Povich Center Year in Review: 2017-2018

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Povich Center Year in Review: 2017-2018
May 30, 2018

The end of a school year seems almost bittersweet: Good students with a degree in hand, off to a challenging media world that seems to tremble and change weekly. But with charges of “fake news” and “enemy of the state” from their government leaders hanging over their heads, more than a hundred Merrill College graduates — and thousands of other j-school grads from around the country —  head off to the real world, undeterred and confident of their abilities.

And they’ve convinced me. They’ll succeed, I hope, despite newspaper and local television staff reductions, declining readership, rejection of their chosen profession by many of their peers and an  uncertain future.

“Don’t be deterred,” ESPN The Undefeated’s Jemele Hill told the graduates and the parents at the Merrill College of Journalism commencement May 21 in College Park, Md. Hill, who has had her share of challenges, conveyed a message to graduates of “being true” to yourself and “maintaining  your values” as they begin their careers.

New Merrill College graduate Kyle Melnick signs the wall of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism.

An hour after diplomas were handed out, followed by hugs from parents, many of whom gleeful at the thought of no tuition bills forthcoming, a half-dozen graduates and their parents made their way to the  Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism on the third floor of Knight Hall to “sign the wall.” The same wall that holds the signatures of Ben Bradlee, Bob Costas, Christine Brennan, the three children of Shirley Povich (David, Maury and Lynn), former television reporter Terry Smith, Michael Wilbon, Len Downie, Gary Williams, Lucy Dalglish, Kevin Blackistone, John Skipper, Alan Bubes, Tony Kornheiser, Kevin Merida,  Gary Williams, Jon Ledecky and many more.

The tradition of our favorite sports-centric students signing wall is only two years old, but throughout the seven years the Povich Center has been in operation, the strength and number of relationships between students, staff and alumni has continued to grow. A career begins at graduation; the bond remains.

Our stars this year included Liam Beatus (ESPN-bound), Jake Brodsky (Monumental Sports), Alex Flum (WHSV-TV in Harrisonburg, Va.),  Kyle Melnick (MLB.com), Megan Smedley (a television station in South Bend, Ind.) and Samantha Waldenberg (to be determined). These students worked at such campus sites as The Diamondback, The Left Bench, Capital News Service, UMTV, the Maryland Baseball Network,  BTN2Go, WMUC, Terrapin Times, Testudo Times and povichcenter.org.

You can find their names on the wall – along with Beth Mechum, our valued assistant director who left for another job this year, leaving a legacy of professionalism and dedication. Her presence will be missed,   but fortunately for us, Kevin Blackistone adds professionalism and remarkable wisdom to the center, with Joe Yasharoff and Rose DiPaula providing experience and teaching skill to their classes and Ph.D. aspirant Kate Yanchulis pinch-hitting for Mechum.

Maury Povich, Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, Bob Costas and Christine Brennan at the 2017 Povich Symposium.

The just-concluded school year included the annual Shirley Povich Symposium in November, with Maury Povich welcoming back Bob Costas – the first symposium guest in 2003. Costas joined Christine Brennan, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, with Povich, reflecting on the changes in sports in the 14 years between Costas visits.

Another highlight this year was the Women, Sports and Media conference we co-hosted with ESPNW on April 20. We hope it will be more than a one-and-done event, in the footsteps of our annual gathering at the Newseum, which in December featured a program on the “legends of the keyboard,” including Robert Lipsyte, formerly  of The New York Times.

One of many panel discussions at the Povich Center’s Women, Sports and Media conference, co-hosted with espnW at Knight Hall on April 20.

Peter King, the soon-to-be-former editor of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB, talked football with us on Dec. 6. He’ll move to NBC soon and hopefully return to campus in the future. Just before the start of spring training, another center tradition continued, with Tim Kurkjian (ESPN), Eduardo Encina (The Baltimore Sun) and Jorge Castillo (The Washington Post) talking baseball.

ESPN’s Tisha Thompson dealt with investigative reporting on her Feb. 15 visit, and a week later the job market was assessed for students by Kevin Blackistone, Heather McDonough of WRC-TV, Matt Vita of The Washington Post, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead and  Kevin Sheehan of The Team 980.

Terry Taylor, the retired sports editor of the Associated Press and winner of the 2018 Red Smith Award presented by APSE for contributions to sports journalism, headed a fall panel on covering the big news story.

The Povich Center sent Kyle Melnick to Minneapolis to cover the Super Bowl in February and Monica McNutt, Hannah Yasharoff and Alex Flum to Eilat, Israel, last July to report on the 2017 Friendship Games, with Chloe Pavlech and Julia Karron bound for Eilat this upcoming June.

The annual Shirley Povich Workshop and Jamboree for high school and college journalism students and the Povich Sports Journalism Summer Camp grows each year, thanks to support from friends and professional journalists in the area, not to mention the backing of Alan Bubes, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer. Jon Ledecky helps half-a-dozen Merrill students with scholarship support, as well as hosting all of them when his Islanders visited Capital One Arena in November to play the Capitals.

Heather McDonough and Bob Ford won our Distinguished Terrapin awards last fall, with Garry Howard earning  Mentor of the Year honors. Michael Wilbon received the Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith award at our annual fundraising luncheon May 6 at Nationals Park. His Pardon the Interruption partner Tony Kornheiser presented him with the award.

In May, Maryland’s head football coach, DJ Durkin, visited the center and college for the third year in a row to talk about his team and hear us brag about our students. It’s a tradition we hope continues.

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