Hearing his booming voice was surreal. For as long as I can remember, I — like many other sports fans — have grown accustomed to Stephan A. Smith’s New York accent via my television screen. It took a few minutes to let it sink in when he was in the Sports Journalism Institute’s zoom call today and fielding our questions. I’m unexplainably appreciative for the opportunity and glad we got the chance to speak with one of the busiest people in journalism for the better part of an hour. One of the first things that struck me was when he answered a question regarding the backlash he receives from the public. “You can’t have a fear of telling what you have researched as true — and if you do, you’re in the wrong business,” he said. “I’m willing to live with the consequences as long as I’m factually correct.” This resonates with me because I often think times sports reporters are berated online whenever they say something negative about the team they’re covering. If you’re informed, eloquent and substantive — you have nothing to be afraid of. The second thing that I took away from Smith was regarding your audience as a reporter. “There’s a difference between being listened to and being heard,” Smith said. “You want to be heard.” Again, something that I’ve struggled with. Young reporters are often told to find they’re voice, and during that process, I have wondered if people were even listening. I understand that it takes time to build a following, but I think it’s important to be articulate and to do extensive research before pouring your heart into an article or any content. I will take these lessons with me for the rest of my life to be the best storyteller I can be.