During spring break, just a couple months after the program’s launch, 15 students traveled to Washington D.C. for a three-day peek behind the scenes at some of the biggest media companies in the sports field.
“For those people who are interested in sports media, being exposed to the 360 degree world of it in person is useful,” says Professor Candy Lee, one of three faculty members who attended the trip. Professor Charles Whitaker and lecturer Karen Springen also accompanied the students to Washington.
“It can create opportunities to learn that may be different than what happens in a classroom,” Lee added.
The trip offered the chance to attend a taping of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” and “Around the Horn,” network at an alumni reception in Medill’s D.C. newsroom and meet with staff at ESPN, The Washington Post, Comcast SportsNet and the Washington Wizards.
“I think they’re filling a need at the school for a large number of students who are really passionate about sports,” says Karen Quant (MSJ14). “A lot of us come in wanting to follow a specific path, and it’s great that they’re trying to cater to our wants and needs in creating the program.”
During the visit to the studio where ESPN’s “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption” are taped, the group met the hosts as they prepared for the shows, and spent time during the taping both in the studio and in the control room. Students observed how the rundowns and switchboards were similar to those in the producing classes at Medill.
Although Michael Wilbon (BSJ80) had the day off, fellow Wildcat Kevin Blackistone (BSJ81) sat down with the group after appearing on “Around the Horn.” While many in the business are quick to stress how difficult it can be to break in, Blackistone was optimistic about the future for young sports journalists.
“There are more opportunities than before, because you can create your own opportunities,” Blackistone said. He explained that he came out of college and had to fit into an existing model. “Today, you’re making the mode,” he said.
During a visit to the Washington Post, editors, reporters, photographers and video editors shared a glimpse of life at the paper. From preparing reporters to capture video of Washington Redskins’ Robert Lee Griffin, III on an iPhone, to sending a documentary crew out to chronicle the life of America’s top high school football recruit, the Post finds opportunities for multimedia journalists to deliver engaging content.
Sports editor Matt Vita said the paper’s standards for quality remain high, but the bar for what they consider a story has been lowered. Short video clips, quick blog posts and even compilations of tweets became part of the paper’s Olympic coverage, along with more thoroughly reported stories and photography.
Students got to see examples of each, and learn how they fit into the Post’s overall strategy.
The itinerary was packed with experts eager to share advice. While touring the Newseum, students watched a video about the history of sports media that featured USA Today columnist Christine Brennan (BSJ80, MSJ81). Merely hours later, the students were sitting with Brennan around a lunch table, asking her about her life and career.
Brennan was also optimistic, reinforcing the notion that persistence and passion could get young journalists where they want to go.
“It did provide a little bit more inspiration,” said Nikitta Foston (MSJ14). “Because you can see folks who were in the place where you’re sitting, now in the place where you want to go.”