I chose to study journalism because I want to create content that people will connect and engage with.
How did it feel to be recognized as a 2019 McGill Fellow?
It was an amazing feeling being recognized as a McGill Fellow. I couldn’t have gotten to that position without the help of my peers and professors who have helped push me along the way. It was also great seeing seven other of my Grady Sports peers being recognized as McGill Fellows too.
What is the hardest part about being a Grady student?
The hardest part is trying to do everything. At Grady, there are so many opportunities around you that it is easy to want to do everything, but you have to put time into the projects you care about to get the best results.
What is your dream job?
My dream job would be to work in social media for a sports team or company, such as ESPN.
What do you think is the most influential industry-related event to happen in the past 5 years?
The rise of social media has been huge. Social media is now where people go to for their breaking news. Reporters and news organizations are using social as a way to get news and content out to the world.
What academic superpower do you wish you had and why?
Being able to multitask efficiently would be great. There are so many tasks thrown at you sometimes, so it would be great to just be able to do them all at once.
Where do you get your news? Outlet, app, online vs. print?
For news I go to the New York Times and BBC News. For sport news, I use ESPN. I definitely read all my articles online on my laptop or on my phone.
If you were on a deserted island, what three things would you want to have with you and why?
I would have a book, speaker and some dumbbells. Time always goes by quickly for me when I’m reading a good book and having some nice background music will help with the reading experience. Also, it’s always great to get a workout in when you can.
Editor’s Note: Some of the above answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.
For other installments in the #GradyGrit series, visit the #GradyGrit page.
As digital media revolutionized how audiences receive information, sports social media helped pave the way for some of the most fanatical digital media users and content creators. Sports media operations and team franchises began recruiting talented communicators with the same skillsets.
“My job didn’t exist five years ago,” said TJ Adeshola (MA ’08), head of U.S. Sports at Twitter. “That’s how rapidly the sports industry is evolving.”
The digital medium requires an array of modern skills all cemented in the tenets of traditional journalism.
That’s where Grady College comes into play.
Grady’s Sports Media Certificate, which launched in Fall 2014, has numerous students and alumni with internships and jobs in sports social media. They work at a range of organizations, including CBS Sports, ESPN and the Los Angeles Rams.
“We see social media as the fastest-growing sector of the sports media industry, yet it requires the same careful attention to accuracy, ethics, and informative and engaging storytelling as legacy platforms do,” said Grady Sports director Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society. “We teach those things to all our students, but we’re introducing a class to the certificate curriculum that will add a layer of skill specialization for these social media jobs.”
“Digital and Social Media Production for Sports” will debut in Spring 2020.
“It is vital to understand your audience and know how they’ll consume your content,” said Morgan Weeks (ABJ ’16), a Grady Sports alumnae and digital partnership coordinator with Atlanta United and Atlanta Falcons. “Not only that, but become familiar with what action they’ll take after they consume it.”
The emerging industry rewards professionals nimble enough to explore new techniques while also mastering current trends.
“Be versatile, be willing and be you,” said Ann Drinkard (ABJ, ’16), another Grady Sports alumnae who is assistant director of communications for social media with the Southeastern Conference. “The sports social media industry is one that is filled with ups and downs. The highs are high, and the lows are low, but in my opinion, it is more than worth it.”
Grady College aims to prepare students to strategize and direct changing industry practices.
“My education at Grady taught me how to be a professional in the space,” Drinkard said. “It taught me how to be inquisitive, while at the same time being observant to my surroundings.”
Sports social media has also been a catalyst for change in the distribution model for sports production. Adeshola says there are two primary reasons for why sports digital media has evolved so rapidly.
“Digital platforms have become real players in the content acquisition/rights holder game,” said Adeshola. “Also, fans clamor for storytelling beyond the boxscore – they want the culture, the lifestyle, the stories in and around the game. This makes the role of social media practitioners more valuable than ever.”
With more job opportunities comes more competition.
“When it comes to jobs in sports social media, it’s lightyears beyond simply being “good” at your personal social media accounts,” said Weeks. “It’s journalism, marketing, advertising, data, tech and creative all in one amazing job.”
Like many new job sectors, there is no one proven path to landing a job in sports social media. These Grady alumni have advice for aspiring digital professionals.
