Clark’s SEC allegiance divided by new job in Fayetteville

Cierra Clark has a dilemma. She is a University of Florida alumnus whose first TV sports job was in Gainesville, FL. Now, though, she is covering one of the Gators’ SEC rivals – the Arkansas Razorbacks. Clark has joined TVH 11 in Fayetteville as a sports reporter/anchor.

She admits her allegiances will be challenged when the Gators and Razorbacks meet.

“That’s a hard one,” she grins. “Luckily in football, they won’t play each other for a while in the regular season. But I’ll stay neutral on whatever day they do match up in whatever sport it is!”

Leaving Florida

Clark most recently worked at WCJB TV 20 in Gainesville. She has been an STAA member since 2018 and found the TVH 11 opportunity in an STAA Job Leads email.

“I get to cover the SEC in addition to other colleges and high schools. I’ve lived in Florida for most of my life so it’s going to be fun to leave the Sunshine State,” she enthuses.

Persistent approach

Following up her application was a key to Clark landing the job. “I was persistent,” she recalls. “I made sure to reach out to the news and sports director pretty much weekly. I expressed my passion for covering sports and I even shared story ideas I had.”

The elimination of sports departments due to COVID has been one challenge Clark has faced in the sportscasting job market. “Jobs have been cut and that makes the competition even harder. However, you just have to keep pushing through and make CONNECTIONS,” she implores.

“STAA has allowed me to connect with other people in the industry and has provided me with insight with the emails Jon [Chelesnik] sends out. He also gives very good advice when I ask questions.”

One question Clark has already answered regards whom to support when the Gators and Razorbacks meet. She’ll play it down the middle.

Lifelong Notre Dame fan Burnett now covering the Irish

One of Indiana native Austin Burnett’s earliest memories as a Notre Dame fan is Brady Quinn’s game-winning touchdown pass to Jeff Samardzija to beat UCLA in 2006. “I remember the stadium was literally shaking from how loud it was after that touchdown,” Burnett smiles.

The next time Notre Dame Stadium shakes, Burnett will be there to cover it. He has joined ABC 57 in South Bend as a sports reporter/photographer.

“This is a great opportunity for me to improve my videography and editing skills while covering one of the most legendary universities in the country,” Burnett enthuses.

Discovered on YouTube

The opportunity came when a station executive called Burnett after seeing his reel on YouTube. “They saw I had a 574 area code, which is the area code here in South Bend/Michiana. We set up an interview the next day and I was hired that next day!”

Though he grew up in the Hoosier State, Burnett attended college at Arizona State. His first job after graduation was in Odessa, TX. Now he’s heading home.

“One of many things I’m looking forward to [doing] is the ABC57 Saturday Kickoff show. It’s a two-hour show previewing Notre Dame’s game with feature stories, live reporting, fun segments and sound from players and coaches. And we will also talk sports betting and the bets relevant to Notre Dame football.

“I’m also looking forward to reporting live on the road at Notre Dame football away games and getting to shoot the game on the field. I’m looking forward to covering every other Notre Dame sport as well!”

Faith and patience

Burnett says one thing that helped his pursuit of the job was keeping strong in his faith. He then adds, “And staying persistent in applying for sports journalism jobs for 12 months knowing that I love what I do and this is what I’m passionate about!

“Being patient was 110% the hardest part, but man it paid off!”

Former ESPN staffer Joey Ellis returns to home state to be on air

After two years working behind the scenes at ESPN, Joey Ellis is returning to his home state to work in front of the camera. An STAA member, Ellis has joined WLUC in Negaunee, MI as a sports anchor/reporter.

Ellis graduated from Michigan State University in 2019. “Then, I joined ESPN as part of the ESPN Next program for young professionals, where I worked in production for almost two years,” he says. “I knew from my days in school, though, that I wanted to be in front of the camera, particularly to do play-by-play, which remains the goal today.”

Though being on-air has always been Ellis’ goal, working in production at ESPN benefitted him greatly. “My nearly two years at the ‘Worldwide Leader’ equipped me with the knowledge of what’s required to effectively put out a solid product, both in front of and behind the camera. I learned so much in my time there and felt I was ready to make a move to a position that would allow me to be on air.”

Ellis joined STAA midway through his senior year of college in 2019. “The tireless work that Jon Chelesnik and his staff do in helping aspiring broadcasters find employment in the industry is inspiring,” he says. “The investment is 100% worth it. Jon takes pride in helping each and every person who shows serious interest in the service.”

