Re-think the value of entry level sportscasting jobs

When McPherson (KS) High School lined up for the opening kickoff of the 1990 football season, I broke into a cold sweat. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized the severity of the fact that, in four years as a broadcast journalism major in college, I had never done football play-by-play. I had done basketball and baseball, but never football. Not only that, but in four years of college, not a single word had been spoken to me about how to do it.

Jerome T. Osborne Stadium by Erik Daniel Drost, on Flickr

The low pay has frustrated anyone who has worked an entry-level sports broadcasting job. Instead of being frustrated, though, be glad.

There are two reasons you should be grateful for your low-paying, small market gig:

  1. Instead of paying to learn what you don’t know, someone is paying you to learn it.
  2. You’re honing your craft in a forgiving environment that offers room to make mistakes that might get you fired from higher-profile gigs.

No matter how great your college broadcasting program was, there are going to be things you encounter on the job for which you weren’t prepared in the classroom.

My college experience is not unusual. When this topic arose in the STAA forums in October 2013, “Sports Talker” wrote:

“I participated in campus radio stations and newspapers when I was in school and found that I was given very little guidance. So long as I didn’t say anything embarrassing or inappropriate, I was pretty much left alone to do my job. When I went out into the workplace, I thought I had a handle on most things and I was ready. The first half of the 2003 minor league baseball season was a scary eye-opener as to how little preparation I had. I learned more about how to do my job in those first two months than I did in four years working with school radio and newspapers.”

My broadcast that night in August 1990 was far from perfect. Had the Chiefs announcer at that time, Kevin Harlan, made the same mistakes he would have been fired. Fortunately for me, I made the mistakes in McPherson, KS and not in the NFL. After the game, as I sat in my tiny, dingy apartment eating Ramen noodles, I finally appreciated my entry-level sports broadcasting opportunity.

Photo by Erik Daniel Drost, on Flickr.

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