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Q&A; with Paul Crane, UFL Sideline Reporter

New Orleans Saints Post-Game Host

An Inside Look from a Sports TV Veteran Who Has Seen It All

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Paul Crane has spent 32 years as a Sportscaster and Sports Reporter, and has seen all types of people succeed and fail, "While I was working at WGIR radio in Manchester, NH the station hired a new News Reporter to a full-time job.  He had just graduated with a Master’s from the prestigious Syracuse School of Journalism.  I can remember how impressed people were with his degree and credentials. 

"I also remember his first assignment, to cover a simple city council meeting and have a small report ready for the noon news," recalls Crane.  "He struggled mightily at performing the actual job and missed his deadline, he was never was able to meet the rigors of daily life in the newsroom.  Before two months had passed he was fired."

Crane concludes, "A degree is a necessity, but internships that allow for hands-on experience is what will make or break a career".

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in Sports TV?

There was no "moment" where I made a decision.  Becoming a Sportscaster was something I had always wanted to do.  By the time I was in high school I was attending football and basketball games with a tape recorder and doing my own "play by play" in the stands.  A friend of mine actually took a tape or two to someone he knew who worked at a local radio station in Connecticut and next thing I knew I was doing a weekly 5-minute show on teams in my high school (for no money).  That radio sports guy later moved to a bigger radio station and I moved with him (for no money).  I returned to work there during summers while in college (for no money) and when my radio "mentor" left for a Sports TV job in Indiana, I inherited many of his responsibilities (still for no money). 

I covered the New York Yankees for this radio station on a regular basis during the summer of 1975-1977 which included Old Timer’s Day, Billy Martin’s very first day as a Yankees manager, Reggie Jackson’s tumultuous first year in New York and the 1977 All-Star game.

I also handled both morning and afternoon drive sports during that last summer which fell between my junior and senior years in college, all for no money, but the experience I received could have never been bought at any price.  It is what eventually landed me my first real job.

Paul Crane’s Sports TV “Stats”

paul crane sports tv sportscasterEducation: University of New Hampshire

Production Jobs held: Sports Director, Sports Reporter, Sportscaster, Sideline Reporter

Stations: New Hampshire Public Television, KAKE-TV (Wichita, KS), KDFW-TV (Dallas, TX), CNN Sports (Atlanta, GA), Fox Sports Net-South (Atlanta), Comcast Sports South (Atlanta), and Cox Sports Television (New Orleans, LA).

Most memorable moment working in Sports TV: The memories are really too many to start trying to recount, from traveling with the Cowboys for ten years to covering Nolan Ryan, college football at CNN, all the way through the Super Bowl run of the New Orleans Saints and televising their championship parade.

Best piece of advice: Young people early in their careers need to remember, no one hiring for any opening cares about what the job will do for "you," the ONLY thing they care about is what hiring you will do for "them!" 

Where did you land your first job in Sports TV?

Approaching graduation, radio station management, which owned several stations in New England, offered me the main sports job at their station in Fall River, Massachusetts, which also included play by play of the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox.  This was 1978 and I had always been determined to get a job in television.  At that time I felt TV was the medium of the future and I did not want to commit to a career in radio without giving TV my best shot.  I turned down the full-time, paying radio job and continued my search for something in television.

paul crane sportscaster cst sports southIn July, the local public television station in New Hampshire had an opening for a reporter.  The station did a nightly half hour newscast, with no commercials, and needed a reporter for its four-person news department.  I applied and interviewed (an interview granted mostly because one of the hiring managers was involved with the TV-element of that nightly class at UNH and knew of my internship with the news director in Manchester).  At least 100 people had applied for the job, most already with some kind of television experience, and I was told I would not get the job, in no small part because of my lack of television experience.  I then called that radio mentor of mine from Connecticut who had moved on to a Sports TV job in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and told him of my situation.  He offered to teach me how to edit, etc. if I went to visit him. 

I stayed in touch with the public TV station and learned the person they offered the job to was hired elsewhere.  I tried again to push that door open, but was told once more my lack of experience was a problem.  I made it clear to them that I was going to Indiana to learn how to edit, etc., but was told they would still be offering the job to one of the other applicants.  I remained persistent in how I knew I could do the job and would do everything it took to learn what I needed to know and actually left a phone number of my friend’s home in Ft. Wayne.

Two days in to my visit in Indiana the hiring manager called to say I should learn everything I could because the second person they offered also accepted a job elsewhere and took that one.  They were offering the job to me.  My first television job became being a news anchor-reporter at tiny WENH-TV in Durham, NH.  Through the process I don’t remember ever having any fear of failure or worries about how hard it was to get in the door, I was only focused on creating a way to make me someone they would want to hire.

While this worked for me, the most important thing is I tried to "make my own breaks."   Getting in to this business never has been easy and while there many be many more opportunities with new media, etc. today, there are more candidates than ever as well.