“When you identify your dream internship, job, or opportunity, it’s important to have the confidence to “shoot your shot,” Adeshola said. “Give it your best! More importantly, be PREPARED to shoot your shot. Practice makes perfect. The more prepared you are, the higher the likelihood of hitting your shot.”
“My least favorite thing to hear is the phrase “this is how it’s always been done,” Weeks said. “Background knowledge is important, but you can’t get stuck on processes of the past if you’re trying to grow and make positive change. It always helps to approach situations with a fresh perspective.”
“If you really want to be a part of this industry, you can be,” said Drinkard. “You just have to work hard, be kind and keep pushing!”
It was my first year of high school. The head boys’ soccer coach asked me to broadcast the soccer matches later that day. I was a freshman, so I had no idea what I wanted to do. So, I hesitated at first, but, on March 18, 2012, my life changed forever. I walked up to the press box to broadcast the matches and instantly fell in love with it. It’s cliché to say, but I call it “love at first sight.” That day, I made my mind up that this is where I want to be. I want to cover sports teams, be close to the players and action, so I can be the one to share their stories in whatever medium, whether it be print, audio, voice or whatever. I want to be that guy.
What is the hardest part of being a Grady student?
Does such a thing exist? Being a Grady student has been amazing. The standard is set high all the way from Dean Davis to the professors. Grady expects nothing but greatness. Now, that’s the same for all of UGA, I assume, but there’s something that sets Grady apart in my mind: every professor, faculty and staff member cares about and are willing to help us anyway they can. I mean, Dean Davis sets a day aside every semester to cook us hot dogs and get to know us all on an individual basis. Never have I felt alone in Grady. If a project or story is taking a toll on me, I’ve had Grady professors assist me with advice, helpful suggestions or even a blunt “figure it out.” It’s like a big family that I consider myself blessed to be a part of.
What made you want to start your own podcast? What kind of support did you receive from the Grady community following the decision?
I took Multiplatform Sports Storytelling with Dr. Suggs in Fall 2018. We were tasked with covering beats as part of the class and working as a team to produce a podcast. We had the opportunity to, in a casual setting, discuss sports with our friends and have fun doing so. So, that sparked the idea, but I didn’t want to do it alone by no means. I texted my awesome colleague and even better friend, Hayden Chambless, about the idea, and she immediately said yes. Now, as much as I’d like to take credit behind the name “Behind the Bark,” I can’t. That was all her. We’ve received tremendous support from the Grady community since we’ve started. We’ve had our friends and fellow students Myan Patel and Jean Louise Webb on as guests, multiple friends have submitted questions and Dr. Suggs even assisted with one of our profile episodes. So, I have received a lot of support, and I’m extremely grateful for all of it.
Why do you think getting involved in activities outside of classes is important?
It allows me to take what I’ve been taught and put it into practice in the real world. It allows me to evolve my knowledge and experience different things that this industry will throw at me. It’s great to learn in a lecture or classroom, but we get to learn things up close and personal. Nothing in a class could’ve prepared me for working with a team like serving on the executive board of IABC this past year did. The organization was in a rebuilding phase and, with that, comes growing pains. I can’t speak for every officer, but I know I learned a lot in the year I served as its president. For example, what do you do when your guest speaker cancels three days before your club meeting? Nothing in a textbook could’ve prepared me on how to operate in that real-life situation. So, getting outside of the classroom and just having multiple experiences has really benefited me in my time at Grady and in college.
What would you tell the younger version of yourself if you could go back to the beginning of your first year in college?
Chill out. Take a breath. It’s all going to work out. The high school “me” and the college “me” are two totally different people. Coming into college, I was so uptight and wanted everything I did to be absolutely perfect. I would spend most nights just thinking “I could be doing more, and I could’ve done better.” Now, I’m mainly laid back and just go with the flow. A lot of people mistake that about me as saying “I don’t care,” but I do care. I care about everything I do, and that I’m involved with. However, my attitude nowadays is “I did the best I could. Let’s move on,” or “Plan A failed. What’s plan B?” I’m more confident in myself, and I wish I had this confidence four years ago.
What does Grady mean to you?
Grady is like a family to me. Everybody supports each other in this college no matter what your major is, the faculty, the staff, the colleagues you get to learn alongside. It’s really like a big family, and everybody is included. Everybody seems like they play an important role here.
