Balancing Act

Student journalists make sacrifices to adjust to national football travel schedule

By: Sam Knehans

The Syracuse University football team has had several long-distance trips for games this season. However, the players are not the ones most dramatically affected by this national schedule. Student media organizations, which travel to sporting events with the team, have had to make significant sacrifices to cover these away games.

Campus media organizations report on sports from men’s basketball and football to women’s lacrosse, traveling to as many away games as financially possible. This media contingency includes radio stations WAER and Z89 as well as CitrusTV, Syracuse University’s entirely student-run television studio, and The Daily Orange.

Bill Spaulding, sports director at WAER, stressed the importance of covering away games. “Traveling to games is something that WAER has been doing as long as there has been WAER. Providing consistent coverage of sporting events, whether home or away, is something that all campus media organizations strive for,” Spaulding said.

However, with such a broad national football schedule this year, funding has become a limiting factor to covering these games on-site. According to Ryan Koletty, sports director at CitrusTV, the necessity of air travel limits the number of students who can gain experience traveling to games.

“When we have drive trips, such as games at Rutgers or Connecticut, we can bring a larger group. But when we have to fly to places like USC, we have to bring the most experienced people,” Koletty said.

Eric Silverman, sports director at Z89, echoed this sentiment. “At Z89 we pay for our personal travel so attending away games becomes less feasible for many staff members when driving is no longer an option,” Silverman said. For the other student media outlets, WAER, CitrusTV and The Daily Orange, travel is paid for through alumni donations, advertising and broadcast sponsorships.

Despite the increased financial burden—for those that have an opportunity to travel—game coverage is a very rewarding experience. Every trip is memorable for a distinct reason. “Sometimes it is about the game or venue, and sometimes it is about location,” Silverman said.

“The best part of the USC trip was the game,” Spaulding said, “whereas New Orleans was cool for other reasons. Getting to explore the city and try Cajun food for the first time was a blast.”

Reporting on a historic moment in Syracuse sports may be the ultimate experience for student journalists who travel alongside the team.

“I was reporting last year for the Syracuse football game against Rutgers, when Syracuse clinched bowl eligibility, and to be on the field at the end of the game when the players were bowling their helmets and to see tears in so many of the players, and even the coaches, eyes—knowing how far the team had come to make a bowl game—is something I will never forget,” Silverman said.

With so many student journalists traveling to away sporting events, some would expect tensions to build between the media organizations who are in competition for listeners, viewers and readers.

Koletty sees this notion of competition as a misconception. “We all do different things; we all have different features. Radio does play-by-play, CitrusTV focuses on their pregame and postgame shows and The Daily Orange provides an overview of the action for the casual fan. So I do not think we are doing much competing for the same listeners, viewers or readers,” Koletty said.

Rather than a competitive atmosphere, there is actually a unique level of friendliness and camaraderie among the student media organizations—especially among those in the broadcast medium—because of the significant overlap between the organization staffs.

“Most of the people do not work at just one station. A lot of the staff is the same from WAER, Z89 and CitrusTV. I also work at CitrusTV. Bill Spaulding, the sports director at WAER, also works at CitrusTV and Z89. Ryan Koletty, the sports director at CitrusTV, also works at Z89. We are all good friends and the three of us meet regularly to discuss travel plans and other things among the broadcast media,” Silverman said.

This social atmosphere extends beyond the Syracuse student media. “We’re friendly with other media outlets. We even talk to the professional guys who we work alongside. It is a good way to network,” said Dan Cohen, a member of the WAER, CitrusTV and Z89 sports staffs.

On more than one occasion, taking the initiative to associate with the professional journalists covering Syracuse sports has led to additional media positions for involved students.

“A lot of us have gotten other opportunities like internships and freelance jobs through contacts we have made. I became the Syracuse correspondent for ESPN Radio-Ithaca and a contributing reporter for Yahoo! Sports Radio through professionals I met covering Syracuse sports,” Silverman said.

Despite all of the unique experiences and potential advantages of traveling to cover Syracuse sporting events, it is a constant struggle for those students who are highly involved.

“One huge thing is we are students. Student athletes are allowed to miss classes to travel. They get a slip to give to their professors. When we’re traveling for a media organization no one gives us a slip to miss classes. We have to beg our professors to be able to miss class to travel to games,” Koletty said.

“It hurts our grades, there is no doubt about that,” Silverman said. “The guys who are calling or reporting on games—the ones who are traveling—it does hurt our grades, it hurts our attendance, it hurts our ability to do work for classes and that is a huge factor.”

Rosanna Grassi, associate dean for student affairs at Newhouse, recognizes the determination of these involved students. “I’m constantly impressed with the ambition of our students. We have incredible journalism programs, but it is the personal motivation of our students that allows Syracuse University to maintain such successful media organizations,” Grassi said.

Working for student media organizations is always a balancing act. Student journalists want to produce a professional quality product while still maintaining their academic standing as well.

“The really tough aspect of it is that we are still students,” Silverman said. “In the real world, the work we are doing at our stations is a full-time job. Here we do that while taking 15 credits of classes.”

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