By Christopher Boan
The graduation ceremonies and family parties won’t be the same this year, like last year, but the challenge is the same for the Class of 2021.
Find their first sports reporting jobs.
It’s a challenge in and of itself. Sending resumes, preparing for interviews, cultivating your best clips. But what do our future beat reporters and editors think about the future?
We thought we’d ask them. Meet McClain Baxley and Sarandon Raboin, up-and-coming reporters who are taking their first steps into this challenging business.
Q: What do you hope to do once you graduate from college?
MB: Upon graduation from Georgia Southern University, I’ll be interning with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the sports department from June through August.
SR: I’ve accepted a job with Louisville’s WHAS-TV to be a producer-in-residence for their TV broadcasts. I’ll be training alongside the morning producers and coming up with creative and innovative ways to deliver the news to the local residents. While this isn’t strictly a sports job, I look forward to covering major sporting events in Louisville, like the Kentucky Derby or all kinds of University of Louisville games.
Q: Have you considered joining trade organizations, like APSE, after graduation? If so, what would you want to learn or achieve as an APSE member?
MB: I actually joined APSE back in the summer of 2019 while I was interning with then-president John Bednarowski. I have loved meeting other sportswriters and sports editors, whether in person at the 2019 summer conference in Atlanta or virtually via Twitter and Zoom calls. I am also a member of the Football Writers of America Association and the Georgia Sportswriters Association.
SR: To be honest, I had never considered joining trade groups like APSE before. However, as I’ve gotten closer to graduation, I have become more aware of how many amazing groups there are. It’s definitely something I’ll be looking into more as a way to get involved with my fellow sports journalism colleagues. When joining organizations like APSE, I’m mainly focusing on building a community of friends and a support system. The sports journalists that I’ve interacted with so far have always been so supportive of my budding career, and I would just like to strengthen that foundation with APSE.
Q: How do you feel about the state of the sports journalism industry as you prepare to graduate?
MB: The state of this industry is a lot better than it was this time a year ago, in my opinion. A year ago, it seemed like every day a journalist I knew was getting laid off. Part of that was due to the pandemic, I’m sure. But overall it seems like there are now job openings every week — from small papers to big national outlets. I know that the journalism industry will never be free from the threat of downsizing or being bought out or mass layoffs, but it feels like a much better place now.
SR: I think that the sports journalism industry is at the beginning of a breakthrough. There is so much interesting, creative and unique content getting put out every single day, whether by traditional news stations or even created specifically for social media. I think that sports journalists have to be more innovative than ever before and truly think outside the box. The entire industry is looking for new ways to get their audience engaged in ways never deemed possible. With the internet comes more exposure for all kinds of sports and players. But the ones that are really benefiting are the smaller sports like Esports, the NWSL and so many more. They are getting screen time and finding their devoted niche, but it also means a lot more opportunities for journalists and creatives that go outside of the mainstream. I think that this is really only the beginning and I can’t wait to see what the industry looks like in five years.
Q: What would you like professional journalists like the membership of APSE to know about yourself?
MB: As I’m sure members, from editors that have been writing for 40 years to those of us still young, can relate to … is that sometimes it’s a struggle to look beyond having our jobs as a personality. I’m a musical theatre fan (more than just Hamilton) and was a state champion dancer in high school with our musical theatre program. I love to cook, even had a cooking blog for a minute. While journalism consumed a lot of my time in college, I also served as President of Georgia Southern Miracles, which was a chapter of the Children’s Miracle Network, and we raised money for the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. Dead Poets Society and The Dark Knight are my favorite movies.
SR: One thing that I hope to convey to the members of APSE is that I love trying new things. I’m always one of the first people to volunteer on a new project or assignment, even if it’s something that no one has ever done before. In fact, I love being the first to test out new techniques for storytelling and journalism. All of this stems from the idea that you should never stop pushing past your comfort zone. There’s always a new way to tell a story, a new angle to find, or even new technology to use. We are so lucky to be living in an age where communication is easier than ever. But on the same lines, we can’t get complacent with ease. We must continue to strive forward, and that’s something I truly try to live by.
Q: What are you most excited about and least excited about after graduating?
MB: I’m most excited for no more tests and to begin getting to focus solely on writing and reporting. For the last five years, I’ve had to balance reporting with classes, so to just have work on my plate is so relieving and exciting. It’s dumb, but I’m least excited about moving to a city and meeting new people. I know every person in every career does it and for the most part, I’m a very social, outgoing person, but meeting people without classes or organizations “forcing” friendship is something that kind of terrifies me.
SR: One thing I’ve most excited about graduating is heading off to a new part of the country I’ve never been before, and exploring. The idea of traveling to a new place was one of the most appealing parts of journalism for me. So I’m really excited to get started familiarizing myself with Louisville and the amazing people that live there. One thing that I’m not looking forward to as much is saying goodbye to some of the friends I’ve made throughout my time at the Cronkite School. They’ve been with me the last four years and it’s going to be tough to move away and not see them for a while. However, this end is not a goodbye but a see you later. Because another perk of having friends in journalism is having friends all over the country to go and visit!
Q: What do you hope for most in trying to find your first job?
MB: Guidance from several friends and mentors already in the industry has been really refreshing and helpful, but what I’m hoping for most is honesty and to not be taken advantage of. As mentioned before, I’m aware that the journalism and print industry is struggling financially and I hope that I’m given the opportunity to showcase my abilities that’s worthy of a living wage. I’ve unfortunately seen friends’ first jobs take advantage of their eagerness and thus getting overworked for unfair compensation. I don’t want to get into that kind of situation.
SR: What I hoped for when I was looking for a job was just an overall culture that fostered creativity and collaboration. I have a lot of different interests as a sports journalist, whether it’s as a producer or a reporter, and I wanted to be able to use all of those skills. I found that in the producer-in-residence program at WHAS-TV, and I cannot wait to get started!
Q: What’s your dream job once you graduate?
MB: My dream job would be covering an FBS college football program. Given that that’s kind of broad, specifically the dream job would be covering the Washington Huskies and living in Seattle. I love all of the story possibilities there are with college athletes and programs. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Seattle several times and always find something great about it each time I go.
SR: My dream job is one that allows me to be creative when it comes to my storytelling around sports, and it utilizes my skills as a videographer, anchor and producer. The label doesn’t really matter to me as long as it has those qualities.
Q: What is the biggest lesson you have learned in college, and how do you think that will help you moving forward into professional journalism?
MB: Aside from the basic tips and tricks to being a better reporter and writer, I think the biggest lesson that will help me most moving forward is the ability to listen to others’ opinions. Whether it was on a group project for class or working on a story at the student paper or interviewing people I hadn’t covered before, hearing thoughts and ideas from others around me helped me become a more well-rounded reporter. That skill will be crucial when I ultimately move into a new community with new leaders, players and readers. Wherever I end up, I want to make sure I’m telling stories that have an impact on my readers and the subjects I’m writing about.
SR: The biggest lesson that I learned in college is be open to every single possibility, no matter how much it relates to what you’re doing. I took internships that weren’t necessarily in sports, but it helped foster my talents in ways that the ones in sports wouldn’t have. Every chance you have leads to your next one, and I truly believe that I wouldn’t have been as successful as I am today if I didn’t step outside of my comfort zone and try different possibilities in the journalism field out. This idea has shaped my life and I know that I’m not only a better sports journalist, but a better person because of it.
Christopher Boan is a reporter/editor at Patch in Phoenix. If you would like to subscribe to the APSE newsletter, please email Jake Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org
Top photo: Sarandon Raboin