UGA students experience real-world media relations at NCAA Tennis Tournament

Students in the Sports Media Relations class taught by University of Georgia Professor Vicki Michaelis have the best of both worlds this summer: resume-worthy experience covering a collegiate sports championship and class credit for one of the core courses in the UGA's new Sports Media Certificate program.

The 12 students are spending the Maymester session — about three weeks — tweeting, Vining, and producing videos, written features and press releases about the NCAA tennis championship on UGA's home tennis courts. The championship attracts 32 collegiate teams and 128 individual and doubles tennis players from across the country, and the class students have a first-hand view of every match.

The students are required to contribute to all aspects of social media for the championship, and they have specific assignments to complete within three-hour shifts. Their assignments include: maintaining a Storify account that curates social media interaction about the tournament, producing video content, gathering quotes from the coaches and players, writing a hometown press release on a player, helping the UGA Athletic Association with distributing vital information, and submitting content for During each shift, the students must complete two Vine videos and post at least three times to Twitter. Michaelis is on site for each of the shifts to direct students, answer questions and evaluate and edit the students' work before publication.

The fact that the students contribute to the publicity efforts for a national championship in their own back yard is a unique opportunity for this first-time course.

“When we kicked off the (Sports Media Certificate) program, we looked ahead to the fact that UGA would be hosting the NCAA Championships and we started conversations fairly early with UGA Sports Communications,” commented Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Distinguished Professor in Sports Journalism at Grady College. “They were very open to the idea that we would collaborate with them in building this course. It's an incredible opportunity to get real-world experience while learning what these people do.”

Although this class provides a lot of hands-on experience, there are other assignments in the rigorous Maymester curriculum. Each student must read a textbook as part of an independent study, prepare a feature that will be used by the International Triathlon Union and prepare a short case study following an interview with one of twelve sports information specialists about a real-life scenario they had to respond to.

“This is not a class built around lectures,” Michaelis said. “They have a lot of responsibilities. This is a great way to put them in the fire and give them a real taste to see if this is something they like. If it is, this could be a great career.”

Student Anne Noland, a public relations major who is pursuing the new Sports Media Certificate at Grady, says she took the class because she thought is would further develop her interests and stretch her.

“It is nice to learn it here instead of the classroom,” Noland says. “I don't know how I would learn it if I was in the classroom. It is definitely a crash course.”

The class has been beneficial for the UGA Athletic Association, too.

“It's been great having the students here,” commented Kate Burkholder, assistant sports communications director for the UGA Athletic Association. “We've never really been able to have this much coverage before because it's so busy that we don't have time to do videos and supplemental coverage like that on our own. It's given us a chance to be more creative because we get swamped with things that are more tedious like updating results and taking phone calls.”

Sports media relations is one of the fastest growing segments in sports media.

“Just like every other business, sports media have realized that they can produce their own content,” said Michaelis. “They are looking for employees who can produce journalistic content under the umbrella of their brand. What I am trying to teach students in this class is they can take journalistic skills they have developed in other classes and they can now see it from the side of a specific brand, which in this case is UGA sports.”

In addition to regular posts on, samples of coverage from Sports Media Relations students can be found through the following links:

The Sports Media Certificate program is the first of its kind in the SEC and one of the most comprehensive programs in the country. The interdisciplinary program will provide students foundational knowledge of the societal impact of sports and sports media, along with in-depth writing, reporting, multiplatform skills, media relations and broadcast. For more information about the Sports Media Certificate, please visit

Date: May 22, 2014
Author:  Sarah Freeman,