to thriving in the field.

This in-person experience with SJI has continued to assist my growth as a journalist. To become a great journalist, you must master the minute details and use confidence to advance further with your career.

– Damon Brooks Jr.

Tom Rinaldi’s three principles of interviewing

It was cool that Tom Rinaldi’s three interviewing principles were accuracy, empathy, and earnest and genuine curiosity. In this profession, accuracy is paramount. Accuracy is the standard. But emotional intelligence can differ between a thrilling and relatable piece or an empty product. It’s also thought-provoking because empathy and curiosity are qualities that can’t be learned. How do you become a curious person if you aren’t already? How do you improve your ability to be empathetic? Is it a matter of gaining new experiences or building muscle?

This was another conversation I enjoyed because it is applicable to life beyond journalism. Being empathetic is good, and so is being curious. There’s value for those traits in journalism, but we should be developing these traits for the sake of being better people.

-Julian Basena

What it takes to be the next big publication

The Athletic has become one of the most well-known sports publications in recent years, known for its high-quality content and compelling sports stories.

Adam Hansmann took part in creating The Athletic and has been resilient in all the challenges that it has faced.

One major challenge he had to tackle when starting up the publication was battling with COVID-19 and the lack of sports in the world. The Athletic almost didn’t survive this major event.

What allowed the publication to thrive is this- “How can we make this 10% better than any other article going out on the same thing today,” he said.

This media outlet has made a presence by taking an extra step to ensure that all the content is amazing and what the people need to know. Creating something like this takes skill, grit, and sometimes just a little craziness and hope. Every dream or goal is manageable, and there is an endless amount of ceiling for everyone as long as you continue to stretch it.

– Lanie De La Milera

The importance of empathy in storytelling

There’s nothing like the feeling of nailing an interview. A good interview is one of the few things that reminds me why I want to write about sports and why I take time to tell other people’s stories.

It’s not often someone as talented at interviewing as Tom Rinaldi takes time out of his day to advise many student journalists. It’s also not often that advice is so specific and applicable.

Rinaldi gave us three keys to interviewing: accuracy, earnest curiosity, and empathy. Empathy has been the tool through which I’ve gained my best quotes and anecdotes.

Especially covering women’s sports, it’s important to understand where the person you’re speaking to is coming from, their experience with the media, and their reaction to the questions you want to ask. Understanding human emotion is one of the most important skills I’ve gained through my experience reporting. Knowing that it will pay off in ways it has for Rinaldi encourages me to keep at it, no matter what adversity I face.

– Sarah Effress

Focus on your own path; it’s you vs. you

Growing up as an Asian American in the Bay Area, we’re already put in boxes. We’re expected to follow certain career paths; if not, people will be talking.

Societal, family, or personal pressure should stay within your dreams and goals. The challenges of getting a job in sports journalism will be out there.

That’s what today’s guest speaker, Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, talked about during day seven of SJI’s boot camp.

Deitsch had a lot of career changes and shifts along the way, but the one piece of advice that really stuck with me was to give yourself grace in the early stages of your career.

It’s not going to come all together right away, but if you’re patient and stay the course while perfecting your craft, the results will come in due time.

– Jerry Jiang

Writing down a dream

Shemar Woods reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a piece of paper from when he was in college. I could see the crumples from the back of the classroom.

Woods explained how he wrote down his dreams on the sheet and read them 100 times a day to remind himself about his goals. He told us to create our sheet, and Mr. Carter asked me what I would put on mine.

Immediately, I knew that I would write: start my publication. The dream is outlandish, unrealistic, and most likely unattainable. But 90 minutes after I answered Mr. Carter’s question, we talked to The Athletic co-founder Adam Hansmann, someone who did it.

As Hansmann spoke about growing The Athletic with “Silicon Valley urgency,” I pictured myself making the same decisions about subscription tiers or using data to see which types of stories do better. Now, the dream doesn’t seem outlandish, unrealistic, or unattainable. I just need to write it down.

