Starting football season with a scandal

Last Tuesday, I received the pass, missed the tackle and made a touchdown with my first HOUR ONE story with Talk of the Nation. Yes, me, Kirstin, I had an hour one story and it was finished under a less than 24 hour deadline.

Wondering was up with all the football lingo? Well, my story was about College Football Scandals something I know all to well since UNC went through their own scandal last season. (And I was actively covering it for Carolina Week).

But this story was different from the other big stories I’ve done so far. Unlike all the other ones, the guests were either pre-assigned (ie. It was a book show so the guest naturally is the author of the book) or the guests were obvious and staring me straight in the face (ie. My show about Reality TV and the perception of teen pregnancy, clearly I need an official from one of the national organizations and the creator of the MTV shows). BUT this beast of a show had no guests, just a news peg and that peg was…Miami. The school’s news of their football teams corrupt booster scandal hit the news scene a few weeks ago but with football season starting the upcoming weekend, we knew we had to do it and I was the one to do it.

Needless to say, on Monday afternoon when I was given my assignment I was nervous because all I had were suggestions of the “type” of voices we wanted to hear…”Try to find a former coach.” Or “Check out Sports Illustrated and see who’s been reporting about the issue and try to get them” But those are the only leads I had to get me starting on my pursuit for two unique voices for the show. So at 4:30pm….my journey began.  Like any journalist, I spent the initial parts of my research with understanding the background information – what the heck REALLY happened at the University of Miami?? And then, I started reading and I was in shock…did this really happened? Who was this man (Nevin Sharpio) and how did he have the heart to pay for all these crazy and outrageous things – everything from straight cash to parties to prostitutes and even an abortion were just some of the things Sharpio willing paid for. Crazy, right?

By this time, I’ve found several reaction pieces on SportsIllustrated.com and a really extensive and detailed story by reporter Charles Robinson with Yahoo! Sports about the Miami scandal and I’ve identified a few voices I’d like to hear. Of course, I want to hear from a reporter, someone who’s been following this scandal and really knows their stuff. Well, after reading Robinson’s story I knew he would be great but you can never put all your eggs in one basket so I also wanted to reach out to a few SI.com reports, just to be safe. And this is where the “fun” begins. Naturally, most websites don’t have direct contact information for their reporters because there are crazy people out there in the world so after making several calls and constant searches on the web, I made a few calls to SI.com and emailed Robinson. It was all I could do.

The only thing that I wasn’t feeling certain about was how I was going to get in contact with the second voice for this piece. Like I said earlier, the voice of a former coach would be interesting because they could talk about the pressures from the university to have a good team, and/or the real story of dealing with a scandal. But in all my research, I stumbled upon what I thought would be the perfect voice to feel this void…a former NFL agent! Yes, it was perfect. The voice of someone who did all these things and then confessed about doing them – it was like the voice fell into my lap and was saying “use me, I’m the one!” The only issue was I couldn’t get in contact with the guy. On his reaction pieces in SI.com there wasn’t an email listed in his byline and then on his website, there wasn’t a decent “contact me” section so after about a half hour of trying to find his contact info, I decided to go home and try again. Besides it was 6:30pm by this time and it was time to go home.

So that was Monday. I left the office with a million emails sent, several calls made and a bunch of articles to read on the way home to MD. Of course, my night of just getting home at decent time and reading my articles didn’t happen as planned because I missed the last bus from the metro to the park and ride lot by 10 minutes…but that’s a blog post for another day. I ended the night with a quick check of my email and I was happy to see that I had made progress. Charles Robinson, the Yahoo! Sports reporter, had gotten back to me and I heard back from SI.com with some leads. But still…no contact info for the former agent. I needed his voice and I had to figure out how to get it. With no brilliant ideas coming to mind, I headed to bed and anxiously anticipated the morning’s arrival.

Tuesday morning came and the only thing I could think of was…I just need to make to 2:40pm – at that point, my show would be over and it would be in the past! But alas, it was only 6:05am and I was staring at ceiling in my bedroom while my alarm went off.

When I got to work, I marked the two names I wanted to get on the board under my show…”Charles Robinson” and “Josh Luchs” (the former agent) made their appearance in green marker. Before out morning meeting, I decided to try the number of a communications rep with SI.com because I need the agent’s contact info and it was worth a shot to call – the least he would do was say no. So I called and God opened the heavens because I got the info I needed! Success, I thought, this could be possible! I had the info I needed to make this show happen. Then 9:45am arrived and it was time to tell everyone what I had found and who I wanted for the show. After I briefly stated who both voices were and how I thought they would make the show work. To my slight surprise, everyone beamed at me and said those were great potentials – too bad they weren’t booked yet I thought to myself. All I had were phone numbers and phone calls to make.

But thankfully after a few phone calls and some pre-interviews, I had a show with two guests – Charles Robinson and Josh Luchs. Now all I had to do was write my script and remember to breath….yeah, it was that kind of day. But then I looked up and it was 1:15pm and my scripts and questions were all done. However, there was one lingering question…to screen or not to screen? Yes, screen! It was just one of the many things I was dreading because I never had to screen calls for segments as an intern but as a temp that was a different story. Well, the answer was yes, with some help from a veteran screener but it was still overwhelming.

So when 1:50pm rolled around, I headed to the studio to await my fate of the screener, which was an easier system to operate than I thought it would be but it was still overwhelming. But it was also one of those experiences that you really couldn’t understand unless you’ve done it before because it was a combination of pre-interviewing tons of calls and doing it quickly but efficiently. But with help from my fellow producers, we got some good calls on the air and I saw what it was like to screen calls for a live show.

At that point, I was exhausted but relieved. I have made it. I made it to 3pm and my show was over and not only was it over but it was pretty good. And that was a great feeling – the feeling of finishing my first major story. In our post show meeting, we talked about the shows and everyone said they liked my show and that I had the perfect guests for this show. Whew, can we say that was not only a relief but also a great compliment for my first big show. And it was more than what I could have asked for.

So with this all behind me, you can be the judge. Check out my story here and let me know what you think.

Until next time,

KG

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