Do you have a favorite quote?
My favorite quote is “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” because there are so many lessons you can learn whether it’s a task, a project or whatever the case may be. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because you learned something from it and you grew as a person.
What has been your proudest moment in the past year?
My proudest moment would have to be during my summer internship, this past summer actually, when I got to interview Vince Dooley for the Dooley Field dedication ceremony that took place before the first game. The fact that I got to interview him at all was kind of like a dream come true because he’s legendary around these parts.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am a morning person, definitely. I don’t like staying up late. I sound like a grandpa, but I normally get to bed no later than 10 o’clock at night.
What is, in your opinion, the best restaurant in Athens?
Clocked, I guess, would be the best one. It’s probably one of two that I’ve eaten here locally other than fast food restaurants. The burgers are good, and they have really good sweet tea, which is very important to me.
What’s your ideal travel destination?
Piegon Forge, Tennessee. I’ve only been there, Texas and Florida, and that has to be the dream spot for me. I plan to retire there one day.
Editor’s Note: Some of the above answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.
For other installments in the #GradyGrit series, visit the #GradyGrit page.
The allure of a Friday night for teens and young adults is palpable.
It’s a time to celebrate the end of a long week, hang out with friends and anticipate the weekend ahead. Fridays in the fall also include the social experience that is high school football.
For a group of Cedar Shoals High School students and Grady Sports Media students this fall, Friday nights are an opportunity to come together and dedicate their time toward new skills that could become future careers—sports broadcasting.
The opportunity comes courtesy of “The UGA-Grady High School Sports Broadcast Program.” Grady Sports Media faculty members created the program after receiving one of the University of Georgia’s New Approaches to Promote Diversity and Inclusion Grants earlier this year. The grants are intended to support the recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented, underserved and first-generation students at UGA.
The sports broadcast program pairs high school students with Grady Sports Media students in an intensive training and on-the-job learning experience. Since the beginning of the school year, Grady Sports Media students have traveled to Cedar Shoals a few times a month for after-school training sessions focusing on all parts of sports broadcast journalism, from producing and camera work, to play-by-play announcing, building in-game graphics and tracking game statistics. Friday nights are spent in the stadium press box where the high school students, under the leadership of the college students, practice what they have learned by producing a live broadcast of Cedar Shoals football games.
The dedication that these students have put into the program with the hours of after-school training and the five-hour or more time commitment on Friday nights is the most impressive part of the program according to Marc Ginsberg, Cedar Shoals journalism advisor.
“College students on a Friday night hanging out with a bunch of high school students? That’s awesome. If the Grady Sports students weren’t invested, then my students wouldn’t be invested.”
That is testimony to the early success of the program.
The High School Sports Broadcast Program
“We are grateful that this idea we’ve had in our minds for a while is coming to fruition because of this grant,” said Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and the director of Grady Sports Media.
“The goal is to make them feel that UGA and Grady College are very accessible for them as they continue down their academic career paths.” — Carlo Finlay, assistant director, Grady Sports Media
All UGA undergraduates are eligible to apply for the six-course Grady Sports Media Certificate program, which launched in 2014. The Grady Sports professors have noticed that students who graduate from resource-rich high schools, many with their own sports broadcast programs, have an edge in experience and overall awareness of possible career paths in sports media. They want to bridge that gap for students from under-resourced and underrepresented communities. Coupled with the fact that Grady Sports Media educates students for an industry in need of a diverse workforce, they saw an opportunity.
“From a system that’s feeding into our program, to a system that we are feeding into, we saw a real need to have this connection,” Michaelis said.
Michaelis and Carlo Finlay an academic professional and assistant director of Grady Sports Media, are using the grant to develop training modules and to buy a two-camera, high-definition broadcast kit that Cedar Shoals High School will be able to keep.
They have also enlisted the help of other strong partners such as the NFHS Network, an online platform that broadcasts high school sports nationwide. The Cedar Shoals student broadcasts this fall are being live-streamed on the Grady Sports Media channel on the NFHS Network. The NFHS Network also loaned Cedar Shoals a starter broadcast kit, including a camera, switcher, headsets, microphones and cables, and provided initial equipment training.