– Anish Vasudevan

‘Do you want to put in the hard work?’

Mediocrity will not make it in this sports journalism business. Mr. Garry D. Howard says believing in yourself, knowing they can't guard you, and distinguishing yourself are three core statements that stuck with me during Mr. Howard's speech to our 31st SJI class.

Mr. Howard reiterating Mr. Leon Carter’s famous quote, ‘looking for stars on a bright sunny day,’ has significant meaning behind it. Distinguishing yourself shows you can be different from other journalists in this sports business. Having confidence in yourself and proving that you can stand with other journalists around you.

Working hard can take you far in this business, but wanting and being willing to put in that work is something only some people want. If you want to reach that end goal, if you're going to make a name for yourself, you must put in the long hours and stick through it. I learned great things from Mr. Howard and will take away so much from his speech, especially knowing mediocrity will not make it.

-- Michael Chavez

The class prepares to cover the Sparks-Mercury WNBA game.

June 1, 2023

Gaining Confidence in the Clubhouse

The first time I walked into the media room at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena, I remember exactly who was there. I can’t name them, but I know that night, ten male heads turned and looked me up and down, their eyes questioning me even stepping over the threshold.

I’ve become used to instances like this, but listening to Paola Boivin speak about her experiences rising through the sports media ranks reassured me that no matter the circumstance, I can succeed (and maybe even earn a spot on the CFB Selection Committee).

Unlike Paola, who is now a sports journalism professor at Arizona State following her career at the Arizona Republic, I have never stepped foot in a baseball clubhouse. She has, and she’s dealt with much worse than an incriminating glance. After hearing her speak, I know the first time I do, I’ll walk in with my head held high and my shoulders up as if I belong because, in the end, I do.

– Sarah Effress

Paola Boivin and the importance of being impartial

Conflict of interest was a central theme of our chat with Paola Boivin today. It’s important to understand and avoid due to the nature of our profession. Connecting with subjects on an often deep level is crucial for quality storytelling and an overall solid grounding. Where to draw the line between a professional relationship and an inappropriate one is vital.

Of course, many ethical dilemmas discussed, like the one involving players flirting with journalists in a clubhouse or exchanging gifts between a journalist and an athlete, are on the more extreme side. But the more subtle instances that can only be checked with reasonable self-awareness often fall under the radar. Those relationships in strange gray areas take real skill to maintain and wherewithal to ensure they’re kept professional. Learning to recognize how to approach these situations appropriately is a matter of repetition and experience. Ultimately, we do all of this for credibility, and credibility puts food on the table.

-Julian Basena

Boots on the ground: Objectivity and ethics

Today was the first day in person, as we all landed in Phoenix this morning. What stood out to me first today was the words from Paola Boivin, who talked to us about ethics and diversity in the media.

I learned a lot from the session, especially pertaining to being a student journalist and the ethical dilemmas that can arise. I asked Paola that question about how to juggle the ethics of covering a school you attend and guiding my staff through that dilemma.

Although many students will naturally be a fan of the school they attend, there is a way to put that aside when working and covering a team.

I thought the story she told of Michael Wilbon being called on the air while wearing a Cubs jersey after the team won the World Series was an interesting case of an ethical dilemma that can easily arise for any journalist. This is especially true at the college level, where many student reporters attend games as fans that they aren’t covering.

Overall, I learned a lot from Paola’s session, and I look forward to applying those things in my internship and throughout my career.

– Peter Rauterkus

Paola’s endeavors in an MLB clubhouse

It was Paola Boivin’s first time in an MLB clubhouse; she would do her first big story at her first job.

Walking into the visiting Dodgers clubhouse, she felt something land on her shoulder.

A jockstrap.

Full of nerves and humiliation, she quickly hurried out of the room, not knowing what to do. Out of nowhere, a random reporter approached her and quickly comforted her.

“I saw what they did, did you want me to bring out a coach for you?”

