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Sports Media Students Use Gameday for Future Careers

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Fall college sports are in full force, and while that means players and coaches are elbows deep in tackle stats and game film, there are many auxiliary groups connected to sports teams that keep everything running behind the scenes. Announcers, reporters, trainers, and team managers show up day after day, preparing and getting ready for each weekend’s festivities.

Arkansas college students have opportunities at multiple colleges to get on-the-job training for a career in sports media and production.

Photo provided by Ouachita Sports Digital Network

Collegiate Sports Media Degree Programs in Arkansas

  • Arkansas State University | Jonesboro | Creative Media Production, Sports Media emphasis or Sports Production Certificate | Students are involved in studio and remote productions for radio, print, and online presentations with exposure to the latest trends for a changing sports media environment.
  • Harding University | Searcy | Multi-media Journalism, Sports Journalism concentration | Students complete core communications curriculum and produce over 150 sporting event segments through directing, camera operation, on-camera interviewing, editing and sports event planning.
  • John Brown University | Siloam Springs | Sports Media Minor | Students complete audio production, news writing, sports broadcasting, and a required practicum serves as an internship with the internal athletic communications team.
  • Ouachita Baptist University | Arkadelphia | Communications and Media, Sports Media emphasis | Students prepare for a career in communications with a hands-on learning environment catering academic experiences to the desired career outcomes by partnering with the Ouachita Sports Digital Network in preparing digital experiences for 16 collegiate athletic teams.
  • University of Central Arkansas | Conway | Journalism degree program, emphasis on broadcast, print or online | Students complete a general journalism degree program and partner with the production teams at Channel 6 News and the Purple and Grey network to gain experience covering and reporting on Division I level athletic teams.

While standing in the mobile TV production studio at the Ouachita Baptist University football field to interview for this article, I had a firsthand experience watching students and professors interact to resolve technical issues and work through decision conflict. It was spectacular to watch adviser Chris Babb look at his student and take an order he disagreed with, but he responded in confidence in the decision made. Their obstacle was to get a show back live, on-air, during a lightning delay. The soundboard was down, nothing was live, and the student knew the problem. Nevertheless, he gave orders, direction, and the team around him followed as the on-site video crew invaded the portable media trailer avoiding the oncoming weather.

It was a real-life experience of a “College GameDay” setting, and the students were calling the shots.

Photo provided by Ouachita sports digital network

“Hands-on, practical experience is the goal of this program,” Babb shared. It’s personal for Babb, who always wanted to be a sports journalist, even as a high school student coming into college. Now, 20 years later, he is the Ouachita Sports Digital Network director at his alma mater, helping students in the same position prepare for a career in sports media.

To compete with an ever-changing academic content in a quickly evolving career field, Ouachita added the program with a concentrated goal of putting students in real-life career simulation experiences, just like their counterparts in business, education or science fields require. For example, before a game on any given Saturday, 15+ communications students prepare for the “Roar Rundown Live,” a game-day broadcast show hosted, anchored, and produced by students in the program.

Photo provided by the Ouachita Baptist University Communications Department – photo taken before any campus Covid-19 regulations

But these students cover more than gridiron competition. Some days the mobile unit is set up outside the baseball or softball fields, tennis courts, soccer pavilion or taken remotely to fulfill responsibilities in the basketball arena, wrestling complex or volleyball courts.

During Covid, when colleges canceled most sports competitions, students launched a podcast to continue journalism production, interview skill development, and interact with industry leaders and professional athletes. It was a perfect experience learning to pivot to keep a career on a path and program development expanding.

Athletes, coaches, and journalism students alike are excited that sports teams are back in competition, stands are full of cheering fans, and digital networks are producing experiences for those who cannot attend in person. It seems like everyone is winning!

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

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