After your first few months did you know you made the right career choice, or were there concerns?

As I worked through the first few months of my first television job, my annual salary was $10,200 and I could not believe they were paying me almost $200 a week to do what I would have done for free!  I was lucky to have worked with a photographer-editor who remains one of the most talented people I have ever worked with and he and I spent a great deal of time together with him teaching me about editing and visuals and how to put them together.  He would go on to win a Peabody Award for editing excellence and I went on to at least have a base to work from.

I never wavered from the career choice I made and would later describe this business to young people as being one which will quickly separate those who "think" they want to do it from those who really do.  As I moved on to what I really wanted, a job in television sports, one of the most difficult things would be the demands on one’s time.  But labors of love are never labors.

In today’s media job market, how does someone stand out to hiring managers?

There is no one path to any job in television.  Each person will make his or her own way and realize that even the worst job will have plenty of competition.  The most important thing for anyone trying to work their way in today is to have something or do something that will separate them from the pack.  Whether it’s an on air job, in production, camera work, graphics, any element of television, each person needs something to make them different from others.sports cameraman at baseball game

Simply saying something like, "I know I can" or "I’m a hard worker," etc. is no where near enough.  Hiring managers will need to see evidence of exactly that.  If people made their way through college with no track record of going way beyond the "extra mile" they will never get themselves recognized.  Young people early in their careers need to remember, no one hiring for any opening cares about what the job with do for "you," the ONLY thing they care about is what hiring you will do for "them!" 

If you can give them a lot and cost them a little, that’s good.  If you can only give them the same thing a hundred others can do and take up a lot of their valuable time having to be taught things others already know, then there’s little chance of getting hired.  Of course, former first round draft picks, beauty pageant winners, etc. often become exceptions to these rules.

How has your career developed in titles, responsibilities and locations?

I am currently a freelance television Sportscaster working mainly for three different networks; Comcast-CSS based in Atlanta is a regional sports network where I do a substantial amount of feature reporting, hosting and play by play of college sports.  I also spend a great deal of time working for the regional sports network Cox Sports Television, based in New Orleans, where I host a weekly Saturday night sports show year round and other shows during football season, including a fantasy football show and the sanctioned Sunday night wrap-up show for the New Orleans Saints.  In addition to that, I handle play by play of various events for Cox as well.  The fall of 2010 is my first year working with HDNet as an all-access sideline reporter for their telecasts of the new United Football League.  HDNet is a first class operation and it has been a pleasure to work with them.

Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in Sports TV?

When it comes to television sports, people need to first ask themselves how they feel about working nights, weekends and holidays… forever.  If you’re in Sports TV and you are not working nights, weekends and holidays then you do not have a very good job.  In my 32 years in television, I have worked at least 25 Christmas days and perhaps even more Thanksgivings and New Year’s.

sports tv college footballWhen I left my first job in public TV it was for a weekend Sports TV job in Wichita, KS, where I worked many, many seven day weeks without compensation.  My big break came after two and a half years in Wichita when I landed in Dallas, Texas.  The Cowboys play EVERY Thanksgiving Day.  I was in Dallas almost ten years where football ruled and I was gone from home literally from July-January.  My next big break came from CNN Sports where I covered college football and was gone every week through football season and away from home over every New Year’s holiday for the national championship bowl game.  People need to be aware of the realities of working in this business.

If the desire to be in Sports TV is motivated because "it looks like fun" or "I can talk about sports and make a lot of money" get out now. 

The most telling statistic I have heard came from an Executive Producer who met with one of my children who was considering studying television in college.  He told her that if you took every single television or entertainment job in America today, on air, off air, management, all of them and fired everybody, thus creating an opening for every single job in the country… you would still not have enough openings for everyone graduating with a degree in Television, Journalism, Broadcasting and the like THIS YEAR.  That’s how competitive jobs are today. 

If a person is just getting started, realize there will be no substitute for hard work, no easy road to what looks like a cushy job.  If you see someone on the air and it looks easy, you are paying that person a high compliment.  If it really was easy, everyone would be doing it.. and everyone is not.  I have three adult children and none of them have gone in to TV.  But I still love it.. and appreciate every day.

Do you have a memorable story – whether funny, sad or just interesting – that you’d like to share?

The memories are really too many to start trying to recount, from traveling with the Cowboys for ten years to covering Nolan Ryan, college football at CNN, revealing the coaches poll each week to some of the incredible moments that come from calling games (such as doing play by play in 2002 of an Eastern Illinois vs Tennessee State football game in the Ohio Valley Conference for FSN-South when the unknown-at-the-time E. Illinois quarterback set a school record for career touchdown passes.  It was Tony Romo erasing Sean Payton’s name from the books) all the way through the Super Bowl run of the New Orleans Saints and televising their championship parade.  It has been and remains a great run.

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