Just those few words and that bit of help did so much for Boivin and her young sports reporting career.

Today in class, I learned that sticking up for each other in journalism seems like a small feat but is a huge accomplishment - especially for women.

Boivin’s words and stories as a young female baseball writer really resonated with me and even boosted me. I have had my challenges in this field but hearing what she faced and overcame made me confident in myself.

-- Lanie De La Milera

Blurring the Line Between Fan and Reporter

The best part about covering sports is that, as journalists, we get a rare inside look at the ins and outs of these athletes.

However, regarding our profession, we must always remember that our jobs as reporters come first.

That’s what today’s guest speaker Paola Boivin talked about on day six of SJI’s boot camp. Bolvin covered the Los Angeles Dodgers before transitioning into the teaching realm. While mentoring the next generation of reporters, she noted how important it is to keep a good relationship with the public and media relations department.

“Something seemingly as innocent can have really long-term ramifications,” Bolvin said. “Weigh the price.”

Bolvin talked about a specific instance where she had a student give a gift to one of the Arizona Diamondback players as a favor. Still, because of the lack of context, the public and media relations department saw that as a breach of professionality. This small act set back ASU’s relationship with the PR department for years.

It’s important to remind ourselves that while it’s fun being around sports and writing about these athletes, our actions from a non-biased media perspective mean we must maintain professionalism 24/7. Because no matter how big or small the actions may be, everyone is watching.

-– Jerry Jiang

Adversity Strikes en route to Phoenix

The word adversity has been one of the sticking points I’ve learned more about since starting SJI.

Well, today was the day that adversity finally struck my way.

This past week was my last week staying at my current apartment in San Jose, and I have been rushing to pack everything I needed to make my trip to Los Angeles for my summer internship.

I finally got the last of my things packed and ready to go, thinking I would eventually leave my apartment early this morning and hop on my one-hour and 40-minute flight to Phoenix to attend my first day of SJI in person.

That plan was hijacked at 2:03 a.m. this morning when I realized that I accidentally took all my shoes for this trip to my storage unit 45 minutes away from my apartment complex.

In the rush of trying to get proper sleep for my 6:40 a.m. flight out of San Jose, I had to drive back to my storage unit in slippers and grab the three pairs of sneakers I was supposed to take for my trip.

Luckily, I got into my unit at the right time and left with the three pairs of sneakers that I originally intended to take with me just in time to make it to the airport and fly to Phoenix.

The first day in Phoenix was exhausting, but I got through it and am happy about the lessons I learned today. Going through a little bit of adversity does not hurt sometimes.

-- Nathan Canilao

May 31, 2023

Reading and Sports+ 

One of the main themes of SJI boot camp so far is to be prepared and read. Reading other beats is critical when you’re on a sports beat because it gives you a greater understanding of what’s happening worldwide. 

It’s hard for someone not interested in sports to read through an entire article. It will be easier if you can tie in other life factors like current events, entertainment, music, etc. 

New York Times international sports correspondent James Wagner discussed that on day five of SJI boot camp. Wagner has written features that go beyond the scope of sports and are usually the most impactful. 

The word he used was Sports+, and I really like that term. 

It reminded me of my capstone class at Pepperdine. Though we weren’t given a particular beat, we were assigned stories with specific angles. We had to go outside our comfort zones and write about topics we weren’t unfamiliar with. 

Throughout the semester, we wrote stories that included a legal, economic, and human interest angle. This required me to research more in-depth and push myself to my limits. Ultimately, I found those stories to be more rewarding to write because I was able to reach more audiences than I wasn’t able to do before. 

The biggest takeaway that I got was to go outside of my comfort zone. We all want to write profile and team stories, but what separates great journalists from good journalists are those willing to go the extra mile. 

-– Jerry Jiang

Never let an idea go to waste

A beat writer’s job ranges from covering the good, bad, and ugly — day in and day out. This also includes developing their story ideas and thoughts to pursue, whether from scanning Twitter, a dream, or amid a press conference.

