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Tim Franklin- Director, National Sports Journalism Center

Indiana University

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SportsTVJobs.com: Hi I’m Brian Clapp founder of SportsTVJobs.com, Tim Franklin is an award-winning journalist who has been a reporter and senior editor at the Chicago Tribune and led their sports section. He has also been the top editor at the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Indianapolis Star.

Now Mr. Franklin is the Director of the National Sports Journalism Center at his alma mater Indiana University, Tim Franklin thanks for a moment of your time.

Franklin: Great to be here Brian, thanks for having me.

SportsTVJobs.com: Indiana University has the nation’s only Masters in Sports Journalism program – and for undergrads in the School of Journalism there is a specific Sports concentration – what are the major differences developing a Sports Journalist and developing a News Journalist?

Franklin: Good question the fundamentals are obviously the same, reporting and writing, ethics, accuracy all those things bridge news, sports, features all the elements, all the platforms of journalism actually. But there are unique aspects of sports for example on the broadcast side you need to know play by play which is something you don’t need to know on the news side.

Sports is much more event driven than some other news is, and sports is more visual, there’s a real emphasis on multimedia and digital sports journalism on both our undergraduate and graduate program. In the graduate program, you look for example on what is happening on the labor situation in the NFL and the NBA, well we offer a class in sports journalism law, so people coming out of the program know the basics of contract law, labor law, intellectual property law, how broadcasting rights work between the networks and the leagues. Things you absolutely need to know in sports, but wouldn’t need to know in most other forms of media. This semester we’re doing a deep dive research project into profits and losses of college athletics programs, so you’re really developing an understanding of not just how to do research and how to build databases and do computer-assisted reporting, which is a big part of news, but you’re really also learning how college sports works so when you get out in the field and you’re reporting stories you really have an understanding of the business aspect of sports not just the athletic aspect.

SportsTVJobs.com: Real world experience is so important for students, in 2010 you created a ‘Student News Bureau’ to cover College Basketball’s Final Four – how did that program come about and are there plans to grow it in the future?

Franklin: I think it’s critical for students to get experience in the “real world” covering sporting events and having the experience of working on deadline. So myself and a couple other faculty members from the school of journalism went to the NCAA last year and gave them a proposal for this Student News Bureau. We believe that this is something that fulfills the NCAA’s mission of providing value to its members and also helping to train the journalists of the future. It is also something special for our students and provides them great experience. They [the NCAA] had never done this before so it was unchartered territory for both of us, and they agreed to it.

We had full access credentials for 5 days over the NCAA Men’s Final Four last year we had about 13 students from the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses that were chosen out of 30 applicants and it was a phenomenal experience. They wrote and filed blogs and took pictures for 72 commercial and print news organizations. We had students that had the lead stories in sports sections around the country, which was a real charge for them. Also, photographs in major publications around the country. Then you add to that Butler, a local university, was in the final four and the whole city here in Indianapolis was electric, it was a special experience.

Now the NCAA has agreed to another Student News Bureau for the Women’s Final Four which is in Indianapolis this spring, so students will be applying for that and they’ll have access to cover the Women’s Final Four. My hope is that we can add to these experiential learning experiences for students, maybe doing other NCAA championship events. We’re lucky the NCAA is based here, and the Final Four comes through here every 5 years, but maybe we can take the Student News Bureau on the road at some point.

It’s not just really the Final Four I’m taking a group of students down to Florida during spring break and we’re going to study at the Poynter Institute and in addition to that we’re going to cover Baseball Spring Training doing live game stories, blogging and some multimedia there which will be a great experience for the students.

SportsTVJobs.com: I’m sure you get a wide range of students, some interested in print or online media, others interested in television & radio – what opportunities are there at IU for those interested in sports broadcasting careers?

Franklin: That’s a great question for a couple of reasons; first of all we have to offer a wide range of course instruction and real world instruction so that we are covering all the basics in the various platforms. But the other reason Brian is that the media, especially the sports media faster than some other portions of the media, are converging, so in one box in one iPad or one laptop or one computer screen you have text, audio and video all coming together in one place. What we emphasize to students is you have to know how to do all of this. You don’t necessarily have to be a Pulitzer prize winning photographer or the next Frank Deford as a writer, but you have to be excellent in one of those and know how to do it all.

We just had the National Sports Editors convention here in Indianapolis, we had 100 top online and print sports editors from around the country here and they did a panel for the students and they all emphasized this convergence. Newspapers don’t consider themselves “newspapers” anymore they call themselves news organizations that are sending out content on various platforms. I think that that is only going to accelerate in the next few years as broadband becomes more ubiquitous in households and in the workplace. I talk to Sportscasters and they say “I’m now writing game previews and game write-ups for the website, in addition to going on air and doing broadcasts.” There is so much more traffic to local TV websites than there has ever been so you really do need to have all those fundamentals and basics.

