Column: Students can pursue passions through media outlets

I walked into the Petersen Events Center to attend my first Activities Fair in August 2012 as a new Pitt student. A budding psychology major, I was hoping to find my niche in such a big school with so many new opportunities at my disposal. Among the hundreds of tables set up on the basketball court, I came across one in the corner of the arena with big bold letters across the front that read, “Sports Radio.”

As a lifelong sports enthusiast, this sign caught my eye. At the table was Pitt’s student radio station, 92.1 WPTS, monitored by the then-sports director Corey Eisenberg who expressed enthusiasm in recruiting younger students.

Two weeks later, I found myself in a press box at Heinz Field for the first of three games that fall, preparing to broadcast Pitt’s matchup with Virginia Tech live.  

I remember sitting there in my shirt and tie, media credential attached to my belt, absorbing the scene and feeling uncertain of how to act or prepare for a live broadcast. I was in awe of it all. To the left of our booth, the desks of sportswriters seemed to stretch across the length of the field, along with Pittsburgh sports personalities Gregg Giannotti and Bill Hillgrove in the box to my right.

I was enthralled by the scene. 

After my time with WPTS that first semester, I realized the professional opportunities in the Pittsburgh area could propel me into the sports broadcast career I wanted. 

Now a rising junior, I’ll be sports director for WPTS. I have also become a sports staff writer at The Pitt News, which has its office only a few paces down the hall from WPTS on the fourth floor of the William Pitt Union.

While each organization offers different approaches to student media, this dual combination fosters applicable skills for students, whether or not they are interested in sports media.  My path is nothing new — numerous members who pursued the same route have earned internships and full-time positions at sports media outlets in Pittsburgh.

Pete Blais has continued his sports broadcasting career since graduating last spring with play-by-play for Pitt’s olympic sports, as well as baseball and softball, for Pitt Panthers Television, an organization that produces television broadcasts of Pitt sports for ESPN3. 

“Both organizations allowed me to hone the craft, so to speak, of sports broadcasting and reporting, and allowed me the necessary practice to both learn and improve on a regular basis,” Blais said.

For Ben Livingston, former sports director for WPTS, and current producer of The Morning Show on 93.7 The Fan, the combination of outlets emphasized hustle more than anything else.

“If you do incredible work and get it out there, people will notice,” Livingston said. “If you follow it up with crap, you’ve squandered a lot of that progress.”

For me, learning how a radio station ran was a process. The equipment used for each game and for the daily sports talk shows looked like foreign objects when I joined WPTS. But with the help of veteran members on staff, I developed technical skills and a solid understanding of proper sports media etiquette. 

WPTS has daily sports talk shows that air at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., as well as live broadcasts of every Pitt football game, home and away, and basketball home games. The station also broadcasts some soccer games in the fall to complement baseball and softball games in the spring. 

The station’s setup allows people flexibility in their level of commitment, while the newspaper demands a more rigorous responsibility. 

During the school year, The Pitt News sports section publishes stories every weekday in print and online whenever news breaks. These stories range from game previews and recaps to columns.

“[With] The Pitt News, I feel like you’re thrown to the fire on a more regular basis. You’re covering a story or two a week, and you’re expected to turn in something halfway-decent by deadline,” Blais said.  

Everyone lends a helping hand when they can at WPTS, creating a family-feel among station members. This — along with an expectation of professionalism — allows each person to develop as he or she takes on a bigger role in the station’s activities.

Like WPTS, the more-experienced sports writers on staff do a great job of mentoring less-experienced writers to help them become acclimated to the environment.

Whether they wish to find a career in sports media or not, people take their work very seriously because they’re passionate about sports. This passion is what makes both staffs so great.  

Contributors aren’t participating in student media for fame — there isn’t any.

There are no incentives other than great experience.  

They do it because they love sports. That’s what is so refreshing.

Students involved in these organizations care about what they do, which only increases the quality of the material produced. My time with both has already increased my abilities to manage my time, perfect my interpersonal skills and has instilled a professionalism in me that I will no doubt need in the future. 

Even if you’re not looking for a career in sports, if you have an interest and love for sports, either of these outlets could be a home for you.  

As sports director for WPTS, I will have the opportunity to help younger students find their passion, which they may end up pursuing for the rest of their lives, as people did for me. 

Whether I attend Pitt sporting events as a member of WPTS or as a writer for The Pitt News, each time I do so, I will continue to feel more and more a part of Pittsburgh’s sports media.

Chances are, you will too.