The WLUC opening was emailed to STAA members in mid-May. Ellis, though, first heard about it through a friend. “Seth Wells, now the No. 3 sports reporter at WOODTV8 in Grand Rapids, MI notified me.” Ellis continues, “Seth started his on-air TV career there and spoke highly of it, so I felt it would be an opportunity worth pursuing.”

Persistent cold contacting leads Boehme to Henderson State

Spencer Boehme sent well over 100 cold contacting emails in pursuit of a play-by-play job. One of those struck gold. An STAA member, Boehme is the new men and women’s basketball, baseball and softball voice at NCAA DII Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR.

Boehme will also provide football color commentary for the Reddies. He follows fellow STAA member Cyrus Wittig.

STAA members were notified of the opening in mid-July. Boehme, though, learned through his cold-contacting campaign in June that the position might open.

NCAA goal

“I mostly emailed Division II schools, but I also emailed other schools and some radio stations,” Boehme says.

“My biggest hope this year was to do collegiate broadcasting, so this is a dream job for me. It’s part-time, so I have to find a second job, but it’ll look great on my resume no less. After getting to work with student radio calling games at Division I Lipscomb, including a game at Madison Square Garden, this is a dream come true.

Boehme graduated this spring from Lipscomb University in Nashville. He joined STAA halfway through his senior year. “I reached out to [STAA Owner Jon Chelesnik] for some career advice, to which he responded. A year later, as I was entering my last semester of college, I joined STAA, and he remembered me!”

Cold contacting plan

Boehme’s cold contacting netted a few phone calls, one job offer before Henderson State and one formal interview for a full-time position. His decision to make the six-hour drive from his home near Nashville to visit Arkadelphia was a game-changer.

“I had an offer at that point, but it was part-time, so I wanted to see if I could make a life in southwestern Arkansas,” Boehme recalls. “During that trip, I visited a local state park and Hot Springs, and Memphis during my trip there and back. That trip left a big imprint on me.

“Ultimately, and I understand not everyone has a background of faith, I have to credit God for this job, because I feel like he’s put me in all the places I’ve needed to be to get to this point.”

Persevere and innovate

Boehme’s advice to other cold-contactors is to persevere. “I spent six months emailing people and being given false hope. People would respond back and say that they might need some play-by-play, and then I’d never hear from them again. It’s a dejecting process, and it will make you lose hope sometimes. And that’s a very valid emotional process to go through. But just keep going on.

“Perhaps more importantly, always innovate and tweak your process. For example, if you email one person at a college and don’t hear back, email a different person at that same college a few months later. Let’s just say that worked for me.”

Jouganatos’ dream comes true with sports radio job near home

When Keith Jouganatos recently accepted a sports talk/play-by-play job at KAHI AM/FM in Auburn, CA, the first call he made was to his dad.

“Pop has always believed in me. He’s listened to every game I’ve ever broadcasted from my time at Sacramento State to my time with the NFHS Network and NorCal Sports TV,” Jouganatos says. “Pop has always believed in me before I believed in myself so it was a special moment for both of us.”

A surprise call

The younger Jouganatos was visiting Disneyland when he received a call from his friend and longtime KHTK Sacramento Sports Director Jason Ross. Ross told Jouganatos that the KAHI position had opened for the first time in forever. “Shortly after that the owner of the station and the general manager reached out to me,” Jouganatos recalls.

Jouganatos joined STAA last year upon the recommendation of a college friend. “He was basically telling me the premise and I thought it was amazing. I saw the STAA site the first time and just fell in love.”

Handling setback

As it is with many sportscasters, Jouganatos’ experience with the job market has been challenging. “The hardest part has honestly been rejection. Applying time after time and coming close to jobs but never getting through the door. You know in the back of your mind you want to be patient. At the same time there is that doubt where it’s like, ‘Am I any good? Does anybody even want me?’ Things like that creep into your mind and it’s a marathon. But God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle if you stay the course.”

Jouganatos grew up in Elk Grove, CA, less than 30 minutes south of Sacramento. He graduated from Sacramento State in 2016. The KAHI studio is just over 30 minutes northeast of California’s capital city. Jouganatos has known of the station for many years.

“It has always been a dream of mine to land that [KAHI] job so I said yes without question. This job has always been on my radar.”

It’s likely that the station has always been on Jouganatos’ Pop’s radar, too. Now the father can listen to his son every day.

New approach to the job interview leads McGehee to DII position

Josh McGeheeSports coaches encourage their players to “keep pounding the stone” through tough times. Eventually it’s going to break. When the sports broadcasting job market got tough, Josh McGehee kept pounding the stone. Now he’s accepted a Graduate Assistant position to be the lead broadcaster at Upper Iowa University.

