2017 Wrap by Director George Solomon

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2017 Wrap by Director George Solomon
Jul 8, 2017

“The Wall of Fame” in the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism on the third floor of Knight Hall at the University of Maryland had until the May 20 Merrill College commencement been reserved for signings by center supporters and celebrities including the late Ben Bradlee, Wizards/Capitals/Mystics owner Ted Leonsis, former Washington Post owner Donald Graham and the children of Shirley Povich: David, Maury and Lynn.

That changed about one hour after Merrill College Dean Lucy Dalglish handed out diplomas to this spring’s graduates. Five of those graduates –  Callie Caplan, Faye Curran, Justin Meyer, Kofie Yeboah and Michael Stern were given the honor of becoming the first students to sign the wall.

Stern, Yeboah and Meyer originated, nurtured and grew (to a staff of around 60) a website called “The Left Bench” from the first days all three arrived on campus in 2013.

“It wasn’t supposed to be anything. It was supposed to be place for a few freshmen to write about sports. We had no editors. We just had our opinions and internet access,” the three wrote in a farewell column in May.

“It was Kofie who first saw the vision; the need for more sports journalism opportunities at the University of Maryland. It was Justin who found the niche in high school recruiting. It was Michael who made it his mission to execute Kofie’s massive ideas.

“The Left Bench became something far greater than anything we could have ever imagined. It became a haven for those interested in sports journalism to hone their craft. It became a stepping-stone towards internships. And we can actually say it became a pipeline towards employment after college.”

Caplan’s path was more traditional. She joined the staff of The Diamondback — the award-winning campus newspaper – as a freshman. In her four years at The Diamondback, she covered every sports beat on the paper, rising to sports columnist and Assistant Sports Editor. In my 14 years at Merrill College, no woman has attained such high status and only two have covered football. (Suggestion to Diamondback:  Hire more women to cover sports).

Curran came to College Park in 2015 from England as a highly-recruited field hockey player with one year of varsity eligibility remaining, anxious to make her mark on the field for nationally-ranked Maryland and at Merrill College, in sports broadcasting and production. While injuries hampered her on the field, her involvement with the BTN2Go crew covering UM sports events and work in the college generated high marks and a Master’s degree in broadcasting from the Merrill College.

The five “wall-signers” head into the professional world this summer with great optimism. Two (Stern and Yeboah) have full-time jobs, two (Caplan and Meyer) have internships and one (Curran) remains on the job hunt.

With one friend’s monthly moan, “will my grandson every get benefits?” ringing in my ears, I am heartened by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal’s positive employment outlooks for 2017. “Best year for students” in years, The Journal quoted one college- career center director.

Adrianne Flynn, who runs the career-development center for Merrill College, noted industry “contractions, consolidation and uncertainty” — pointing out ESPN recently laying off 100 staffers. But she added, “the best and brightest journalists, however, tend to get jobs. In the Merrill College, employment after graduation is more than 90 percent, with most taking jobs in the industry.”

Others in the business had this to say:

Matthew Rennie, Deputy Sports Editor, The Washington Post: “Technology has opened up a whole new segment of jobs for people who can combine journalistic sensibilities with tech skills and visual acumen. Those who can tell stories in non-traditional ways will find employers lining up to hire them.”

Angel Rodriguez, Sports Editor, Los Angeles Times: “In our current environment recent graduates will be able to move more quickly up the ladder because their digital storytelling abilities are sorely needed. So, while there may be less jobs out there, recent graduates who have acquired the right skill set will be in high demand in many newsrooms for years to come.”

Jeff Rosen, Assistant Managing Editor /Sports, Kansas City Star: “This year’s graduates should like their chances of landing entry-level jobs in the industry. Applicants who come armed with internships on their resume and a willingness to work hard will get a long look from potential employers as we reshape our newsrooms to meet the usage patterns of today’s increasingly digital audience. “

J.A. Adande, Director of Sports Journalism, Medill School of Journalism: “The current job market is more difficult than ever, far more challenging than what I faced as I entered the workforce more than a quarter century ago. What’s the next job-creating wave?  That’s the big concern. We’re in the era of user-created content. It’s great for companies and consumers who get everything for free; it’s lousy for workers. In the meantime, we see there’s still a premium for distinctive voices that can stand out amid the clutter.”

Advice from this corner includes a plea to read quality work, strive for excellence, maintain integrity and above all, remember the best of our craft who are no longer with us but would want you to do great things.  People such as Shirley Povich, Red Smith, Frank Deford, David Halberstam, W.C. Heinz, Jim Murray, A.J. Liebling, Mary Garber, Edwin Pope, Blackie Sherrod, Ralph Wiley, Fred Russell, Jimmy Cannon, Sam Lacy, Richard Ben Cramer, Anne Morrissy Merick, Furman Bisher, Sy Burick, Stanley Woodward, Wendell Smith, Grantland Rice, Dan Jenkins, Dick Schaap, Ring Lardner, Jimmy Breslin, George Plimpton, Jack Murphy, Mark Kram, Ken Denlinger and Dick Young.

Finally, from sportswriting legend Dan Jenkins, are these words of wisdom to graduates:

“If you don’t do anything else, read all the great collections of John Lardner and Red Smith. Then anybody else who may have attracted your interest. Like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or even a Povich.”

 

 

 

 

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