It’s important to know as well, though, that each journalist’s cultivating process is different; there’s no right or wrong way.

New York Times international sports correspondent James Wagner emphasized this on day five of SJI boot camp and tied it to his baseball experiences.

After showing his lengthy list of story ideas dating back to as far as he could remember, he noted the importance of never letting any idea go to waste and how a good lineup has homerun, single, and double hitters.  

Wagner’s point wasn’t just about the need for balance in a lineup. He added how the singles represent writing game stories; doubles equate to short stories, and home runs are the big features — or, as Wagner called it, “the difference makers.”

As a past baseball player, this takeaway and his advice on hanging on to each idea spoke volumes to me.

Every game story observation doesn’t fit the current game, nor does each thought for a feature pan out. But I’ve learned that no idea is a ‘failed’ idea; it wasn’t the right time.

Throughout my past journalism experiences, I’ve realized that every story won’t be published, and some ideas won’t be greenlighted.

Yet, Wagner helped me understand even more how like striking out in baseball, one opportunity might’ve not worked out, but it may have another chance to shine down the road.

-- Lawrence Price

May 30, 2023

Dealing with adversity

One of the theme’s we’ve spent time talking about throughout the  boot camp is dealing with adversity.

As a journalist,  adversity can strike in many ways when covering an event or writing a story. During the sessions, Mr. Carter went over with us different examples of adversity we could face and what we could do to deal with it. I was even one of the students he asked for the exercise, and I thought of ways to still file a game story if I lost internet in the stadium.

Soon, I would deal with some myself. About an hour before boot camp began on Tuesday, I hit a pothole on my way home and completely shredded my front-passenger-side tire. I was stranded on the side of the road in a  forested area with no jack to install my spare tire.

I had to call AAA and wait for them to arrive as boot camp was beginning. This was a hands-on lesson in preparing for and dealing with adversity, as I now had to attend boot camp on my phone, and do the morning sports check from a nearby gas station.

Preparation has been a central theme throughout boot camp, and I learned that lesson while dealing with adversity. We took the time in the session to talk about what to do if this happened while on the way to covering a game, making it a good learning experience.

-- Peter Rauterkus

Twitter. Glitter. [Winner].

I was fortunate. A Twitter trail had not followed me far, given that I hadn’t started seriously using the social media platform until I worked as a reporter. I was already a freshman then at Arizona State University, where I was first introduced to the ideas that Mr. Leon Carter covered in today’s lesson on conscientiousness.


That’s the message neither I nor anyone in this year’s SJI class wants. Not today, tomorrow, or the days after that. We learned it to be Mr. Carter’s signature warning sign when a tweet or post borders on the barrier between personal brand and professionalism.

He asked the class to think long and hard about every tweet we typed. Some could remember. Others couldn’t.

I was among the latter, but not anxiously so. I knew early on that Twitter was part of my workspace. It required a rigorous routine: One, two, and three checks.

Sometimes more.

I knew then, as I know now, that it was too important to uphold myself on social media as I otherwise would in person, with integrity and respect for all those involved. And I, along with many of my classmates, realized: It all helped avoid the shame of the _______, “a word that rhymes with sitter,” as Mr. Carter said.

-- Noah Furtado

May 26, 2023

The little things

Today I became more aware of what I didn’t know beforehand. And that’s OK, or even more than OK. More is good.

In an hour-long session with David Squires, we covered a variety of topics, from technical editing skills to interviewing tips. Each exercise and bullet point of information parsed out the importance of detail and nuance in the reporting process — and emphasis that became especially clear after I was introduced to a handful of new concepts. Among them was an exception to the ‘fewer vs. lesser’ rule in which imprecise references of time, distance, and money are better addressed by the latter adjective even if a quantifiable number is involved, the time-day-place syntactical sequence in newsy sentences, and an approach to building rapport with coaches, players or sources at large by matching the pace of their respective speech patterns.