Michaelis is planning to apply for external grants and/or seek support from corporations and individual donors in the future, allowing the program to expand to Atlanta and other communities. She decided to pilot test the program at Cedar Shoals High School because “we should serve the community that’s at our doorstep first.”
Finlay sees this program as being a real source of pride for Cedar Shoals and would like to see future events that bring the students on campus. “The goal is to make them feel that UGA and Grady College are very accessible for them as they continue down their academic career paths.”
The High School Students
Anyone who has been around teenagers knows that it can be a challenge to engage them in new activities, but participation at Cedar Shoals has been strong for the UGA-Grady High School Sports Broadcast Program.
“It’s cool to be able to provide them experience where they kind of have to independently problem-solve in real time for an audience,” Marc Ginsberg, journalism advisor, Cedar Shoals High School
When Ginsberg asked for volunteers to participate from his yearbook, newspaper and other broadcast classes, he wanted to make sure he had committed students who were dedicated to the program and would make it a priority. He had about 20 students volunteer.
He divided the group into two production teams, so that they don’t have to work every game and can enjoy the pleasures of rooting for the team from the bleachers.
“They have worked their butts off so far,” Ginsberg admits proudly of his volunteers.
The production teams have to report to the stadium 2-1/2 hours before kickoff, but their responsibilities begin early in the week by researching background on the opponents, writing the scripts for their opens, building graphics and other prep work. The students take turns each week with their assignments.
A genuine interest in media is something that Finlay noticed when he first met the students.
“Some of the students aren’t necessarily crazy sports fans,” he said, “but they’re still doing this because they are excited about a new concept we are offering.”
Ginsberg claims his keys to success have been to “start with an open mind and be flexible at first.” When Michaelis and Finlay first approached him about participating in the program, he was hesitant, but once he was reassured that there would be training and teacher support from Grady Sports Media, he was all in.
“It’s cool to be able to provide them experience where they kind of have to independently problem-solve in real time for an audience,” Ginsberg said of his students.
For Cedar Shoals junior Victor Soto-Rosales, he sees this as an investment in his future. He aspires to attend the University of Georgia and major in journalism or film. He admits the program is tougher than he thought, but it has its advantages.
“It’s definitely worth it,” Soto-Rasales said. “You get to hang out with friends and learn something new.”
It’s a love of journalism that attracted junior Emma Dowling to the sports broadcast program. She gladly gives up her Friday nights to learn something new, including some hard lessons like struggling for an internet connection right before going on the air.
Dowling said it’s challenges like this that teach the biggest lessons: “Sometimes it’s fine that things don’t go perfectly. We need to say to ourselves ‘don’t freak out, breathe and get back on schedule.’”
The Grady Sports Media Students
One of the biggest surprises for most involved with the program is the close connection developing between the high school students and the Grady Sports Media students.
That connection started after the first training session. When the camera operation lessons were done, the high school students started asking Myan Patel and Taylor Maggiore, two of the four Grady Sports Media students working with the Cedar Shoals students, about college.
“They seem to enjoy it as much as we do because they come on Fridays, as well. It’s a really great example for them to set for us, especially because they have the opportunity to help someone else learn something new.” — Victor Soto-Rasales, student, Cedar Shoals High School
“They were asking questions like ‘What were the best traits in high school that prepared you for college?’ and ‘What’s it like?’” Patel remembers. “Now, we go in there and they know us and they expect us to be there, so it’s almost that we have become integrated into their classroom.”
Patel and Maggiore are third-year journalism majors and they are each working toward earning Grady Sports Media certificates. It was their work with the Grady Sports Bureau (which produces local high school sports broadcasts) last fall, and the fact that they are not far removed from their high school years, that made them well-suited for the high school program. Maggiore spent last summer as a UGA orientation leader, so she is prepared to answer questions about college, and the Cedar Shoals students enjoy talking with Patel about his internship last summer doing play-by-play announcing and beat writing for collegiate baseball.
“It’s really invaluable to see someone doing something that’s exciting and fun who is not that much older than you,” said Michaelis of the dynamic between her students and the Cedar Shoals students.
The Grady Sports Media students, with guidance from Michaelis and Finlay, have conducted all the training sessions with the students and they are there to answer questions and provide moral support during the football games.