“This position gives me an opportunity to do play-by-play and color commentary for sports I haven’t had the chance to do yet,” he says. “It also allows me to be the singular voice of a Division II athletic program, which is a huge honor.”

A new strategy

McGehee learned of the opportunity in an STAA Job Leads email. At the interview, he chose to be more emphatic than he had been in unsuccessful interviews for other jobs. “I had never been able to clear the final hurdle during my pursuit of different positions. So this time, I made sure to state my claim as to why I was the best person for the job,” he recalls. “I also had questions prepared for each person on the interview panel to show how prepared I was and how much I wanted the position.”

The change in approach was key for McGehee, who had grown tired of being told “no” by employers. “Not just being told no, but the overwhelming silence from potential employers concerning job openings. It’s very easy to succumb to negativity when it comes to breaking into this industry, but the best way to fight it is to stay active. I ended up creating my own show that I recorded out of my laundry room. You just have to get creative in order to make something positive out of a bad situation.”

Referred to STAA

McGehee joined STAA in 2017 upon the recommendation of former Cincinnati Reds Major and Minor League Broadcaster Jim Kelch. Kelch is also an STAA member. “He came to speak to one of my classes at Bradley University and mentioned how STAA did an excellent job of posting job openings,” McGehee remembers.

One STAA resource McGehee especially values is his STAA Talent Page. “I really appreciate how much STAA organizes all of your application materials into one, centralized location. It’s much easier to provide potential employers a link to my Talent Page instead of a handful of attachments.

“I also appreciate the consistent flow of job postings STAA alerts us to. If it wasn’t for that email, I might never had known about the position with Upper Iowa.”

McGehee smiles when he adds, “Hopefully, this will provide the basis for my broadcasting career going forward.”

UNCP latest piece to fall into place for Zach McKinstry

ZachGrasping the degree of sacrifice required for a successful sports broadcasting career was challenging for Zach McKinstry. Now, though, the pieces are falling into place. Just months after being hired by a summer collegiate baseball team, McKinstry is adding more college sports to his resume. He will be the Director of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke (UNCP) Sports Network for the coming season.

UNCP offers McKinstry the chance to broaden his skill set. “Not only do I get to expand my broadcasting range, calling several different sports for the school, but I also get to work on some video production, creative media, and marketing and promotional projects.”

Following up his application was crucial in McKinstry earning the job. “I thought the interview went well, but when I hadn’t heard back in a while I stayed persistent and it helped get me the position.”

Learning the sportscasting industry

A 2021 graduate of the University of South Carolina, McKinstry admits to not initially understanding the discipline required for success in sportscasting. “It was really challenging for me to embrace and understand the grind it takes to be in this business,” he recalls. “At school I would sometimes feel like I was missing out on time with friends to work on my craft on a broadcast late Friday night or the weekend. My last year of school, and this long college summer ball season, has helped me find how to balance the two. It’s helped me stay passionate about following my dream.”

The UNCP position fits neatly with McKinstry’s summer schedule calling baseball for the Western Nebraska Pioneers of the Expedition League. “After I accepted a seasonal position with a summer league baseball team, I wanted something that could allow me to work into the spring. I looked for all the school broadcasting positions I could, and this seemed like the perfect fit.”

Help from STAA

McKinstry joined STAA this year upon the recommendation of his college roommate and fellow STAA member Dillon Clark. “Both jobs I have had post-grad have come from STAA,” he says. “The league I’m in now, every broadcaster is in STAA. And it’s relieving to have a space where we can share professional thoughts about the industry together, and also pick up pieces of advice from colleagues to make us better.”

Wengert lands full-time role as U. of Lynchburg play-by-play voice

Pardon TJ Wengert if his voice sounds scratchy. He will be calling play-by-play for more than 150 games per year as the new Director of Digital Media/Play-by-Play Voice at the University of Lynchburg.

“It’s an awesome opportunity as a young broadcaster to get a ton of play-by-play reps as we plan on broadcasting 175 games or so for the 10 sports that are broadcasted,” Wengert enthuses.

Additionally, the University of Lynchburg is the only NCAA DIII school with a contract to broadcast their games on ESPN3.

Wengert joined STAA last year on the recommendation of Longwood University Lancers voice and former STAA member Sam Hovan. He found the Lynchburg opportunity in an STAA Job Leads email. “Once I saw the description, I immediately started to work on my cover letter and sent off my application.”

Versatility

Wengert spent recent summers broadcasting baseball in the Coastal Plain League, first with the Morehead City Marlins and later the Tri-City Chili Peppers. “I love baseball, but college broadcasting was always in my mind as where I wanted to go if I got the chance. At my alma mater, Longwood University, I was blessed to call all eight sports that we streamed on ESPN+. The challenge of doing different sports was one that I wanted to have again.”