No matter how small these takeaways may seem to some, I think it’s the collection of such little things over time that can make a good reporter great.

-- Noah Furtado

Preparation is Key

I pride myself on my contributions to sports media through many different channels —  online, radio and TV. It makes sense. I had a revelation when former New York Times and USA Today writer Malcolm Moran said he uses broadcast preparation methods to get ahead of writing stories in-game.

I haven’t considered doing broadcast-level prep for any games I’ve covered in print because it’s incredibly detailed and time-consuming, but I can change. The strategy is a cornerstone of what Moran teaches at SJI and at the Sports Capital Journalism program at IUPUI.  

It’s only day two of the SJI boot camp, meaning I have opportunities to put Moran’s preparation advice to the test. We cover Sunday Night Baseball soon; more events are coming when we reach Arizona on June 1. I will challenge myself to go above and beyond ahead of time and bring information to guide me in my coverage. I think Moran might be right – that preparation is critical.

-- Sarah Effress

Prep can set you up for success

The technological changes that have turned yesterday’s morning newspaper into today’s continuously flowing, ever-updating internet stream have also significantly altered the expectations facing the media today.

Reporters need to file stories seconds after a game ends, leaving little, if any, time to check facts. Such tight turnarounds can be intimidating, but there are ways to make the process easier.

Malcolm Moran, director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI, gave our class some suggestions on what to do before the game starts. The key, he said, is research before you ever head to the stadium.

Game notes, transcripts from press conferences, stat sheets and even earlier game stories can supply much-needed background as well as remind you that the starting quarterback is just 20 passing yards from making program history. That’s key information for fans and something you can easily keep an eye out for, assuming you’ve done your advanced research.

Being alert to what’s happened before in a series is also key. Have these two teams ever met? What’s the series' history? What are the storylines in this rivalry?

Knowing what’s important before the game begins allows you to recognize a key moment when it happens–something that will help the reader as much as it helps you.

–Lanie De La Milera

Moran says growth only comes with discomfort 

I was pleased to hear that, even for Red Smith, writing was discomforting. For even one of the most successful writers in the business, writing was an exercise as tormenting as opening a vein. Something that really stood out to me during our class’s talk with Malcolm Moran was the unavoidable feeling of discomfort he described in sports coverage. 

Moran noted that being uncomfortable should be embraced because there’s nothing about this profession that comes naturally. 

Just as humans are not built to “throw fastballs 99 miles an hour for six innings,” as Moran remarked, we’re also not made to write at rapid paces comfortably. Ultimately, expanding one's comfort zone comes with repetition and trial and error. All repetitions should come with several vital ‘P’ words in mind. Preparation and proactivity are fuel to a good project and precision and productive paranoia are keys to setting yourself apart. 

Understanding growth is a product of discomfort is crucial. Today’s chat with Moran reinforced how writing is a constant learning process and how preparation, proactivity and a good amount of productive paranoia are good for easing the discomfort that comes with writing on deadline.

If I ever find myself cornered or at an impasse, I’ll make sure to remember how it was never really easy for Red Smith either. If he can do it, so can I. 

-- Julian Basena

Building rapport with sources: Lessons from a Grizzlies beat reporter

Creating relationships with good sources is the backbone of good journalism. Whether it’s getting the latest scoop or finding the one nugget to put a feature story over the top, it all comes down to what information one can find through the people surrounding the story.

Memphis Grizzlies beat reporter Damichael Cole hammered down this point during day two of the SJI bootcamp.

Cole has covered the Memphis Grizzlies for the past two seasons, watching the team’s ups and downs as well as its transformation from one of the league’s most likable teams to a team whose identity resembles  the “Bad Boy” Pistons.

Just this past year, Cole has been one of the most connected reporters on the beat through the many trials and tribulations of the Grizzlies, such as the Ja Morant gun incidents and the Dillon Brooks trash talk.