SportsTVJobs.com: Technology continues to change journalism – many fantastic sports journalists have left the newspaper industry and moved over to online publications – Twitter, Facebook & you tube have changed news gathering forever – how does Indiana prepare students for what is next, while also maintaining good fundamentals of journalism?

Franklin: Well everything starts with the fundamentals you have to build that foundation first by being an excellent, aggressive, smart reporter who can get it right, who knows how to get the facts, who knows where to get the facts, who knows how to be honest, and balanced in the coverage that they provide to readers and viewers. If you don’t have the fundamentals you can’t do all the other stuff you have to do. The basics are at the foundation of everything. You need to know the technology and how to use it and in fact embrace it…but you can’t let the technology drive the entire program.

It is really is about journalistic fundamentals and having those down, and using the technology to get your message out and to do story-telling. Story telling is so much more complicated, when I came out of the Indiana University journalism school if you were a good reporter and a good writer that’s what it was all about – now you have to be so much more than that. You have to have all these other tools in the toolbox to succeed in the sports business. We’re giving students the background and the basics in the technology and how to use it – as you say twitter and facebook, major stories break on twitter and facebook. As a journalist you have to be able to write in 140 characters and 140 inches.

SportsTVJobs.com: do you teach that class – how to write in 140 characters? (laughing)

Franklin: Well in the graduate program one of the first classes students take is in digital sports journalism and we talk about the differences in writing for blogs, for twitter and for Sports Illustrated. At the core they are all the same but there are differences, blogs are more casual than the narrative writing you’d find in a magazine or newspaper.

SportsTVJobs.com: You’ve graduated many great sports journalists from your program – what would you say are the common traits exhibited by those who have had stand out careers?

Franklin: Passion. Its’ all about passion, it’s passion for storytelling it’s having that curiosity to get the story and to want to get the story but everything starts with passion for journalism and passion for sports. You have to have both, because these are really hard jobs.

One IU alum is Sage Steele the Sportscenter anchor for ESPN, who I think is a real rising star at ESPN, she’s a person who knew from an early age what she wanted to do and really pursued that dream and obviously it’s played out very well for her. It’s fun to see somebody who at that age knows what they want to do and then goes after it and then succeeds.

SportsTVJobs.com: So many of the interviews I have done, you’ll hear people recount a story of when they were 11 and saw a certain event that really inspired them, it seems that most people in the sports industry have that moment that told them this is something I want to do for a career because it’s something I feel so strongly about.

Franklin: My older brother was a part time sports writer, when I was a kid I would tag along with him to games and thought this was the best job in the world! You get in for free, you get to sit courtside or on the sidelines during the game, then you go into the locker room and talk to the players and coaches about what just happened and at the end you get to go in and write. I thought well how cool is this, this has to be the best job you can get and it might just be the best job you can get.

SportsTVJobs.com: In addition to your work with college-age students, in 2010 IU created the “Diversity Sports Media Institute” which provides hands on learning opportunities for inner city youth, how has this program been received and what is its future?

Franklin: We went to the McCormick foundation in Chicago a little over a year ago and one of the questions we had was how can we reach out to at-risk students in the inner city and show them a way into sports beyond the court or the playing field. Get them to graduate from High School, into higher education and help them on a professional career path. I think sports are a real way to connect, especially with minority males where the dropout rate is extremely high in cities like Indianapolis and Chicago.

The McCormick foundation generously gave us a grant for our first program last summer; it’s a deep dive immersion into sports media. By the end of 5 days one group of students produced a 30 minute TV show which ended up airing statewide on Indiana public broadcasting. The other students created a sports website where they had stories and photo galleries and video, it’s a very well done website. During the week they were able to interview Isiah Thomas the Indiana University grad and Basketball Hall of Famer, they interviewed David Aldridge the TNT Basketball analyst, we had Fred Mitchell Hall of Fame sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Tom Crean who is the head basketball coach at IU, Ron Hunter who is the head basketball coach at IUPUI, they got to meet all these people and have a conversation with them and then they got to write about it to the world or broadcast it to the world. I was thrilled with how it turned out.

McCormick has increased it grant to us this year so we are going to do two this summer, one in Chicago and one In Indianapolis. I’m really excited to see this program take off, I have already heard from a few of the students who have told me that they are going to go into sports media and they are going to major in journalism next year.

SportsTVJobs.com: Tim what a great program, you have to be so proud, for more information on the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University and any of the programs we have talked about today visit sportsjournalism.org. Tim Franklin thanks so much.

Franklin: My pleasure Brian.