“To be a high schooler and to be able to fully set up a production, execute it and break it down is more than most high schoolers could dream of,” Maggiore said of her experience working with the Cedar Shoals students over the past few months. “’From the beginning, they all came prepared and asked all the right questions. They were very professional and had great ideas. That was pretty satisfying from day one when they didn’t know what this thing was and now they are executing a full game. It’s been awesome.”
According to Soto-Rasales, the time the Cedar Shoals students get to spend with the Grady Sports Media students is one of his favorite parts of the program.
“They are really cool,” Soto-Rasales said. “They seem to enjoy it as much as we do because they come on Fridays, as well. It’s a really great example for them to set for us, especially because they have the opportunity to help someone else learn something new. I think it’s really cool they are doing that.”
Patel says the expectation of the future of the program is the biggest reason he is involved.
“It will be really cool to see the program grow,” Patel said. “I think we’ve got them thinking down paths that they might not have necessarily been thinking about. The world in the realm of sports media and broadcasting might not have been something they thought about or had access to before this, but if 10 years from now you can see that program become a feeder to the program at Grady or anywhere else, I think that would be really, really cool.”
Twenty-three days, 90 nations, 102 events and 15 sports made up this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In the midst of the history-making moments, numerous surprises and inspiring action were two students from the Grady Sports Media certificate program, Emily Giambalvo and Cat Hendrick, experiencing the Games in a way few can relate.
After a competitive selection process, Giambalvo and Hendrick were selected by the United States Olympic Committee to report on the games for the USOC’s various information channels including its website, TeamUSA.org.
“It was the best, longest, most trying and amazing experience of my life,” Hendrick, a second-year journalism major, reflected. “Every emotion you could possibly feel, it was in there. But, overall I just feel so lucky that we got to experience something that most sports reporters go their whole lives without experiencing.”
Giambalvo, a fourth-year management information systems major, agreed. “Overall, it was really awesome and it was such a cool environment to be in a worldwide setting that has a ton of chaos and a ton of exciting things with journalists from all over. I got to see and learn about a lot of new sports and cover really cool moments where history was being made.”
Over the course of three weeks, both Giambalvo and Hendrick worked under tight deadlines each producing more than 20 stories covering the different mountain and snow sports. These sports ranged from ice skating to snowboarding, hockey, speed skating, luge, bobsledding and many more. It was a chaotic and exhilarating environment where they not only worked closely with athletes but also with seasoned journalists.
“I was way more excited to meet journalists than athletes,” Giambalvo admitted.
Throughout this experience, both Giambalvo and Hendrick’s days were filled with traveling to the different sports venues, interviewing athletes and attending press conferences, working in the main press center and writing daily articles. It was not an easy task and each relied on the skills they acquired from their Grady Sports Media classes.
“Considering the fact that a year-and-a-half ago, I have never written a sports story, Grady Sports has helped me a lot,” Hendrick said. “The sports media certificate favors a trial-by-fire approach, but that has made all the difference in the world. I have Grady to thank for everything, because I was clueless a year-and-a-half ago. It wasn’t easy, but the professors care so much and have gone out of their way to help us.”
This opportunity was made possible with the support of Vicki Michaelis, John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society and director of Grady Sports. Michaelis was the lead Olympic reporter for USA Today from 2000-2012 and her relationship with the USOC opened the door for students to attend.
While Michaelis was a valuable resource and pushed them “to find stories outside of the easy scope,” the Olympics was not without its challenges. Both Giambalvo and Hendrick battled freezing cold temperatures and the pressure to consistently crank out creative stories.
“Any journalist can feel good about writing a story in one day, but after getting into the 14th consecutive day writing a story, it was challenging,” Giambalvo said. “There is no way for [Grady Sports] to teach you every situation, but it can give you the confidence that no matter what the situation is, I can handle it.”
“The most challenging part was keeping our stamina up,” Hendrick echoed. “I was nervous going into the Olympics as a first-time writer, but I just had to trust my training. Grady gave me everything that I needed to know, it was just a matter of executing at that point, but I had all the tools that I needed.”
By the end of the games, both Giambalvo and Hendrick walked away with countless memories, stories and experiences.
Giambalvo said she most enjoyed watching figure skating, and covering the U.S. gold medal curling game. “The curling gold medal game, was the last event I covered and the last story I wrote. The overall significance of what it meant for the sport and the athletes made it the perfect story. It was a nice way to end it.”