Cole talked in-depth about his experiences covering Morant and how he was able to get information from sources outside Morant in order to tell the whole story.

“Relationships are so important, and you have to build them, especially as a beat reporter,” Cole said.

One of the best takeaways from Cole’s talk was the advice he gave on how to build relationships outside athletes.

Cole said that most of his information comes from the people within the Morant circle, only talking to Morant during pockets of the season. He took a long time to build those relationships, but he was able to find different stories from using other sources than the main athlete.

It takes time, but just reaching out and introducing yourself is a big step in creating rapport with people outside of the athletes and coaches.

The advice I learned about building relationships with sources is one I plan to incorporate going forward.

-- Nathan Canilao

Day 2 of The Grind: From Grammar to Grizzlies

The second day of SJI boot camp was another informative and instructional day on what it means to be a journalist. I relearned the importance of clarifying information and paying attention to detail. I thought the class began at 8 a.m. Eastern, but it was actually 8 a.m. Pacific. It was another reminder to always be diligent and to keep track of appointment times.

One of the themes of the day was precision. David Squires asked us to spell the last name of former Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. I spelled it wrong the first few times, but I think I have it memorized going forward. (The key, Squires said, is remember the mnemonic device KRAZY-ZEW-SKI; drop the A and the name is spelled correctly.)

It was a day full of speakers, including Malcolm Moran, whose presentation was designed to help us as we got ready to cover a baseball game. Moran, director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI, had a long career as a sportswriter before moving into the classroom. He emphasized the importance of being prepared for an assignment. Moran knew we’d be covering the Atlanta Braves vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, so he suggested reading team notes and past stories on the two teams as well as looking at each team’s starting pitchers, since either or both could be a storyline to watch.

Later, we spoke to Memphis Grizzlies reporter Damichael Cole (an SJI alum) about the state of the team and his approach to covering the ongoing storylines Ja Morant has created. Cole emphasized the need to take note of what you see each day on a beat. Cole said he had noticed Morant's tendency to wear low-cut shoes, which led to a similar look for his Nike signature shoe.

- – Damon Brooks Jr.

Separating Yourself From the Rest of the Pack

A common misconception when people think about journalism is that everyone can do it. Everyone can conduct interviews, ask questions and write stories. 

What separates good journalists from the great journalists is finding their own niché. 

The ability to tell great stories that are geared towards your strength takes time to manifest. 

Those who find their niché are the most successful because they have an unique audience that is specifically geared towards their content. 

That’s what today’s guest speaker, Damichael Cole, talked about at day two of SJI’s boot camp. 

Cole, who was part of SJI’s Class of 2019, described his path to covering the NBA full time four years after boot camp. 

Cole started his journey at Sports Illustrated as part of SJI and spent two years with the Philadelphia Inquirer soon after, where he covered college basketball. The college basketball scene in Philadelphia was immense, and it gave Cole the experience he needed to make the jump to the big leagues. 

Additionally, Cole was well immersed in the world of sneakers and pop culture, so he had an edge and the experience to land him a job covering the Memphis Grizzlies full time. 

With pop culture, Cole was also able to break the ice with a lot of the big names on the Grizzlies his first year on the job. He’ll ask them what they thought of the newest hits and take note of what’s being played in the locker room. 

Cole said one of his most popular stories is a piece on the Grizzlies players getting their jewelry from Johnny Dang.  

“Everyone is going to write post game stories with analysis,” Cole said. “You have to find those different angles that will separate you from the pack.” 

-- Jerry Jiang 

May 25, 2023

Day 1 gives window into SJI program

Today was the first day of classes with SJI.

At orientation, the four leaders of the SJI program taught us that we’re now part of an exclusive family, but with that comes a level of excellence. Take every opportunity seriously because you never know where those doors will lead you. Everyone wants to work at ESPN or The Athletic, but it will show in the big market if you haven’t done your diligence.

The experience of SJI was already unique.

