Educating students who have gone on to great success in sports media is nothing new for UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. What’s different today is that there is a formal Grady Sports Media certificate program beginning its second official year of classes, offering experiential learning opportunities and teaching the skills needed to enter this competitive market.
“Our goal is to train the next generation of storytellers in sports,” said Welch Suggs, an associate professor of journalism and associate director of Grady Sports Media. “Whether you are going into communications or journalism or event broadcast or marketing, you have to be able to tell the compelling stories you find every day in sports.”
In addition to taking core sports media courses, sports media majors choose courses related to sports journalism, relations and multimedia production as well as special topics courses about the role of sports in society and other issues. But the experiential learning that weaves through the program is the heart of Grady Sports Media.
“You cannot learn how to be a sports journalist by sitting in the classroom. You just can’t,” said Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Distinguished Professor in Sports Journalism and the director of the sports media program.
This experiential learning takes several forms. Many of the students work with the extracurricular Grady Sports Bureau, which covers high school and UGA sports for the Athens Banner-Herald and produces livestream broadcasts of area high school sports events.
The Multiplatform Storytelling class this fall is covering UGA sports beats as well as area high schools.
“This community craves sports coverage at every level, and there are gaps where our students can be there learning and also filling those gaps, which has been fantastic,” Michaelis said.
The Sports Broadcast and Production class this fall, taught by Georgia Association of Broadcasters President Bob Houghton, is doing livestream broadcasts at eight high school football games and is producing a weekly studio show, Grady Sportsource: Athens High School Football, airing every Friday during the season at 5 p.m. Veteran sports broadcaster Bob Neal is helping students produce the show, which can be viewed on Charter Cable channel 181 in Athens or online at gradynewsource.com.
Some Grady Sports Media students are gaining real-world experience outside the classroom this fall by working with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Macon Telegraph, UGA Sports Communications, the Athens Banner-Herald, the SEC Network and IMG, which produces content for georgiadogs.com.
Two Grady Sports students will accompany Michaelis on a trip to Rio de Janeiro next summer to cover the Summer Olympics for the U.S. Olympic Committee, and more than a dozen students practiced their skills writing preview stories about the Pan Am Games for the USOC’s website, teamusa.org, this summer.
In addition to experiential learning, sports media students are required to complete their certificate through a capstone project. Recent capstone projects include internships with MLB.com, the Super Bowl and ESPN.
The Grady Sports Media certificate, the first of its kind in the Southeastern Conference, officially was approved by UGA in February 2014, and the program graduated its first class in May. The certificate program accepts between 35 and 40 students a year from an application pool of up to 90 students.