“You see the Olympics through a certain lens your entire life, so to actually be there behind the scenes and see all the work that goes into every single clip was really fascinating,” Hendrick concluded. “I’ve read a thousand stories in my life, but to be in the press conference and see the answers to the question I’ve asked on CNN, Fox and ESPN was really neat. This was literally the Olympics of sports journalism. I am super grateful to Professor Michaelis and the rest of the sports media certificate for working so hard to get us the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Six students and two professors from Grady College will cover the Department of Defense Warrior Games as credentialed journalists in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 1-7, 2018.
The Warrior Games is an adaptive athletic competition featuring injured and ill athletes from the military.
Three students from Grady Sports Media will write about the Warrior Games and will be advised by Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society and director of Grady Sports Media. Three photojournalism students will document the stories visually and will be advised by Mark Johnson, senior lecturer in journalism. Michaelis and Johnson will be on site to supervise and edit the students.
“It’s a great opportunity for the students to cover live sports action,” said Michaelis, who covered the Warrior Games in 2011 as a reporter for USA Today. “It’s also great opportunity for them to have to familiarize themselves with an event and with sports competitions that they don’t necessarily know.”
The student journalists will team up to produce packages with written features and photographs. The students are researching the athletes and sports now to identify potential stories. They are also researching enterprise ideas about adaptive sports and technology. The stories will be pitched to local and national media outlets.
Michaelis said the Warrior Games will allow the Grady’s sports and visual journalism programs to build on their experience from the 2016 Paralympics Games , which nine Grady students covered for The Associated Press.
“Every one of these athletes has an inspiring story,” Michaelis added. “The hard part isn’t finding good stories, it’s finding the best story. The only issue will be how much time we have to tell them.”
Fourth-year journalism student Michael Hebert is one of the Grady Sports Media students covering the Warrior Games and he looks forward to covering first-time athletes in the competition, as well as those who have not had a chance to tell their story yet.
“What I want to do is cover the athletes who are using the Warrior Games as a chance to heal, not necessarily physically, but more so mentally,” Hebert said.
The students selected to travel to the Warrior Games were chosen by a committee after auditioning with deadline coverage of athletes participating in a UGA-hosted track meet.
Miranda Daniel, a fourth-year student who will be photographing the Warrior Games, anticipates a fast-paced environment, but looks forward to telling the stories of the athletes visually.
“I have no doubts this will be an amazing experience,” Daniel said.
In addition to Daniel and Hebert, students traveling to the Warrior Games are Brittney Butler and Nikki Weldon from Grady Sports Media and photojournalists Christina Matacotta and Zoe Smith.
“We are hopeful we can make this a perennial opportunity,” Michaelis concluded. “We think the adaptive sports space is just such a great place for us to do what we want to do, and not enough media are in this space. The students can get a really full experience being there.”
The Warrior Games is a nine-day competition featuring nearly 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans in eleven different sports, including sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and track. Each branch of the United States military will be represented—the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Special Operations Command—alongside military athletes from the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. The event takes place at the Air Force Academy.
The Association for Women in Sports Media chapter at UGA has established a Georgia Funder account to raise money so their members can attend the national conference.
AWSM advocates for the professional advancement of women in sports media. As a student chapter, AWSM at UGA hosts guest speakers, networking and social events, and professional development workshops, and is closely aligned with the Grady Sports Media certificate at Grady College.
The chapter is seeking the opportunity to represent UGA and Grady College at the 2018 AWSM conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Through this conference, chapter members will have the opportunity to learn from and network with professionals across the different fields of the sports media industry. The benefits of this event would resonate back on campus and catalyze a lasting movement toward camaraderie and mutual interest in development between students aspiring to careers in sports media.
Support of the fund will go toward the registration and travel expenses for a diverse group of driven women from the chapter.
Benjamin Wolk is a 2014 Grady College journalism graduate. The Grady Sports Media Certificate program was introduced as he was completing his degree and he was able to take a few classes on his way to graduation. Wolk currently covers the Auburn recruiting beat at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country. Prior to that, he covered football at The Brunswick News, The Oconee Enterprise and the Macon Telegraph. He was a football beat writer and Sports Editor for The Red & Black during his time at the University of Georgia.
