By Darren Zaslau

As a huge fan of ESPN’s First Take, I’m very interested in sports debate shows. During the second week of classes in my first quarter at Medill, I remember taking the “L” to class, and I couldn’t stop thinking about First Take.

I thought how great it would be to bring a show like this to Northwestern and film it weekly with my Medill classmates.

The Beginning

What I found interesting about First Take is its simple format, yet entertaining impact. Show host Molly Qerim asks a sports-related question, and analysts Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman argue their answers.

Why couldn’t we do that at Medill?

So, I pitched the idea in our group chat to every student in the sports media specialization. In the group message, I basically posted, “Hey everybody. I’ve been watching First Take recently and we should do a show like this at Northwestern. Who’s interested?”

Over 20 students said they wanted to be a part of the show. At that point, I knew there was enough interest to make it happen.

I wrote up a show proposal that outlined exactly what the three-segment, 30-minute show would look like. It would include a host and two analysts in addition to a behind-the-scenes staff responsible for the control room and cameras. We would also include two commercial breaks.

I sent the proposal to some of Medill’s faculty members and I received a response from Professor Caryn Ward, who has spent more than 25 years in television newsrooms as a reporter, editor, executive producer, managing editor and news director. She said that she wanted to help us film the show. We were all excited to learn from someone as knowledgeable and experienced as Professor Ward.

After going through control room and camera training sessions with Medill’s technology training and operations manager, Rafie Fields, we were ready to learn how to be on-air. Professor Ward guided us through a few broadcast 101 sessions, and we learned everything from how to dress, how to make a rundown/script and how to sound professional.

After learning the various broadcast essentials, we were ready to show what we learned on the air. However, as excited as we were to start the show, we needed a name for it. We all agreed that the name needed to be simple. Short, sweet and to the point.

We all wanted Medill to be in the name, however we were stumped on what should be next. We then realized that the whole point of the show was to talk about sports, so “Medill Sports Talk” it was, and it stuck.

Medill Sports Talk Goes On-Air

After Professor Ward guided us through a mock broadcast, we organized our 12 roles for our first-ever show to be published on the Medill Sports website.

We figured out who would host each segment and who the two analysts would be. Then, we set our nine behind-the-scenes roles, which consisted of a director, producer, technical director, teleprompter operator, audio operator, floor director and three camera operators.

For our topics, we decided to talk about the New York Giants benching Eli Manning, Lonzo Ball’s early struggles during his rookie season and a preview of the 2018 World Cup draw. At that point, we were ready to put Medill Sports Talk on the air.

From the first show, we learned we needed to be creative and passionate about everything we talked about. This led to one of the first creations on Medill Sports Talk, the “Quick Shootaround.” This was an NBA segment that featured rapid-fire questions and was created by Lauren Rosen, Alexis Culmer and Hogan Davis. This helped spark our creativity in how we organized segments and what types of questions the analysts would answer.

Each week, Professor Ward sent us feedback and broadcast critiques that were very helpful. From sitting up straight in the chair, to camera presence, to the phrasing of our arguments, we were able to improve after every show.

Professor J.A. Adande also saw our first show and wanted to help us film every week. We were very excited to learn from someone as talented and knowledgeable as him.

After each show, we went through a broadcast film session with Professor Adande. He would break down our every move and word on-air. He talked about his experiences on Around the Horn and we all improved every week after learning from one of the industry’s best.

Medill Sports Talk Goes Live

One of Medill Sports Talk’s directors, Juliana Sherry, came up with a very important idea in the show’s history: Going live. After filming 12 shows, we were all ready to take Medill Sports Talk to the next level.

Juliana suggested that we film a 2018 NFL Draft live show and we were all for it. We would reveal all of the team’s draft picks when they came in and break down the selections during the draft.

Not only was the show live, but we were given access to select game footage from when the players were in college. With graphics and additional visual enhancements, Medill Sports Talk went live for the 2018 NFL Draft on April 26th, 2018. Lisa Byington, a broadcaster for the Big Ten Network and Medill alumnus, was there to help us film and was in-studio during the broadcast.

Ever since that show, Medill Sports Talk has routinely been filming live on YouTube Live. Now, people from all over the world are able to watch us film with just the click of a button.

The Evolution of Medill Sports Talk

On July 26th, 2018, Medill Sports Talk filmed its 20th episode. Among the 20 shows, we have analyzed everything from the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, soccer, golf, college football, college basketball, Esports, Cricket, the Olympics and more. Medill Sports Talk also now has its own YouTube and Twitter pages in addition to Snapchat.

The show has also improved visually. Juliana’s graphics and lower thirds have helped enhance the show’s look.

Our 20th show debuted a new segment. Another director of Medill Sports Talk, Chris Kwiecinski, came up with the idea to add a different dimension to the show. He created a new segment called “Point Taken.” This has improved the show visually and will help add variety to its content.

Point Taken features a host and three analysts participating in a game show where points are earned for defending answers to sports-related questions. Alexis Culmer became the first-ever winner of Point Taken, earning the title in grand fashion by defending LeBron James as the most influential current player in sports.

From filming the show and editing it, to filming live every week, Medill Sports Talk has come a long way. With the help of the Medill faculty and staff, in addition to the passion shown by everyone in the show, Medill Sports Talk has become an exciting part of our week.

Here is everybody who has ever been involved in Medill Sports Talk: Alexa Adler, Erik Alcantar, Casey Bannon, Lance Brozdowski, Justin Birnbaum, Kiara Brantley-Jones, Chris Cadeau, Alex Campbell, Dan Comer, Matt Craig, Alexis Culmer, Hogan Davis, Leana Edwards, Sunday Ely, Patrick Engel, Richard Foster-Shelton, Eric Frazier, Doug Greenberg, Nick Hennion, Drake Hills, Emily Iannaconi, Annanya Johari, Kristen Keller, Jordan Klein, Chris Kwiecinski, Nick Mantas, DeForest Mapp, Emmett McConnell, Dan Order, Jake Riepma, Lauren Rosen, Juliana Sherry, Jonathan Skinner, Robbie Weinstein, Andrew Weiss, Connor Yahn and Darren Zaslau.

We all want to say thank you to: Professor J.A. Adande, Professor Caryn Ward, Rafie Fields, Luis Palacios and Rachel Venegas.

And to the viewers: Thank you for watching Medill Sports Talk. This is just the beginning.

For more information about the show, please click the links below:

Check out the Medill Sports Talk YouTube page for all of our shows.

Check out Medill Sports Talk on Twitter.