By Nathan Bubes
For Merrill College visiting professor Dave Owens, his road to the sports anchor desk could be summed up by Robert Frost’s great poem, “The Road Not Taken.” “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”
A Naval Academy graduate, six years of service and then a career as a sports anchor, that is a road less traveled.
Owens’ path began at the Naval Academy where he played football for the Midshipmen. Two seasons with the varsity and two more with the lightweight team allowed Owens to be part of college football’s most historic game.
“The Army-Navy game is one of those special moments that you don’t forget, running out on to the field at Veterans Stadium,” Owens said. “Those are the moments you remember.”
Football memories were just some of the many things Owens gained from Navy. He says that Navy prepared him for a wide variety of professions by what he experienced on a daily basis.
“Attention to detail is the first thing,” Owens said. “I think when you are in the military and your job is combat readiness, attention to detail is a really important thing. I mean you have to live that on a daily basis or else people get hurt, people die.”
After graduation, Owens served in the Navy for six years. The next step was in sports journalism.
His career began in Redding, Calif., and then moved to Shreveport, La., where he was the sports anchor at both stops. As a lifelong athlete, a career in sports was not something out of the ordinary.
“For me, yes it is a little bit different path, I didn’t go to a traditional journalism school,” Owens said. “Being in the Naval Academy, the things you don’t know, you learn, you pick them up and then move forward.”
His career brought him to WUSA, the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., where he is the lead sports anchor and reporter.
Owens has always enjoyed teaching, from the Navy Academy to sports broadcasting. When he was in the military, he ran training courses. In his sports anchor jobs he is always working with interns.
“I was always in and around teaching in some sort of form in the military and then when I got into my job it just became a normal thing to do,” Owens said. “So that’s why I do it and I am happy to be at Maryland now fulfilling that dream.”
Owens’ teaching ability is enhanced by his many experiences. A valuable asset for Owens is that he has been on both sides of coverage. As a Division I athlete at Navy he was answering the questions.
“I think when you are an athlete and you are not a journalist, you don’t really understand what is going on. You don’t understand why people are asking you questions”, Owens said. “I mean you are so focused on the game, so focused on the moment, you are so focused on what just happened, you really don’t have that big picture.”
Now he is asking the questions.
“When it comes to being on the side of covering,” Owens said, “I think the good thing is that having been on the other side, you are little bit more sympathetic, compassionate, careful. You understand that hey these guys, these girls just played, it is an emotional thing. I think it kind of gives you an added perspective to what they just did.”
Part of that added perspective is that Owens understands where the business is headed. He wants to make sure his viewers don’t have to wait until 6 or 7 o’clock to hear the news. The news cycle is instantaneous, so either through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, he always updates his followers on his daily activities concerning the D.C. sports scene.
“I think especially in television, sports coverage there is a lot of sameness and that happens just because there is just so much of it,” Owens said. “One of the things that I try to do is be unique in my delivery, in what I say, how I say it… It is not easy, but it is certainty something that I try to do.”
With so many different ways to receive sports highlights, Owens feels that there is a need to produce something different in order to stay relevant.
“Honestly people under a certain age are not watching the news anymore,” Owens said. “They don’t have to. I think the traditional news business has to understand that and have to accept that and change with that.”
Along with teaching his students about ways to stand out, he will also teach them about the core of not just sports broadcasting, but also any job.
“The one thing that I tell my students is that if you prepare you can do those kind of things, you can do it differently,” Owens said. “The preparedness part is never going to change, knowing the topic of discussion is never going to change, knowing the statistics, knowing the information, having done the research that stuff never changes.”