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SMPA adds sports reporting class after years of student demand for course

Photo Illustration by Raphael Kellner | Staff Photographer
Freshman Zach Brody interviews ultimate frisbee team member Daniel Davis outside of the School of Media & Public Affairs.

The School of Media & Public Affairs unveiled plans for a sports writing and reporting class next fall after a high volume of demands from students for the addition of the course.

D.C. sports journalist and SMPA lecturer Kelsey Nelson will debut the pilot Sports Writing and Reporting course next semester, mentoring students on key aspects of covering sports like crafting feature stories, live game coverage and multimedia content while navigating the culture of sports reporting. Officials added the class to the schedule after years of requests to SMPA administrators from students, who said their classes have historically focused on political coverage and hard news reporting.

Nelson, who will teach the inaugural class, said she has worked in sports journalism for over a decade and has deep connections as a local sports reporter who was born and raised in the D.C. region that will allow her students a look into the area’s sports landscape. She said she hopes to impart the culture of covering D.C. sports to her students as well as the value of building connections in journalism and using social media as a tool for reporting.

“I really want students to take away it’s not just reporting on games, it’s not just analytics, you have to really know the culture of who you’re reporting for and who you’re writing for and know your audience,” Nelson said.

Nelson said she will bring guest speakers into class as a way for students to “get their foot in the door” within the world of journalism and possibly gain a mentor or an advocate for future job opportunities.

“It really is who you know, and who knows you,” Nelson said. “And who can advocate for you in rooms that you’re not in.”

Nelson said she plans to reach out to GW’s Department of Athletics to form a partnership so her students can cover live games on campus. She said she hopes to require attendance at select GW games as an aspect of the course while also being cognizant of students’ schedules.

“This class is much different than the news writing class,” Nelson said. “We’ll go a lot more out there in the scenes, in the weeds, learning next to real reporters who are actually doing this for business and learning on the job.”

Nelson said she also plans to integrate social media and live tweeting into the course as essential skills in sports reporting. She said she has secured job opportunities in the past because of her sports reporting on social media platforms.

Jesse Holland Jr., the associate director of SMPA and an assistant professor of media and public affairs, said he has had more students ask him to add a sports reporting class to the curriculum than any other class over his four years at the school. He said he had been in talks with Nelson about the class for about a year before putting it on the schedule of classes.

“We’re always looking to ensure that we’re teaching what our students need to know to help them in the industries in which they choose,” Holland said. “Students came to us and said they were interested in a sports journalism class.”

Holland said he will wait to see the success of the class before determining how often it will be taught in the future.

All 20 seats in the class are currently listed as full in the GWeb registration portal.

“If it’s popular, maybe we’ll add more,” Holland said. “But the proof is always in the pudding, so we’ll see how the first semester goes.”

Ashley Robinson, a sophomore studying journalism and mass communication, said she is excited to take an SMPA class that “zeroes in” on sports reporting since most classes focus on political reporting and general news writing. Robinson said while she was not able to fit the class into her schedule next year, she hopes to take it as soon as she can.

“Actually being able to learn about sports reporting in the classroom is a great opportunity to develop my skills and get more formal education on what sports reporting is like,” Robinson said.

Robinson said she has seen a lot of interest for a sports reporting class from SMPA students, especially the people she is involved with in GW-TV. She added that she grew up visiting a TV studio alongside her father, a sports broadcast reporter, and said she would want to see SMPA add a sports broadcasting class in the future, in addition to sports writing and reporting.

“A lot of my professors at SMPA have been adjunct professors who have great experience in their fields,” Robinson said. “And it’s really important to learn from people who have actually been out there doing the reporting themselves.”

Junior Abe Rothstein, a sports reporter for WRGW, said he registered for the course and has wanted to take a sports reporting course at SMPA for the last two years. He said he wants to learn the writing style required for sports journalism and how to ask questions during press conferences.

“Stylistically, it’s a bit of a different style,” Rothstein said. “So learning when’s the proper time to put your own voice in your writing, when is the proper time to be a little more proper.”

Junior Scott Greaney said he was surprised when he first learned that SMPA had not already offered a sports reporting course. Greaney, who is enrolled in the course, said he looks forward to learning more about writing sports feature stories that focus on a coach or a player rather than game write-ups.

“Those, for a larger audience, would be a much more fun read,” Greaney said.

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