We recently had the opportunity to catch up with on-air sports reporter Lindsey Smith and discuss her sports broadcasting career with her. She was nice enough to give us an inside look at what it takes to break into the sports broadcasting field, the link between fans and athletes via social media and how she prepares to cover sporting events and one-on-one interviews.
All-Out Blitz: You received your degree in broadcast journalism from Arizona State. Upon graduation, how long did it take you to get a foot in the door of the sports broadcasting field?
Lindsey Smith: “I graduated in December, so my first semester senior year I actually started working in Phoenix. I started working with Cox Communications––Cox7 out here in Arizona. I was an intern there. I started interning there in my first semester as a senior. Halfway through my internship we picked up the television broadcasts of the Arizona Rattlers (Arena Football League), and when that started in the middle of March my producer at Cox asked if I wanted to be on air during those broadcasts. So of course I said yes. I technically was still an intern when I got my first taste of the on-air life.”
AOB: Is sports broadcasting something you’ve always wanted to do, or is it just something that came up once you got to college?
Smith: “I spent the first two years of college in California, and did my first two years online. At the time I was in school they didn’t offer a lot of online degree programs, so I decided to come back to Arizona and get a “real degree,” something I knew I would need in the future. I originally started in Business Marketing, and it just wasn’t fun for me. I understood it and it was interesting, but it just didn’t really click for me so I went around the idea of journalism. I took my first couple of classes and I knew that that’s where I wanted to be. I’ve always really loved telling stories and as a journalist that’s what you do. You’re telling your story of the game, or if you’re doing features you’re telling the audience that story. I just really enjoy being able to be that kind of a link between the viewers at home and all of the athletes that they look up to and are watching on television, and be that bridge between the two of them so it’s not so much of a separation.
My main role with the Rattlers is social media, so I’m kind of that link. So fans can tweet me or message me on Facebook and ask me questions for players or coaches, and I’ll go take those questions to those players/coaches and get them answers and either respond back social media-wise or throughout our broadcasts. So that’s my main goal is to close that gap between players and fans.”
AOB: A lot of different channels/stations are starting to utilize social media outlets more and more. Do you think that’s kind of the future of sports broadcasting, is adding in the social media aspect to their regular coverage?
Smith: “I definitely think it’s the future. Social media is not going anywhere, and it’s created a wall where you’re just one tweet or post away from someone who you look up to or admire. Whether it’s a musician, an actor/actress or an athlete. It’s so easy to reach out to these people, and a lot of times they respond. They may not be able to respond to all of the fans that reach out to them, but they do take the time out of their day to actually respond to some fans.
Just a few weeks ago I saw Larry Fitzgerald, and there’s a fan here in town who makes really cool graphics for all of the Cardinals players. He’ll tweet them out (to the players) and wants those players to use them as profile pictures or put them on Instagram. Larry Fitzgerald reached out to him and asked him if it was okay to use it as an Instagram post. It was just kinda neat to see that interaction. So I think that in broadcast there should be more fan interaction with players. Sometimes we’ll even bring a fan on a segment to ask a question live. We’ve done that with our Cox7 Rattlers broadcasts. I just think it’s awesome to give back to the fans, because they’re really why I have a job and why the athletes have job. They’re the ones paying the money to go see the games, so really without them what are we?”
AOB: As a student, you’re always given plenty of advice (whether it’s from a professor/advisor or from fellow students). What would you say was the best advice you were given while a student of sports broadcasting?
Smith: “The best advice I’ve gotten was actually from my producer at Cox7, he was also in charge of the internship program so I reported to him during my internship. He would let you do what you wanted to do within the internship program, if you showed the initiative to do it, and thankfully I was able to take advantage of that. At Cox they have sports, magazine-style shows and all different kinds of entities that you can get involved in, and he let me know in the beginning that I was able to do whatever I wanted if I showed the initiative to get involved, and I was able to do so. That helped me learn so much about the business. I would say I learned more about the business from that internship than anywhere else just because he offered you opportunities and he was willing to work with me if I put in the work on the other side as well.
So I think the best advice was just him letting me know that I should take advantage of all the opportunities in front of me. Don’t just sit back and say “okay I’ve got this internship and this is fun, I’m learning something that’s good for my resumé.” But you really want to get involved and learn all the details of the business, whether or not you want to be on-camera or behind the scenes. Know it all, because it makes you better in the long run. I work as talent, but I also understand how the broadcast is created, whether you’re in the producer role, the director role, the technical director role, etc. It’s good to know about all the different crew members who actually help put together the broadcast and bring the broadcast to life. I think that being able to know how all of it works and how television works in general makes me better at my job because I know what they’re going through.”
AOB: Regarding the Rattlers coverage, is it full-time coverage for Cox7?
Smith: “No it’s still seasonal. We keep in touch with them, of course, when something happens we’ll go out and cover it. For example, their open tryouts are coming up in about nine days so we’ll have a camera out there and we’ll get some B-roll of that and we’ll talk to some people about that. So that way once the spring comes around we’ll be able to talk about the open tryouts, how it went, and if someone makes the team we’ll be able to show people that he was a walk-on and was able to pull through and earn a spot on the team.”
AOB: When you prepare for sporting events and/or on-air interviews, do you have a specific approach that you always take, or does your approach towards preparation vary depending on the event/interview?
Smith: “I think it would change for every job, because every job is a little bit different. If I’m doing social media reporting, obviously I’m going to be a little more prepared on the social side of things. But if I’m doing a sideline report I’ll prepare on the social media side but also what’s going on with the team. So there’s a different approach to every game, every broadcast. But it all comes down to just being overly prepared. You have to have multiple things to talk about and then be able to be flexible. If for some reason all of the things you came prepared with got thrown out the door, you have to be able to move on the fly and find out what it is that’s going on in that moment and how you can contribute to making that even better.”
AOB: We just have one last question for you, Lindsey. So far in your sports reporting/broadcasting career, what would you say is the biggest story or interview that you have done?
Smith: “That’s a tough one. I guess I would say that my favorite interview that I did was with Dr. J, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last January. He was just a really nice guy. He’s a legend. He towered over me. And then we were able to hang out a little bit at an event later on the same day. He was playing in a Pro AM at the Waste Management Open and once they got to the 16th hole (an iconic par-three hole in the PGA Tour), whoever is the closest to the hole wins money for their charity. So we interviewed him earlier in day and then saw him again at the 16th hole. He was just so kind. He was nice to everyone around him, had time to take pictures, chat with people. I just really like it when you see someone of celebrity stature who is really engaged with their fans, and genuinely nice to them. So I think that would probably stand out the most.”
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You can follow Lindsey and her sports broadcasting career covering Arizona professional sports by following her on Twitter (@LindseySmithAZ), liking her Facebook page, or following her on Instagram (@LindseySmithAZ).
Photo: Lindsey’s Twitter account (@LindseySmithAZ)