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Journalism students and professors visit sports media outlets in Chicago

Jean McDonald, lecturer in journalism
2/24/2011  9:00 am

Eight students interested in sports journalism visited with College of Media alumni and toured three media outlets in Chicago on Feb. 17-18.

The students, who were joined by Department of Journalism faculty Nancy Benson and Jean McDonald, toured Comcast SportsNet, ESPN Radio and the Chicago Tribune. They also met informally with alumni during two meals.

"As a junior in college, I was already spending a great deal of time thinking about life after graduation," said Kevin Kaplan.  "After the sports journalism trip, I realize I need to think about it a lot more.  It was eye-opening in terms of opening professional doors.

"The University of Illinois alums were great.  They were genuinely interested in seeing me succeed, and I hope to keep in touch with them."

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The trip began with Thursday’s lunch with longtime radio journalist Cheryl Raye-Stout of WBEX and Tina Akouris of the Chicago Sun-Times.

"My favorite contact of the trip was probably Tina Akouris," said senior Kate Munson. "I had seen her at Illinois basketball games before and never realized who she was, but now I know that she is the football and men's basketball reporter covering Northwestern for the Sun-Times and an Illinois grad.

"We had a great conversation with her over lunch, and she shared her thoughts on using Twitter when covering a beat, meeting coaches for the first time, dealing with disagreements and writing unpopular stories. She also had excellent insight into covering high school athletics, which is something I would definitely be interested in after graduation."

After a tour of the broadcast facilities by Steve Stroud at Comcast SportsNet, the students sat down with Senior News Director Charlie Schumacher, Director of Digital Media T.K. Gore, and Marketing Coordinator Kate Hollenkamp.

"If you want to get here (Comcast SportsNet), pay your dues somewhere else. Whether it’s on an internship or your first job, take the opportunity to do more than what you were hired for," said Schumacher, a University of Illinois graduate in political science.

On Thursday evening, the students had dinner with journalism alumni Justin Breen of the Northwest Indiana Times and Kyle Betts and Ryan Dixon of the Chicago Tribune.

"Meeting with the journalists allowed me to hear great stories and even better advice," said sophomore Jeff Kirshman.

Friday began with a stop at ESPN Radio, where Hannah Stanley, public affairs manager executive assistant, gave a quick tour before sitting down to discuss the state of sports radio today.

The trip wrapped up at the Chicago Tribune.  Betts introduced the group to Sports Editor Mike Kellams, who talked with the students for a half hour before taking them to the Trib’s afternoon news meeting, during which the newspaper’s editors discussed the next day’s stories.

For the students, the visits gave them a lot to think about.

"It's tough at times here on campus to get our heads out of college mode, but this trip let us do just that. It gave us a peek into the industry that we're all striving to get into, and it gave us a glimpse of places that we possible can end up," said Jay Lee, a junior.

Added senior Alex Iniguez, The Daily Illini’s sports editor:

"Seeing how all of these media outlets function on the inside gave me hope that I can succeed in this industry while also motivating me to get there as quick as possible. I can't imagine anything I could learn in a classroom that would motivate me quite as much as seeing professionals strut their stuff.

"I can't really put into words how valuable this experience was."

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