Calling 10 different sports at Lynchburg also allows Wengert to broaden his skill set. “It will push me to be a better broadcaster and storyteller overall as I will have to adapt to the sport. You don’t call a basketball game like a baseball game because the pace is so different and I love being able to do both. So for me, I wanted the chance to get back to that.”

STAA assist

Since graduating from Longwood last year, Wengert credits STAA with helping him overcome the growing pains of a young sportscasting career. “Just like young athletes make mistakes that can cost themselves and/or their team, I think young broadcasters do so too,” he says. “[STAA] helped me understand what qualities make up a great broadcaster and showed me the little things that we should look for in how our colleagues call games.”

Wengert adds that STAA has also helped him polish play-by-play and format his resume. “[STAA Owner Jon Chelesnik] has been so helpful with giving me feedback on plenty of play-by-play samples I’ve sent his way. He’s helped me retool my resume and he’s built a community of sports broadcasters who are all looking to help one another. So I’m beyond grateful to be a STAA member and a part of that community.”

“Jon also took my disaster of a resume and helped me make it something that won’t repel potential employers upon looking at it,” he smiles.

Scratchy voice or not, Wengert is fired up for his new opportunity. “A combination of getting to call a lot of games for a wide variety of sports and getting to do so for a high level DIII school on a great platform made it a great chance for me to improve as a broadcaster!”

Kirkwood launching NCAA broadcast career at Frostburg State

The four years Colin Kirkwood spent covering sports as a student at California University of Pennsylvania prepared him well for his newest opportunity. Kirkwood is the new Athletic Communication Broadcaster for Frostburg State University.

The Bobcats play 22 varsity sports at the NCAA DII level.

“Having 4+ years of Cal U experience, I know quite a bit about the Super Region I in the DII,” Kirkwood grins.

Broadcasting won’t be all Kirkwood does for the Maryland school. Other duties will include developing game notes, pre/postgame interviews, feature story writing, development of student broadcast workers, athletics website maintenance and assisting with social media.

Kirkwood has been an STAA member since 2020. He found the FSU opportunity in an STAA Job Leads email and believes his STAA Talent Page was a difference maker in his application. “Having a portfolio website with everything that an employer could want to see — broadcast demos, writing samples, creative video, etc. — readily available is very important and something that everyone should consider having,” he suggests.

Kirkwood adds, “I joined STAA for a mix of great leads, constant access to a network of professionals who are willing to help in any way they can, and for something to always help me improve my work.”

There will be plenty of opportunity for Kirkwood to continue his growth at Frostburg. And his familiarity with DII athletics will help with the transition.

Monty leaving baseball for full-time radio in Missouri

Brandon MontyBrandon Monty has spent two of the past three summers broadcasting baseball. His long-term goal, though, has been to call various sports as a full-time radio station employee.

Mission accomplished.

An STAA member, Monty is joining Alpha Media in Moberly, MO as an On-Air Announcer and Play-by-Play Broadcaster. He learned of the opportunity through STAA.

“It will allow me to be versatile and improve my skills at several different jobs in radio, including play-by-play, hosting, interviewing, and gathering news,” Monty says.

Changing course

Monty is spending this summer in Washington broadcasting baseball for the Walla Walla Sweets. He’ll move to Moberly at season’s end.

“I’ve always loved the game of baseball since I was a little kid,” Monty recalls. “I’ve also always loved radio and wanted to find a full-time position at a station. I wanted to find a place to settle in for a bit where I can be there year-round and call different sports.”

Always say yes

One key for Monty in building his sportscasting career has been always saying yes to opportunities. “The one thing I was told repeatedly throughout college was that you should try to expand your abilities and learn as much as you can. The last few years have provided me the opportunity to do just that.”

Customizing his cover letter to Alpha Media also helped Monty earn the job. “Find something unique or interesting about the job that you can put in your cover letter,” he suggests. “Letting the employer know that you did the research on the position goes a long way.”

Help from his friends

Monty joined STAA in 2020 upon the recommendation of his Ohio University classmates and fellow STAA members Gabe Genovesi and Jake Hromada. “When I transferred to Ohio U my junior year, I knew little to nothing about the true nature of the business and what it was about,” Monty recalls. “With the help of all my talented colleagues at OU and through my membership at STAA, I have made great strides as a sportscaster, both ability-wise and job market-wise.”

Now Monty is taking what he’s learned to Alpha Media.

“I’m extremely grateful to be welcomed into an organization and stations that will allow me to improve in different areas in sportscasting while learning from the talented veterans that are already on the staff.”