By John Hollinger
What started as an informational interview for students turned into a video tour of the ESPN facilities, where students talked with talents and employees at the headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
Deirdre Cienki, a programmer and producer at ESPN, proposed to talk to students via Skype on Nov. 29 to wrap up the Journalism Month series. Set up by the Society of Professional Journalists, Journalism Month consisted of prominent guest speakers within the field that came to Canisius to share their experience and give advice to students. Cienki was the last of those prominent speakers to share their experience. However, due to technical difficulties, she offered to change the talk to the students to be over FaceTime instead, which eventually led to a tour around the ESPN buildings.
During the informational talk, Cienki said, “I’m actually at the [ESPN] office right now, why don’t I show you guys around?”
The tour of the ESPN facilities led to excitement among the students in attendance according to Adam Duke, ‘19, President of Canisius’ SPJ.
“I was not expecting the tour at all,” said Duke. “It was very exciting when she decided to take us around.”
While on FaceTime, Cienki showed students the halls of ESPN, which is a 16-building complex.
She showed students the studio where Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman conduct their talk show, First Take. She also showed the studio of where former NBA player Jalen Rose and David Jacoby produce their TV show, Jalen & Jacoby. Although these talents were not present at the time of the video FaceTime tour, Duke said, “It was a great experience to see the actual studios where they work.”
Students got the opportunity to see a live SportsCenter update on ESPN Radio as Cienki walked into the Kevin Winter’s studio just before his sports update. Winter is the station’s SportsCenter anchor, and is now a studio host for MLB, NBA, NFL, college football, and college basketball. Before his sports update, he gave students the advice to, “Get your clips together now, because the last thing you want to do is to be collecting them the year after you graduate.” He also offered his contact information to the students in case they needed any advice on their own broadcast clips.
After receiving this advice, students were able to see inside the studio and hear Winter’s live on-air sports update that was played on ESPN Radio.
“It was pretty cool to even hear a SportsCenter update,” said Joseph Kraus, a freshman journalism major.
One of the talents present was Jonathan Coachman, also known as “the Coach.” Coachman is currently the on-air talent for ESPN and has interviewed World Wrestling Entertainment personnel. Before coming to ESPN, he was a color commentator for WWE.
“Meeting Coach was incredible and definitely shocking,” said Andy Helwig, a sophomore who is majoring in sports management and sports broadcast journalism. “Getting to see the setting that the pros use was incredible too.”
John Lawrence, who is the producer for Jalen & Jacoby was there to greet the students as well as producer, Vincent Kates, who was the producer for The Herd with Colin Cowherd, before Cowherd left ESPN in 2015 for FOX Sports.
“Many of them seemed highly interested in [the students] and were more than willing to give advice,” said Duke.
Although Cienki was unable to show the entire 16-building facility due to constraints from her phone battery, the facilities that students were shown were impressive and pretty exciting, according to Kraus.
“The hallways looked exactly like the ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercials,” said Kraus.
Although Journalism Month is over, SPJ looks to continue to stay in touch with professional journalists. One goal that the SPJ club is seeking is a trip to the ESPN studios and to get a live tour of it, according to Duke.
“I really hope we can take a live tour of the facility next semester,” he said.
This live tour will give the students in SPJ a chance to meet ESPN professionals face-to-face. Cienki also offered to give another FaceTime video tour during the daytime, when the most prominent talents are actually in studio.
Although Journalism Month has come to an end with Cienki’s FaceTime tour, students got the opportunity to meet many local prominent professionals in the industry. They included:
Tom Mullen- An author who has been featured in Newsweek, The Huffington Post, and The Washington Times, among other publications.
Dan Herbeck- An award-winning investigative journalist with The Buffalo News. He is the co-writer of American Terrorist, a book about Buffalo native Timothy McVeigh, the 1995 Oklahoma City Bomber.
Jeff Boyd- The play-by-play analyst of the 716 Sports Podcast. He is the voice of the University at Buffalo hockey team, the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women’s Hockey League, and FC Buffalo of the National Premier Soccer League.
“He has the dream job,” said freshman Sports Broadcast Journalism major, Dean Bogart.
Tim Graham- The author of Muhammad Ali: Conscientious Objector. He has covered the NFL since 2007 for The Buffalo News, ESPN and The Palm Beach Post. He was the Sabres beat reporter for seven years and served two terms as Boxing Writers Association of America president. Graham also received the Associated Press’ Sports Editors award for first place in breaking news of the Patrick Kane case. He is also a sports journalism adjunct professor at Canisius College.
“He is by far one of my favorite professors at Canisius… and I’m not even a journalism major,” said Adam Chin, ‘16.
Mike Harrington- The Buffalo Sabres beat reporter for The Buffalo News. He is the chairman of the Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and was a 2013 inductee into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.
Deirdre Cienki- Programmer and Producer at ESPN. Formerly interned at Fox Sports Arizona, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Cincinnati Reds.
Now that November is over, Kraus admitted how he has benefited from the entire process.
“Journalism Month was great,” said Kraus. “Meeting Tim and Mike was great because I read their work all the time in the Buffalo News, and being able to meet someone from ESPN is super rare.”
Kraus also stated that he appreciated the advice given to him this month. “The best advice that I got was making the most out of every opportunity,” said Kraus.