Curley Center Brings Radio Hosts To Penn State
The John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State hosted Mike Missanelli and Paul Alexander last night at the Nittany Lion Inn. The two sports journalists spoke about their experiences in the field, specifically related to their time spent as sports-radio talk show hosts.
Mike Missanelli, a 1977 Penn State graduate, spent his time as an undergrad playing second base dreaming of an extensive career in MLB. While his dreams of making the big leagues didn’t work out, Missanelli went on to obtain a law degree and became one of Philadelphia’s predominant sports opinion on 97.5, The Fanatic. Paul Alexander stayed local post graduation and worked for news outlets in Happy Valley. In 1998 he returned to Pittsburgh where he is now the voice of 93.7, The Fan.
The mood was light as the journalists told a room full of eager students their best advice for getting a great interview and developing successful careers. Both men stressed the importance of staying versatile and accepting positions that might not be your first choice: even if it means reporting on town hall meetings and high school basketball games. Taking assignments to gain exposure and being able to communicate with an audience are the most important ways for an aspiring journalist to get their foot in the door.
When asked what makes a great radio talk show host, Missanelli insisted that honesty is the best policy, and that finding issues that spark conversations keep a show dynamic and engaging for the audiences. Alexander stressed the importance of passion and knowledge of sports, as well as the ability to provide opinions on general information that everyone can find on the internet.
A lot of focus was put on the advancements of technology creating easier ways for people to gather news from not so reliable sources such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. With this constant flow of information, both journalists defined the role of shows like their own as providing opinions and critiques to build off of what is now common knowledge.
“Sports are the ultimate reality show – the outcome is not decided prematurely so you have to watch it to find out what happens. There are continued story lines with every team during every season.” – Paul Alexander
In response to a question from Jeff Brown, the moderator for the event, about crossing lines during interviews, Missanelli responded that it is the reporter’s responsibility to dig into the questions and not accept non-answers. He followed up by saying he calls the coaches and players he interviews by their first name to show that they are all on the same level in order to make sure he gets the respect he deserves and information he needs.
As with all journalistis, creating relationships with trusted sources is always important. Alexander encouraged being present for every practice, training session, and post-game meeting. Anything you can attend as a journalist is beneficial to writing a well rounded story. Both he and Missanelli said the best sources are the people working behind the scenes who are there every day: secertaries, bodyguards, press agents, etc.
A final quote that stuck with me throughout the night was said by Missanelli at the beginning of the night, and can be applied to anyone searching for their calling in life: “Be patient, accept where you are without worrying where you’re going. You’re eventually going to get there.”
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