By Jamie Apody '00, Photos by Shea Roggio
Published Jul 1, 2010 9:00 AM
Not so long ago, women and sportscasting went together like, well, Bruins and Trojans. But today, women are everywhere in the field, from the smallest local channel to the largest national station. Jamie Apody '00 segued from intern to sports producer at KNBC in Los Angeles before landing her first on-camera job in El Paso, Texas. Now a sports anchor and reporter at 6abc (WPVI-TV) in Philadelphia, Apody offers a game plan for kicking off a career in sports broadcasting.
The best way to get a sports broadcasting job in a big TV market is to start in a small one. [Los Angeles local station KNBC's veteran sports anchor] Fred Roggin told me that 10 years ago and I didn't believe him at the time. I thought I was good enough to start in Los Angeles. But you don't want to do that, because then you make your mistakes in front of millions of viewers and you're done. You're not going to be respected. So start small. Then when you make your mistakes — and everyone does — very few people will see them. Polish yourself, and when you get really good, then go for a big market.
Be a clutch hitter
You have to learn how to think on your feet. When I worked at a station in El Paso, for example, the teleprompter would fail almost every day, and the producers were green and didn't know how to time a show. Suddenly I'd have six minutes for sports, and I'd just have to talk about things for three minutes. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. [WPVI sportscaster] Gary Papa never wrote more than a few key words; he did the sportscasts totally ad-libbed for 25 years. He taught me that sometimes it can be better that way. Sometimes you're more real.
Study the playbook
You have to know what you're talking about when you cover sports. Read the sports pages, watch the games, know your statistics, know your history. Before my job interview at WPVI, I read every single factoid I could find about Philadelphia sports, because I didn't grow up on the East Coast and I didn't know it like a native would. It is critical to study, study, study, all the time.
Networking is a huge advantage in this career. You never know that the person you meet somewhere when you're 21 years old could be the person that will hire you in your dream big-market job when you're 31 years old. How do you network? Check out organizations like the Association for Women in Sports Media, which offers an annual convention and regional events.
Get an assist
Having a mentor is the most important thing in your career. At KNBC, I had the best mentor I could have had in Fred Roggin. He took me under his wing and taught me how to write for television. He advised me on what kind of on-air presence worked for me and what didn't, and he helped me make the tape that led to my first broadcasting job in El Paso.
When I moved to Philadelphia, I was blessed with another great mentor: Gary Papa, who died last year. He did everything in his power to help advance my career and get my face out there so the viewers in Philadelphia would accept me. I think it's very important to have a mentor, and I think it's very important, once you reach a certain point, to be one yourself.
Get a Game Plan
Do you want to get on the field? Cover sports? Maybe you have another broadcasting dream you want to pursue. Whatever your career goals, you've got a team of fellow Bruins behind you. The the UCLA Alumni Association can help you score in the job game in any number of ways. Visit Networking & Careers for more information.
Level the playing field
The Internet has entirely changed our business. For one thing, it's a lot easier to find out about anything: You just go to Google. Secondly, it's changed the way broadcasters search for work. When I was looking for jobs, you sent out a VHS tape. Now, you create your own website, post your videos on it and send out a link. For a news director, it's easier and faster, and you're much more likely to get seen if you do it that way.
Also, you can do your job search on the Internet. All stations now post on their websites when they're hiring. And there are job-specific sites, like TVJobs.com, that are subscription-based.
Work the (locker) room
Once you're in the business, it's all about making connections. When I first moved to Philadelphia, I went to every 76ers [basketball], Phillies [baseball], Eagles [football] and Flyers [hockey] game I could, even during my days off, just so the teams would see my face around, so they would know they could trust me. That's how you build contacts and break stories.
Sharpen your skills
You have to be a great writer. But writing for broadcasting is very different from magazine or fiction writing; you're producing 30-second snippets and features that are a bit over a minute. You also have to be a good communicator — not just with your words, but with your expressions, too. A viewer needs to look at you and trust you and be entertained by you.
You can't be a robot. You have to know when to smile and when not to. You have to know when to look at the camera and when to look at the person you're interviewing. You have to know when to use your hands and when not to. What helped me with my communication skills? When I interned at KNBC, I would steal Fred Roggin's scripts and tape them to my shower like it was a teleprompter, and I would read them out loud.
Love the game
The best part of my job is that three minutes every day when the red light goes on. It's an absolute adrenaline rush, and I love the euphoric high of being in front of the camera. Second to that is the people I get to meet, and I don't mean just the famous athletes. The human interest stories I do are my favorite things. I also love the mix of reporting and anchoring. It's a good way of keeping up both skills. The anchoring is all writing and reading what you write. Reporting, especially live reporting, is much more ad-libbed. Another reason I love this job? Every day is different. So for someone who gets bored easily, this is the best job in the world.