Name: Jacob Myers
Type of Project: Internship
For my STEP Signature Project, I served as an intern with the Cleveland Indians Scout.com affiliate, Indians Baseball Insider, covering the Triple-A minor-league baseball team Columbus Clippers. This was my first professional experience as a student journalist covering an amateur-professional sports team. My responsibilities included 3-5 articles per week that ranged from game reports, features and weekly notebook.
I began the position when the season started in April and finished in September when the Clippers lost in the first round of the International League playoffs. Minor-league team schedules operate in a way that the team spends a full week at home followed by a full week on the road. That trend repeats through July and then varies in August when the season begins to wind down. With that schedule, I had to plan my quotes accordingly, making sure that when the Clippers were on the road, I had quotes that could help me complete features and add quotes to supplement by weekly notebook on Mondays. During homestands, I wasn’t required to be at every game, only required to have 2-3 game reports per homestand. However, in order to have the appropriate amount of quotes for the week when the team is away from Columbus, most weeks I would attend more games than required.
At first, I didn’t believe that the job would be too strenuous. Having watched and played baseball my entire life, I thought the job would come naturally to me. I expected there to be a learning curve having had limited experience in writing, but I quickly learned the job was much more demanding than initial expectations. Arriving at the ballpark around 5:45 p.m. for 6:35 p.m. games, and staying there until around 10:30 p.m. was a schedule I wasn’t necessarily used to. However, as the season went on and I became akin to the schedule and my ability to capture insightful quotes in interviews developed, which then enhanced my writing in all of my content. There were times in the season where I had difficulty in getting the quotes or information I needed, which was burdensome and tough to get over. But I came to learn that trails and difficulties is just a part of the job, which was one of the most beneficial real-world experiences I learned. With the help of my STEP internship project, I was able to have the proper experience necessary to assume the role of the Assistant Sports Editor at The Lantern and cover the competitive Ohio State football beat this past season.
For reporters, relationships are everything. Relationships with your sources, people who also work on the same beat as you and the communications director for the team. In my STEP Signature Project, I worked closely with two writers at the Columbus Dispatch who have become professional contacts for me. Mark Znidar was the primary Dispatch writer who covered the Columbus Clippers during the 2016 season. Mark also covered local high school sports and was the Clippers beat writer for the Dispatch for other 20 years. He has experience covering Ohio State football as well, which boded well for me because he explained to me some difficulties I will encounter during the season and how best to report amid those difficulties.
Another Dispatch writer who was occasionally at games over the summer was Adam Jardy who covers the Ohio State men’s basketball team. In my role at The Lantern, I am also responsible for covering the men’s basketball team, so it was nice to have made that contact before the season began. With the access I had with the Columbus Clippers due to my STEP Signature Project, I was able to ask Adam about some of the experiences he has had on the men’s basketball beat in his first year covering the team for the Dispatch and several years before that with Buckeye Sports Bulletin. I worked two years with the men’s basketball team as a manager, so I had known the program from the closest perspective possibly. But through talking with Adam, it helped my reporting skills understanding how he reported on the team because he had a totally different perspective than I had. Understanding that perspective, in turn, bolstered my ability to ask comprehensive questions in interviews.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Joe Santry, the communications director for the Columbus Clippers. What’s unique about Joe is that he is a national baseball historian. For someone like myself who has loved baseball since his youth, it was a pleasure talking to Joe about the history of the sport, which Mark was very knowledgeable about as well. As a journalist covering the team, I had to have a cooperative and respectful relationship with Joe which would help my likability in the clubhouse with the manager and players. Through lessons learned in professional development courses and seminars I attended while in STEP, I knew how to act professional but not be over the top, given a baseball park is a more casual setting than a corporate office.
Now for my journalist-to-player relationship with the team and its manager, it was a bit nerve-racking at first because it was an open locker room so I could ask questions to whomever I wished. Going back, I would certainly work the room a little more and ask more questions to other players, but as the season went on, I became more efficient at it. My toughest interviews were always with the Clippers’ manager Chris Tremie. He was not a big talker to the media and had his own rules that we had to abide by, or he would refuse to talk to us even more. So, I simply followed his rules and we got along just fine. It was never a friendship type of relationship, but I respected his job and he respected mine. With the professional development seminars I attended through STEP and having the opportunity to work next to professionals in the field who had covered several players and coaches who didn’t like to talk to the media, those anecdotes I heard eased my nerves more because I learned that there are people like Chris Tremie on any team. That’s not to say he’s not a nice man, which he is. He just is someone who isn’t as cooperative in interviews as other professional athletes or managers.
To wrap it up, my STEP Signature Project experience was significant in my career development because it was my first professional journalism experience — and it was certainly an experience that doesn’t come around too often. I wrote a feature on Erik Gonzalez, Michael Martinez and Mike Clevinger, who ended up playing a significant role in the Cleveland Indians run to the World Series. In total, I interviewed almost a dozen players who were in the Indians clubhouse in the 2016 World Series. The Clippers won their division as well, which made the team more enjoyable to write about. I also interviewed All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley who came down to Columbus on a rehab start a couple times.
Interviewing a team like the Clippers and players who eventually had a role on the biggest stage in the sport greatly prepared me for my coverage of the Ohio State football team. Without experiencing deadline writing and polishing interviewing skills while covering the Clippers for my STEP Signature Project, I could not have been as successful as I was as a writer through the football season and so far this basketball season. Because of my STEP project, I became Assistant Sports Editor and covered all Ohio State football games on site, including the College Football Playoff semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. On that beat, I have made professional connections as well, all which can be contributed to my comfort level in a high-stress setting that is filled with tenured writers who have been doing the job much longer than I have. STEP gave me my first step into the sports journalism field and I developed a passion for writing about sports. Now, as I look forward, I will be applying to be Editor-in-Chief at The Lantern for the 2017-2018 school year after my 2017 summer internship with the Columbus Blue Jackets or nationally recognized media organizations such as the Associated Press or CBS Sports.