Liberty University journalism teacher puts together a sports reporting seminar Feb 11-12
Journalism professor Deborah Huff watched her dream of hosting a sports reporting seminar unfold as students gathered in Green Hall Feb. 11-12 to participate in Football & Facebook.
The idea for the seminar surfaced when Huff wrote a paper for her graduate class on social media and how it has shaped the sports reporting field. As part of her paper, Huff reached out to her past students, who have made their career in sports reporting, to gain more insight on how they were using social media.
One of her interviews was with Bob Sturm, class of 1994. Sturm lives in Dallas and co-hosts a popular sports talk show on 1310-AM The Ticket, covers Dallas sports for the Athletic, a sports news website, and works for FOX Sports.
“While I was talking to him, (Sturm) said he would love to come back and talk to students some day and — ‘bing’ — the light went off, and I thought, ‘Okay we can make this happen. I don’t know how, but I am going to try my best to make it happen,’” Huff said.
Journalism professors Chris Underation and Amy Bonebright joined Huff in applying for an IlLUminate grant from Liberty’s Center for Academic Development.
“Thanks to the Illuminate Grant, my dream came true,” Huff said.
In addition to Sturm, Huff asked Rich Maclone, 1997, Victoria Wood, 2015, and Emily Brown, 2015, and asked if they could come share their knowledge of sports reporting and social media at the seminar.
“It’s not just print anymore, and students have to know that,” Huff said. “They have to be able to do it all.”
Huff wanted to offer an experience for students to see how reporters are adapting to the changing climate of sports reporting and using social media as a tool in their line of work.
Two evening sessions offered hands-on experience to Football & Facebook participants. At one event, students attended a press conference with Liberty basketball Coach Ritchie McKay and had to write the story by the next day. The other event included reporting on a women’s basketball game. Each event included the professionals advising the students on key points.
Journalism student Paige Frost attended the women’s basketball on Tuesday
“Victoria let me use the camera,” Frost said. “She showed me the behind the scenes broadcast side of a sporting event. That was really cool.”
Throughout the seminar, there were several breakout sessions where each speaker shared their insight into the different avenues of the sports reporting they worked in, like radio, television and print.
“Topics for each session came from questions I asked in my paper. So, it was just very logical for me to have these be things we talked about in the seminar,” Huff said.
One of the events within the seminar was a Convo Select, which was a panel discussion between Sturm and Maclone talked about what it looks like to be a Christian in the world of sports reporting. Both speakers discussed how to use their platform to make an impact on their audience.
“If God has put you in a successful sports radio station, you have more purpose than a Cowboys football game,” Sturm said. “You are going to come in contact with people who don’t know the Lord or are in need.”
Another session led by Sturm was about Twitter and how to build a following. Sturm currently has 122,000 followers. During this session, Sturm gave practical advice to students on how to use Twitter for their advantage by following the right people and using their voice within the news outlet.
“Every day I am on (Twitter) reading the topics that are interesting to me,” Sturm said. “The more you get into, the more you have to follow, but fortunately the more you get into, the more opportunities there are on Twitter.”
Journalism student Peter Gooch said he enjoyed hearing from someone with a large following and learning how he got to that place.
“I learned more about what you need to do to come into your Twitter and (how to use) it as a resource,” Gooch said.
Since podcasts have become another avenue for sports reporting, Maclone led a discussion on his experiences in starting a podcast and the lessons he learned.
“I wanted students to see and sense that you have to do the work to get the job and be prepared in all areas of reporting,” Huff said.
During the second day of the seminar, Wood and Brown led a session on what it is like to be in the “boys club” and how to get the door open. Wood works for the Roanoke station WDBJ-TV as a broadcast sports reporter and Brown is a print sports reporter for the News & Advance, Lynchburg’s daily newspaper.
“It’s a topic not covered in class, and we don’t talk about how to deal with a coach that doesn’t like women near his locker room or won’t let women talk to him after a game,” Huff said. “How do you handle that? I think they gave good advice on how to prepare.”
A full panel discussion on getting a job after college ended the sessions.
“You are not going to land your dream job on the first run,” Wood said. “You are not going to be prepared for that dream job until you go through some stuff first.”
Brown encouraged students to learn from experiences during different periods of their career while they are waiting on getting that dream job.