The sports journalism department at MSU is arguably one of the best programs that provides students with in-depth, real world experience that aims to enhance their reporting skills as well as make them as marketable as possible.
The team consists of Lori Anne “LA” Dickerson, Joanne Gerstner, Troy Hale, Sue Carter, Stacey Fox and Brian Kusch. Everyone on the team brings valuable and unique assets that not only add diversity to the staff, but also a wide range of skills that are useful in training other aspiring sports journalists.
“Between all of our different skill sets, we can hook you up and really give you a glimpse of what you want to do,” Gerstner said. “Not a lot of places can give you everything — most places will specialize in one thing or another.”
The department has not been around for long. Dickerson said when she arrived at the university 18 years ago, not much was offered to students in the realm of sports journalism.
“There wasn’t really anything for sports students but there were a lot of students interested in sports,” Dickerson said. “So we started a five-week seminar on sports class which eventually developed beginning news reporting.”
From the onslaught of this five-week seminar, Dickerson said other classes have sprouted up, resulting in a strong sports department in the School of Journalism.
One of the main things Gerstner attributes to the strength of the sports department is the strong sports culture on MSU’s campus, as well as a high sports climate in the Midwest in general.
“We are very blessed to have amazing teams to cover so the sports culture is already here,” Gerstner said. “If you’re at other schools it might be a little bit harder to integrate sports into academia, but here, the whole place is marinating in football, basketball and hockey.”
In fact, the department took students to ESPN’s College GameDay the Friday before the Oregon vs. MSU game so students could get an idea of what it really means to create something to be broadcasted on live television.
“It was kinda interesting because a lot of them had not seen the individual jobs that go into journalism that goes into get things on the air,” Gerstner said. “We had the Senior Operating Producer come by and she went through all the skill sets you need for the different jobs. And it was fascinating because you could see their wheels turning.”
Dickerson said she attributes the department’s success on the its ability to help people network with not only alumni, but provide them with the opportunity to meet professional journalists that work at some of the most coveted jobs in sports media.
As part of helping connect students with professionals, the team has created the Spartan Sports Journalism Classic, an event which invites MSU alumni that currently work in the field to come back to MSU and assist students for the day.
“Our biggest thing is our ability to help people network,” Dickerson said. “Our alums give back big time. On October 23 we’re going to have over 50 or more professionals coming from ESPN, New York Times, from all over the country. ... To spend the day to help our students.”
The department will also add two new features to their lineup as they have not only managed to create a study abroad program specifically for sports journalism students, but the department has also receive a $1 million grant that will go towards funding a functioning newsroom in the Communication Arts and Sciences Building.
Hale said the idea for the newsroom came about after presidential election coverage that involved students from all over the department. From the “My First Election,” he said he students and staff interacting in a way to produce a viable final product, similar to a newsroom. He realized the learning potential from this and decided to pursue a real newsroom within the department.
Hale said the newsroom should be ready by 2017.
The team has been making great strides to provide a quality education to all of its students, and feels this will contribute to the already high esteem the department is seen.
“It means something,” Gerstner said. “This school of journalism has been around for more than a century. So when you go to Michigan State, people know that you have been trained by really strong people in the profession and you’ve gotten good experience. ... I think it’s validation of your hard work that you’ve worked very hard to become a real journalist.”