This is the second in a four-part series about Grady College alumni who cover college football. Read the other features in the series:
Mike Reiter is a 2013 digital and broadcast journalism graduate of Grady College. He currently serves as a production assistant for the SEC network where he supports the studio shows by pitching segment and feature ideas, producing video elements and creating graphics. This fall, he has worked on “SEC Nation” as the graphics producer. Prior to the SEC Network, Reiter worked as a seasonal production assistant at ESPN.
Grady College: What is the best part about covering college football?
Mike Reiter: The best part of covering college football is that following it is something I would be doing even if I didn’t have the job that I do. For me, there’s nothing better than college football. The games, fans, traditions, etc. make it the best sport in the world to follow. The fact that it’s part of my job to follow it is a blessing. Being able to produce content for the fans of the SEC is awesome, and it’s great to see the reaction to different elements that you produce.
For instance, last fall I worked on elements celebrating the 25th SEC Championship Game. There were many different types of elements (montages, vignettes, essays, features), but one series were essays about different topics that were voiced by Brent Musburger. When we were in Jacksonville for the Georgia-Florida game, one of those elements ran about the impact that Florida’s three Heisman winners had on the SEC Championship Game. Getting to see that element played through the truck, and watching Steve Spurrier, Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel watch that element was a pretty cool feeling, even as someone who went to Georgia.
GC: What is the biggest challenge of covering college football? How can you be impartial when you’re a fan of a team?
MR: I’d be lying if I said that there was anything that was truly difficult about my job. I get to cover college football so any issues or problems that I might have would seem silly if you compared them to other professions. With that being said, I don’t want to be labeled as the “Georgia guy.” I went to Georgia and they are the team that I root for and the team I know the most about, but I don’t want to limit myself to just doing Georgia elements, or pitching Georgia ideas because I know that will limit me going forward. The SEC Network covers all 14 teams, so I try to be equal in trying to pitch ideas and features for all 14 of our teams—that includes Florida. It sometimes can be difficult because I’m not as familiar with the traditions of other teams, but that is something I try to learn more about. As for trying to be impartial, when it comes to watching a game, I will always root for Georgia. I might not be able to outwardly express it like other fans do, but I will always root for the Dawgs, and that will never change.
GC: What is a typical fall game day like for you?
MR: This fall I have been working on SEC Nation doing the graphics for the show. We typically arrive on site Thursday evening or Friday morning so I’m able to spend all of Friday getting ready for the show. A typical Saturday starts with waking up between 3 and 4 a.m., depending on what part of the country we are in. After getting ready, I’ll head to the truck between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m.
When I get there, I pretty much have all the graphics built for the show that I need to have. There might be some last-minute graphics that I have to build, but it’s normally not that much. I have a graphics operator who plays out all the graphics during the show. Either late Friday or first thing Saturday morning, we stack the graphics for the show. In simplistic terms, we go through the rundown, and put all the graphics in the order of which they appear in the show. This is also a time I can double check and make sure that I have all the graphics that I need.
Once all of that is finished, we do a Graphics Check with the CP/Producer of the show. We will go through every graphic in the show, and make sure that everything is correct, and it’s what the producer/CP want for that particular graphic. We normally do this two or three hours before the show.
When the show starts, I follow the rundown, communicate with the producer/director and listen to what our talent our talking about. Most of the graphics are scripted, but I also sell different graphics to the producer/director during discussions that fit what our analysts are talking about.
Our show goes off the air at Noon EST and at that point, I either head to the airport to get back to Charlotte, or I stay on campus and watch the game, which I prefer to do that if I can.
GC: What advice do you have for current Grady College students?
MR: The advice that I’ve always followed is, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I know it’s a cliché, but since I’ve started at ESPNU/SEC Network, the saying has been true. There hasn’t been a single time I’ve regretted going to work. I understand that this might not be the case for everybody, but my advice is to find something that you enjoy doing and do whatever you can to pursue that.
GC: Do you have any comments on the upcoming SEC Championship?
MR: In terms of the SEC Championship, Georgia will look to avenge their loss from a couple weeks ago, a game that Auburn dominated. But even in that game, UGA had a couple of missed opportunities early where they could have put up some points. If those would have gone the other way, that’s a much different game. Auburn runs the ball extremely well so Georgia will have to defend that well. Along those same lines, the offensive line will have to dominate the line of scrimmage because Georgia has to be able to run the ball, which they weren’t able to do against Auburn.