(June 22, 2020) Mohammad Ahmad faced unique challenges entering the sportscasting job market after college graduation. He invested in work ethic and optimism. The payoff is a sports anchor/reporter position at ABC FOX Montana in Missoula.
“Not only are they giving me the opportunity to report and anchor on the local ABC/FOX affiliates, but they’re also letting me report on another network called SWX. SWX is a 24/7 regional sports and weather channel that broadcasts in Montana and Washington,” says Ahmad. “With that channel comes the opportunity to do play-by-play and sideline reporting for high school sports and the University of Montana.”
Mohammad credits STAA for helping him land the opportunity. “Gosh, where do I start? I could go on and on and on,” he smiles. “From the interview tips to making your demo reel look good, STAA gave me so much advice that led to me getting my job.
After Mohammad was offered the job, his boss told him that as much as he liked Ahmad’s reel, the biggest reason he offered Ahmad the position is because he loved Ahmad’s enthusiasm and excitement during the interview. “No joke,” Ahmad grins. “Where did I learn how to sound excited and confident? STAA’s tips taught me!”
Ahmad faced two notable challenges in building his sportscasting career. The first was his college curriculum. He didn’t have certain opportunities that students from other schools might have had. “I went to the University of Kentucky (Go Cats!) and had the privilege of doing weekly live newscasts and covering the Cats for the school paper. I never did and never will take those chances for granted,” says Ahmad. “Unfortunately however we didn’t have hands-on opportunities like live shots, sideline reporting or play-by-play. This is not to discredit what I learned in school – I learned how to be a great reporter and journalist – but for sports I just wished they provided those opportunities.”
Ahmad overcame the lack of opportunity by creating his own. “I did sideline reporting at a local radio station for high school football and basketball. I produced pre-game shows, taped coaches interviews and did halftime and post-game interviews.”
The other challenge Ahmad faced was his concern the sportscasting job market might be more difficult because of who he is. “My name and face make it obvious that I’m both Muslim and Middle Eastern. I thankfully didn’t experience any blatant discrimination or prejudice while covering sports in college. However, I wasn’t naive and knew what it felt like to be discriminated against. I also had an African-American professor of mine remind me that hiring discrimination is a real thing and that he experienced it when he worked in the broadcasting business.
“I did struggle with being confident in my work because I had a fear that hiring managers would overlook my name because of my background.”
Mohammad joined STAA in late 2019 upon the recommendation of Camille Gear, a sports reporter for WYMT-TV in Hazard, KY. “Camille told me about STAA when I met where while covering UK Athletics,” says Ahmad. “She told me how STAA helped her find the WYMT job when she graduated from college. I also had a professor who recommended I sign up before I graduated. And let me say both people gave me some of the best advice ever!”
Mohammad’s advice to anyone just joining STAA is to utilize the resources. “Listen to all of Jon’s advice. Take advantage of the critiques! Use all of that to work on yourself and the rest will follow. Follow the job leads if you’re looking for a job. Reach out to Jon and don’t be afraid to ask questions! He is awesome and WILL help you,” Ahmad says.
Lack of diversity in sportscasting has been a major and necessary discussion of late. Ahmad’s hiring in Missoula is a step in the right direction.
“There were several callbacks and responses I never got on some jobs I applied for,” he says. “Was it because of hiring discrimination? I’ll never know. But none of that matters anymore because ABC FOX Montana took a chance on an ordinary kid from the Bluegrass!”