Image courtesy of Ben Bobeck
For a milestone end of an era, there’s a lack of finality in graduation. It’s the close of a large chapter in student’s lives, sure — but it serves more as a bookend to what comes next than a slamming shut of this period in our lives.
For someone who never reveled in the rigor of classroom academics such as myself, it is almost a welcome one.
I joined The Pitt News because, despite the undecided next to my name when I enrolled at Pitt, I always carried a deep attraction towards sports. I had found quickly that the best way to continue to nurture that love — after my lackluster high school football career ended earlier than expected and my longstanding rec-league baseball appearances amounted to nothing more than Sunday fun — was writing, talking, tweeting about whatever sports I could. There was a brief dabble in the political realm that amounted to a second major in political science and nothing else. Sports always had my soul.
But unlike other schools I had considered, no formative media program existed at Pitt — No professors with deep connections to The Washington Post and ESPN, no earth-shattering levels of student-focused production that came with the faculty support it surely warranted. If I wanted to make my way in this tumultuous world of sports journalism, I would have to earn it with every free hour I had.
And I loved it that way.
The Pitt News and my adjacent time as a director down the hall at WPTS Radio infused the work ethic and grit that I had never been able to conjure for myself in a sterile classroom environment. I am ever thankful for my Intro to Journalism professor, Cindy Skrzycki, who noticed that and pushed me to actually begin working for this paper after a semester of being on staff with no participation.
I am equally as thankful to Trent Leonard, Stephen Thompson, Alex Lehmbeck as well as the many copy editors who have spent countless hours berating me kindly through Google Doc comments over missed style notes or lack of background on what I’d written. The writer I am today exists because of each of you.
In my years with TPN, I have gotten to cover a wider range of stories, athletes and people than my wildest dreams ever could have conjured. My very first assignment involved chasing down professional writers to regale me with tales of covering the Super Bowl. From there, I tackled championship club sports teams and surging first-year phenoms, countless Narduzzi press conferences and a brand-new lacrosse program.
I explored the art of winning through my “What are the Odds” columns — final career record: 33-25. Add in a history of Pitt basketball’s historical ties with the New York recruiting ground and three of my favorite features in the last year on Pitt’s marquee pair of soccer coaches, the adaptations made by football’s equipment managers and finally the quiet journey of Terrell Brown.
It is certainly never the way I would have imagined bidding my farewell to the paper and to the school — virtually, without any face-to-face interaction. I distinctly recall the last time I sat in The Pitt News office on the fourth floor of the William Pitt Union — the closing days of the fall 2019 semester, weeks before I would depart for my role as the unofficial TPN foreign correspondent while studying abroad in London. It’s hard to fathom how much we as a senior class and Pitt students overall have faced in the time since — condensed class schedules, unyielding Zoom calls and an overall lack of support for mental health in the face of these most difficult times.
In a newspaper market where print media continues to erode, where the professional outlook casts doubt through aspiring journalists with cruel labor struggles and aloof editorial boards, I remain proud and thankful of what this outlet has accomplished and will continue to accomplish for its writers and readers.
Winds are changing. TV Broadcast Production curriculum is on it’s way with new and exciting opportunities for future Pitt students to make their way into sports media and broadcasting. It’s easy for me to look back and second-guess my decision to attend Pitt.
It’s easy to have regrets about stories I never wrote or angles I missed. It’s easy to dismiss the profession I love as a hobby and look to refocus on a “real career.”
But that’s not the path for me. I’ll find a way. That’s what The Pitt News taught me.