I had a group of people I could finally relate to. A fellow SJI classmate, Anish Vasudevan, grew up in the same area as me. At Pepperdine, I never had a group of people that I could directly connect to, so hearing people from the Bay Area choosing journalism over other careers is inspiring.

The theme was to read. The words from Mr. Carter during Day 1 rang out as read, read, read! The words from Mr. Carter during Day 1 rang out as read, read, read!

Then came the sports checks. I won’t sugarcoat it; I had no idea what to expect, so I was a bit nervous.

In one of my classes at Pepperdine, we had a similar exercise where we would talk about the day's trending stories, and I would always be the one bringing up sports stories. But this was a little more intense because I had no idea what to expect.

I’m grateful for SJI and this opportunity. I’m looking forward to being a sponge in the classroom again. Joel Lorenzi said you must build your image up after entering the real world as an intern. I’m ready for that. Let’s get to work.

-- Jerry Jiang

Lanie’s first day of SJI- read, read, READ

If there was one thing I learned on my first day of boot camp with the Sports Journalism Institute, it is to read as much as possible. 

With how the media is presented nowadays, there is much information online about any topic. With just a few words in a search bar, you have hundreds of things to choose to read about endless subjects. 

When it comes to sports, this tool can become your best friend. In all of the speeches given by my presenters today, the idea of constantly being well-read in all current events in all sports was vital in being a good sports journalist. 

For the first time today- I also took a sports check. I am huge on baseball and am typically up to date in that sport, but today made me realize everything else just flies past me. I did alright in my sports check but if I took the time to read every day, I would do so much better both on the check and on articles that I am writing. 

-- Lanie De La Milera

Lorenzi: Getting scoops starts with showing up

One of the biggest headaches for student journalists is trying to be the first to break the news and provide insider information to our audience.

With more prominent national media outlets covering the student-athletes we cover daily, it could be hard trying to report on the latest scoops that might occur.

But Joel Lorenzi, Creighton University men’s basketball beat reporter, and 2022 SJI alumni, said that getting the big scoop starts by simply showing up.Lorenzi talked to the 2023 SJI class on Thursday to discuss his experience with breaking news and building relationships as a rookie reporter on the beat.

“You just got to be around,” Lorenzi said. “Be yourself, be around, and it'll all come together . . . Just make yourself available and pick your spots.”

Lorenzi gave excellent advice regarding connecting with sources to get news that other reporters might not otherwise have. One of the pieces of advice that I thought was brilliant was talking to graduate assistants. Graduate assistants are close in age to me and are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the coaching staff, meaning they might be willing to share information you might not get from anyone else on the coaching staff. I sometimes had difficulty getting information from the coaching staff this past semester when I was on the college beat for my school newspaper.

When I look back at who I talked to, the head coach or top assistant often gave me the same answers. I never even thought about talking to graduate assistants, but after learning about that tip today, I will use it in the future. Little pieces of advice like that are the reason why I wanted to be at SJI. Information like this is something that I don’t get to learn sitting in a classroom with a textbook on my desk. The first day was information-packed, and my notebook was already filled with a semester’s worth of notes. I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings.

-- Nathan Canilao

‘READ! READ! READ!’ First-day impressions for SJI’s Bootcamp

Leon H. Carter had many inspiring and motivational words on the first day of our Sports Journalism Institute bootcamp, but none might have hit more than the word ‘read,’ which was said out loud and typed in the chat room, followed by three exclamation marks. 

It seems simple, but understanding the meaning behind it is the call for action of the small statement. Reading helps you gain knowledge and enables you to understand the language and template of what a good article should consist of. 

Hearing great advice from Gregory Lee Jr. and Sandy Rosenbush couldn't excite me more about what's to come for the rest of the bootcamp and being an SJI alum. They've both reiterated that taking advantage of this great opportunity is something I won't take lightly. 

