Communication: Intern conducts one-on-one interviews with top names in Pittsburgh sports
In the spring of his junior year, Nick Farrell found himself sitting in a warm room, waiting to interview for an internship with his favorite sports station. Dozens of young men and women had entered and exited the room before him, all with the same nervous look and polished appearance. When Farrell’s turn came, he answered questions with confidence and experience, naming the many activities he led at Waynesburg University and referencing his famous Waynesburg professor and mentor, Lanny Frattare. After the interview, Farrell stood to shake the man’s hand who would soon become his summer internship supervisor.
That day, Farrell earned a coveted position with KDKA, a CBS radio station in Pittsburgh, Pa., and soon began working 20 hours each week with the station. The communication (sports broadcasting/sports information) major’s responsibilities changed each day as he found himself reporting Pittsburgh Pirates and Riverhounds games for The Fan, a popular KDKA radio show, and covering the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club.
“When I was in the field covering one of those sporting events, my duties included going into the locker room before and after games and recording sound, then editing that sound for use on the air. In the studio, I normally screened calls, cut interviews and segments for reuse at a later date and I learned how to operate the sound board,” Farrell said. “A day at the ballpark/golf course included watching the events take place, taking notes and then asking intelligent questions to players and coaches.”
Though he felt incredibly prepared from his time in the Waynesburg University television studio, newspaper room, radio station and through his memberships with the University chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and Lambda Pi Eta, Farrell said little could prepare him for the shock of interviewing some of the nation’s greatest names in sports.
“I was pretty timid at first,” Farrell said. “Going into the Pirates clubhouse and seeing not just the players, but also the other members of the media at work, was intimidating. It took me a couple of days to work up the courage to ask questions during interviews with so many people around.”
He began preparing his post-game questions during the game and practiced “assertive asking” and “intelligent questions” on his friends and even in his mirror. By the end of the first week, Farrell felt more confident forcing himself into the “media scrum” to obtain the best sound bites for KDKA.
“My top moment is my one-on-one interview with Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II,” Farrell said. “It was a brief interview; but it was so neat to talk to such an important sports figure and, on top of that, they played my sound on The Fan over and over that day.”
He even achieved a life goal that summer – albeit accidentally. Farrell recalled the day he was shown on SportsCenter for about 20 seconds every hour. ESPN came to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ organized team activities one day while Farrell was wrapping an interview with Brett Keisel.
“There was a mob of media surrounding Emmanuel Sanders, a wide receiver for the Steelers. I finished my interview with Keisel, saw the media scrum, and tried to sneak my mic in,” Farrell said. “There were at least a dozen people circling Sanders and at least four other camera men, so I had to stand behind Sanders and wrap my arm around him to get my mic in the proper place.”
Midway through the interview, Farrell realized that ESPN had a camera pointed directly at Sanders with the young Waynesburg reporter’s arm around him. Sure enough, ESPN aired the interview all day with Farrell and Sanders looking like close friends.
“That was pretty cool,” Farrell said. “Now that I’ve been on ESPN once, my goal is to get back there and stick around for more than just 20 seconds.”
As an aspiring sports broadcaster, that’s one dream that Farrell feels confident can come true, thanks in large part to his time at Waynesburg University.
“There’s no question that I was prepared for the challenges of the internship because of my experience at Waynesburg,” he said. “My radio classes and experience as a DJ made me familiar with audio editing and engineering before I even set foot in one of the Fan’s studios. Even my print classes helped me because, in them, I learned so much about interviewing and creating an intriguing story line.”
Farrell, who’s been awarded substantial Waynesburg University scholarship money each year to total nearly half the cost of Waynesburg's tuition, says the University’s affordability was the deciding factor for his enrollment.
“While Waynesburg is already one of the most affordable schools in the area, these scholarships made it by far the most affordable of the schools I considered, Farrell said. “The affordability, combined with Waynesburg's great staff and commitment to excellence, has made my college experience a fantastic one. I know that choosing Waynesburg for my college education is one of the best decisions I've ever made.”
That choice led him to an unbelievable internship, one that he’ll remember forever and one that will set him apart when applying for jobs.
“I returned to Waynesburg in the fall with professional experience, a better understanding of how professional radio stations operate and new ideas for the campus radio station,” Farrell said. “I no longer have that fear of making a mistake in front of professional athletes or media. I’m a lot more confident in my skills as a writer and radio host because of my first-hand experience.”