Grady College: What do you enjoy the most about covering college football?
Benjamin Wolk: The passion of fans. There are so many fans out there who are checking by the hour to see what’s happening in the college football recruiting world. That’s what makes it so fun for me is just knowing that I am recruiting to a fan base. It’s not just Auburn, but any fan base you find in the SEC, they are just going to be so crazy about their school and are so passionate about what’s happening with their program.
GC:What is the biggest challenge covering college football?
BW: Fans love a night game, and when I’m a fan, I love the night game, too, because you have a little more electricity with a night game atmosphere. But, as a reporter, I’m always fan of the noon game. As a reporter, you may not get out of the stadium until 2 in the morning with a night game, whereas a noon game, I might be home by 8 p.m. There are certainly times on Saturdays at 1:30 in morning where I’m writing my third post-game story, and I’m like ‘oh man.’ People don’t realize some of the rigors that go into this. It’s part of the fun. It’s why you love sports.
GC:Tell us what a typical game day is like for you?
BW: A home game starts with the Tiger Walk. I’ll do a Facebook Live, which is the perfect example of how new age media is growing, because Facebook Live wasn’t even a thing when I was in school. The Facebook Live is about bringing in an audience that maybe wasn’t already there and developing that personal relationship.
Then I will usually wait until the players start going through the Tiger Walk and I will just flip the camera around and let fans who aren’t in Auburn be part of one of Auburn’s traditions and that’s a way to interact with fans.
Then I’ll go into the stadium. Since my focus is on recruits and they host a ton of recruits at these events, a lot of my pre-game activities are talking with recruits to get a better idea of what schools they are interested in and what they think of Auburn.
My attention then turns to the football game. I take photos. I am up in the press box while we do live blogs throughout the game interacting with the fans and keeping them up-to-date. I do some live Tweeting. You are just constantly doing stuff throughout the game. After the game, you go to the press room and talk with the coach and with five to 10 players. From there you pow wow with the other people you cover the game with and we outline all of the storylines we need to write about over the next couple of hours and also the next couple of days to set the stage for the game next week.
Grady College:How did Grady College prepare you for what you are doing now?
“Whenever you meet someone, always assume they are going to be able to be useful as a story down the road or a contact for anything you are trying to do.”
Benjamin Wolk: My Introduction to Sports Journalism course gave me an idea of what to expect from a career path. When you’re 20 years old you want to work for ESPN and be on TV, but the reality is that journalism is an industry where you really have to pay your dues and work your way up. Professors Michaelis and Suggs did a good job of telling you that if you want to get to point D, you have to go through points A, B and C first to get a grasp of what you want to do in the sports journalism industry.
Grady College does a good job of preparing you for a new media workplace where everything is not about interviewing someone and writing 300 words, but it’s about figuring out how you can craft complementary content for the things you are writing, whether that’s video, podcasting…whatever it may be. Grady College does a great job setting you up to have multiple skills in the journalism business.
GC: Is it hard remaining impartial covering Auburn knowing that you have an allegiance to Georgia football?
BW: As a Georgia grad, there will also be a big special place in my heart for Georgia. But, Professors Suggs and Michaelis were very adamant in their classes that we were in that we were in a no fan zone. It really set the tone for how I approached my journalism career. I want to see Georgia do well, but at the same time I’ve been in Auburn now for a year and I’ve gotten to know coaching staff and players. Once you develop relationships with the people that you cover, it’s pretty easy in my mind because my world became me covering Auburn. It has nothing to do with me being an Auburn fan or me being a Georgia fan, it has to do with me being a sports reporter whose job is to be to relay the facts about Auburn football and Auburn football recruiting. I have a duty and responsibility to the Auburn fan base to provide them the true information.
GC:What advice do you have for current Grady Sports Media students?
BW: My best advice would be to get as much experience as possible. There is no such thing as too much experience. At the same time, it’s not just about getting the resume to where you want it. Make sure you are networking, and not just with people in the journalism industry, but network with coaches when you are covering high school. Whenever you meet someone, always assume they are going to be able to be useful as a story down the road or a contact for anything you are trying to do. It’s about not just getting your resume right, but about the relationships you build through that resume experience that can go even further than the listing of the information on the resume itself.