Getting a job in sports

Is it just me or does it seem like every third student in j-school wants to get a job in sports?  There are certainly plenty of young men and women who can accurately spout off statistics and player names, team schedules and post-season records, but what makes the difference in the job hunt?

ESPN’s Ron Franklin has been a sportscaster for 45 years.  Right now, he primarily works as a play-by-play commentator for college basketball and college footbal.  He recently told a crowd of Ole Miss journalism students what he thinks it takes to get a career in sports.

“Study every writing course you can and read, read, read,” Franklin said.

He said that a deep knowledge of sports is important, but it’s also crucial that sports journalists know how to write well and are well-informed on a wide variety of topics.

“Don’t be afraid of a small market,” said Franklin.

He described how his first job in TV involved a shift as a show director in addition to his news and sports reporting duties.  He credits the small station with giving him the “opportunity to do it all,” which he feels has been invaluable throughout his career.

Franklin also encouraged those interested in sports journalism to consider off-air positions, including jobs as a director, editor or audio operator.

“There are so many good jobs that aren’t on camera,” Franklin said.  “The producer is the big person on the show.  Everything about the show is your call, so you have to be a creative person who knows a lot about sports.”

Still, if being a sports reporter or anchor is your passion, Franklin says there’s one critical skill — what he calls “adlibability.”

“You have to train yourself to adlib,”  Franklin said.  

Franklin said he used to practice calling play-by-play by watching a game and speaking into a tape recorder.  He also suggests gathering information about a player or a team and then practicing your ad-libbing skills in front of a mirror.

“You don’t want to get caught red-faced on camera,” said Franklin.