Joel Lorenzi of the Omaha World-Herald and Cora Hall of the Knoxville News Sentinel couldn't have been better speakers to us students. You are giving great advice on similar issues that we might face as journalists at a young age or just starting this business. Lorenzi states that being successful at a job you're looking to apply to is knowing the surrounding area, understanding the coverage the team/sport gets, and reading similar writers to grasp what your style should try and replicate. Hall also gave great insight into the use of social media and how that can benefit your coverage—understanding what stories and specific coverage most viewers would like more and relate to that type of content. 

Sports Check was something I found very helpful and fun but also challenging. It's a great eye-opener to keep your mind sharp while reading articles and paying attention to the news daily since that is realistically the essence of our promising careers. I’m sure as they get harder, maybe the excitement I get from them might fade … hopefully not.

-- Michael Chavez

Jumping right In

The first day of SJI bootcamp has wrapped up, and I can already tell I will learn a lot over the next week.

Between hearing from Dean Battinto Batts of Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and talking to two SJI alums already making waves in the industry, Thursday’s introductory day was jam-packed.

Hearing from Cora Hall, one of the alums and a beat writer for Tennessee women’s basketball, was one of my favorite parts of the day. Much of her advice about covering women’s sports, specifically women’s basketball, was especially noteworthy for me, considering my love for the sport.

A significant takeaway from Hall’s session was always standing on your convictions. Have integrity, and don’t let the scope of a story sway you from sticking with your gut.

As I go through boot camp and my summer internship, I think that advice will be essential in helping me stay on track and align what I’m doing now with my future career goals.

-- Tia Reid

Fall forward

As the opening hours of the Sports Journalism Institute bootcamp marched on, my goal was to develop a feel for the environment. SJI co-founder Leon Carter made as much easy enough, letting loose his “Scandal before God” saying early on.

The tone. The delivery. The effect.

It just set the energy we needed to work through a successful first day, including an immeasurably valuable segment with program alums Joel Lorenzi and Cora Hall — this year’s U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Rising Star award winners. They answered questions for about an hour. And Lorenzi described a breaking news debacle that particularly piqued my interest.

At a developmental stage in which building relationships on a beat has been emphasized, I fully immersed myself in every detail Lorenzi included discussing an experience that allowed him to reflect on his priorities as the Creighton basketball beat writer for the Omaha World-Herald. Lorenzi did precisely that to respect starting point guard Ryan Nembhard’s wish that word of his intentions to transfer be held from release until he was ready. Such a scoop would still prove that he was “the guy” for all things Creighton basketball. He just needed to wait a couple of days.

Then a national reporter broke the news well before Lorenzi could discuss the decision with Nembhard.

Naturally, Lorenzi said he was overcome with panic in the aftermath. The story was his to lose, and he lost it. But that didn’t mean he handled the situation inappropriately — something he admittedly did not fully realize until he found clarity in a phone conversation with Greg Lee, also an SJI alum and a member of its board of directors.

The takeaway: Sometimes, being the first to publish a story isn’t worth the risk of losing a working relationship.

-- Noah Furtado

Lorenzi on building relationships with athletes you cover: “Be yourself”

My first day of SJI bootcamp felt like a good tone-setter.  

Two SJI alums shared pointers with our class on navigating different scenarios in the field. Joel Lorenzi, who covers Creighton’s men’s basketball for the Omaha World Herald, shared simple but valuable tips for building relationships with subjects. His advice? “Be yourself.”

Our instructors had warned us about the daily “Sports Checks” of bootcamp and they weren’t exaggerating. The tests are challenging, but I enjoy the process. I know I got several answers wrong in that first one, but I’m thankful for the wake-up call and plan to take the advice I heard this first day and “read, read, read”—and I’ll include not just sports but also other topics.

I’m thankful for boot camp, and I know being coached hard will make me a better writer. I like a challenge, and I know I’m in store for one with SJI. I’m looking forward to more days of learning as I meet my classmates in person. Our shared experiences and can only be helpful in my growth as a person and journalist.

-- Damon Brooks Jr.

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