From Medill to Team USA

From Medill to Team USA

By Scott Guthrie

It is hard to believe. A year ago, I was in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall waiting to officially become a Medill graduate.

I was draped in Northwestern purple from head to toe. The diploma I received was about as thick as my professional portfolio. Now I am wrapped in red, white and blue, and I produce content that reaches thousands of people around the world each day for Team USA’s web, social and video platforms.

What a difference a year can make.

Currently I am the digital media coordinator for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). In this role I develop digital campaigns, video series, scripts, distribution strategies and promotional plans that align with the Team USA brand. I also act as coordinating producer on digital, social and video projects designed to engage and inspire Team USA fans. It is an honor to have this position. I am fortunate to be part of the world’s best sports team and to work alongside the world’s top athletes with the responsibility of telling their stories.

Reaching this stage in my career has been a challenge and an adventure. It would not have been possible without the training I received at Medill. Before I accepted my current position, I was a digital media editorial intern at the USOC. The internship began two weeks after graduation.

It was evident on my first day how valuable my Medill education would be.

I was asked to write game and event recaps. Mike Bass taught me how to do that in his sports reporting class. I designed and coded the Team USA Rio Olympics roster web page that was our most visited page during the 2016 Olympics. Emily Withrow and Andy Hullinger prepared me to do that in their coding and design classes. I took photos to accompany stories. Medill provided me with basic photography training. I had to create alternative stories (listicles, quizzes and photo essays) and think of new ways to present content. Rachel Mersey covered that in her frameworks of modern journalism class.

When I had a story idea, I pitched it to my editor. Medill’s content lab was great practice for this. I had to develop stories that went beyond what happened on the playing field. Wayne Drehs helped me strengthen that skill in his sports and society course. I had to use Photoshop, which Susan Mango Curtis taught in her news design course. The voice of my stories had to be “on-brand.” Candy Lee taught me all about brands in her sports marketing course.

Without the education Medill provided, I am not sure I could have succeeded in that internship. Medill equipped me to handle anything that crossed my desk and to feel confident when proposing new ideas. This training helped me turn my internship into a full-time position. I am grateful that Medill puts time and resources into understanding the changing landscape of traditional media so that its students can enter the industry ready to contribute.

In my current position, I meet and see Olympic athletes almost daily. I attend and cover major sporting events such as Team USA’s Winter Champions Series. I helped produce the Team USA Awards Show in Washington, D.C. I traveled to Rio de Janeiro to help prepare for the Olympics. Admittedly, sometimes the urge arises to ask athletes for an autograph or a selfie. However, Medill put me in so many high-profile situations while I was part of its graduate sports program that it is easy to maintain composure.

From left, gold medal gymnasts Laurie Hernandez, Simone Biles, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman are interviewed at the Team USA awards. (photo via Scott Guthrie)
From left, gold medal gymnasts Laurie Hernandez, Simone Biles, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman are interviewed at the Team USA awards. (photo via Scott Guthrie)

As part of Medill’s sports program, I covered the McDonald’s High School All-American Game, the NFL Draft, the Frontier League All-Star Game and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championship. I visited the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., and the Golf Channel in Orlando, Fla. I met and spoke with alumni such as Christine Brennan, Mike Wilbon, Mike Greenberg and Rachel Nichols. The professional training Medill and its sports program offers students is unmatched and something I value most.

That professional training will be useful over the next 14 months as we begin to prepare at the USOC for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. The possibilities for creating, publishing and distributing digital content increase by the day. Working for the USOC allows me to be at the forefront of this industry evolution and to expand the skill set I cultivated at Medill.

I am excited about the quantity and range of original content we will produce across digital platforms in 2017 to promote our athletes and the upcoming Olympics. This includes original video series and social media campaigns, as well as engaging editorial content. The challenge of continuing to grow our brand and audience is also enticing. While I am eager to see what we will produce at Team USA going forward, I am equally thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to grow and immerse myself in the digital media and sports industry.