In the past few years Fairfield University has been growing, both physically and conceptually, with new academic buildings and programs for incoming students to look forward to. One of the most recent developments is the creation of the new sports media major which takes a twist on the current digital journalism major to now include the great wide world of sports. The sports media major is broader than the digital journalism major in that it exposes students to more computer and camera work, and more physical, hands-on experiences than they may get in the latter major.
Program co-directors Adam Rugg, Ph.D. and Matthew Tullis explained that there are two areas of focus for the major: experiential and analytical. For hands-on experience, students will be expected to cover Fairfield athletic games and events with their stories due a few hours afterwards, in accordance with actual expectations in the field. On a broader scale there will also be opportunities to investigate data, social justice and specific athletes throughout the seasons. Broadcasting classes will provide an opportunity for students to practice with the software and cameras being used in the field today as they produce digital sports pieces.
One of the goals that the co-directors have is to allow students to gain an intellectual understanding of the field, not just build media-based skills. On the analytical end, students will learn about critical issues in sports and how to explore them through journalism. The relationships between sports, politics, race, gender and economics will also be addressed in some of the required courses. One idea the co-directors are looking into is having professionals from ESPN, WWE or other major sports networks actually teach some of the classes in order to expose students to the most current industry knowledge, as well as provide networking connections. The hope is that by developing a deep understanding of sports as a whole institution, sports media majors will be able to write and produce great pieces.
This broad range of knowledge and experience will prepare students for a multitude of careers which they can pursue after college. Starting at ground zero would be working with Fairfield University Athletics to hone specific interests and get experience at a more local level. As most students know, Fairfield is lacking in school spirit surrounding their sports programs, but Tullis and Rugg argue that newer and better coverage from “The Mirror” and university social media platforms can positively impact student interest.
The hope is that students from the sports media program will have a more dedicated interest in reporting on a regular basis for Fairfield University Athletics. The co-directors would identify needs within the athletic department and connect their students with those positions, possibly opening the door to them of four years of experience in the department. This is obviously a great resume-builder. Not only would both Fairfield Athletics and sports media majors benefit, but student athletes would become more visible through coverage of their accomplishments and records, creating a win-win-win situation.
The next step would be “developing concrete pipelines,” as Rugg suggested, which would connect students to local internships. Tullis emphasized that we have a great location for students interested in the sports media field, as we are within the reach of major sports headquarters, such as ESPN and WWE, universities with great sports teams and professional teams of all different sports. In talking with ESPN about their internship and leadership opportunities, Tullis learned that they have a great interest in local talent, as the end goal is to actually offer jobs to interns that succeed.
The broad training that the sports media major will provide students with will give them the option to work behind the scenes as a writer or producer for a major network, as a media manager in the front office for major sports teams or as a reporter on camera. Students may find that pairing the sports media major with another field, such as marketing, graphic design or another language will offer them an even wider group of career options, giving them ability to reach whatever career they desire. Both Tullis and Rugg are knowledgeable and experienced in the area, and all Fairfield students can expect to see the major develop in great ways alongside our school as a whole. I, for one, am very excited to see what the new sports media major brings to Fairfield University!