Emerson College is known for its theater and film programs, well-placed Hollywood-star alumni, and quirky student pursuits like its Harry Potter-inspired Quidditch team. Now the downtown college is also rapidly making a name for itself as a launching pad for sports broadcasters and writers.
A recent Emerson graduate has been dubbed the nation’s most outstanding collegiate sports broadcaster, and two other Emerson students are ranked in the top 20. Alumni are landing competitive jobs as local sports anchors, play-by-play announcers, and beat writers.
One alumnus covers the Patriots beat for NESN.com, another is the play-by-play announcer for the Green Bay Packers, and more than half a dozen alumni are associate producers at ESPN.
Ross Lippman, who has been named the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America’s top collegiate sports broadcaster, also known as the Jim Nantz award, said the fact that he beat out students at well-known sports broadcasting schools is a testament to Emerson’s strengthening foothold in sports journalism.
“I think it’s Emerson’s best-kept secret,” said Lippman, 22.
‘We have an under-the-radar and consistently strong program.’
Lippman’s resume is lengthy for a newly minted college graduate. He has interned in the sports department at Fox 25 Boston and has won numerous awards, including the New England Emmy Award for Outstanding Long Form News Piece, and the Associated Press Award for Best Sports Program for “Inside the Grapefruit League,” which appeared on WEBN Boston, Emerson’s television station. He is starting this month as a sports anchor/reporter at Fox 44 in Vermont.
Jon Chelesnik, chief executive of the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America, a company that assists sportscasters with their job search, said that Emerson graduates are “so polished and so ready for the job market” in the highly competitive field, comparing them to alumni at Syracuse University, a school that is highly regarded for its sports broadcasting curriculum.
“That’s pretty incredible for a school that small to be putting out sportscasters, quality sportscasters, as the same rate proportionally as Syracuse,” he said.
Chelesnik said that after watching the first 20 seconds of Lippman’s broadcast reel, he knew that he would rank in the top six.
“With Ross, his ability immediately jumps out at you,” Chelesnik said, adding, “He’s got the obvious performance attributes — poise, warmth, and he’s a great writer.”
In addition to Lippman, Emerson junior Bianca Buono ranked 16th, and senior Jaclyn Cangro came in at 17. In 2012, three Emerson students were named to the top 20, and in 2011, one Emerson student made the list.
Last year, then Emerson seniors Lily Zhao and Samantha Russo were the first two women to be named top collegiate sportscasters by the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America.
Zhao now works as a sports anchor in Michigan, where she report, films, edits, and anchors segments — all skills she honed at Emerson.
“They are teaching real-life skills,” she said of Emerson.
Janet Kolodzy, a journalism professor at Emerson, said that when the program was gaining notoriety in the early 2000s, the college experienced an influx of students who were interested in sports journalism. To accommodate this need, the college hired ESPN sportscaster John Rooke to teach a regular course.
Kolodzy, who also serves as the internship coordinator, said there are ample internship and work opportunities for Emerson students in the “sports crazy town” of Boston. She said her students frequently intern for sports outlets ESPN, NESN, and WEEI radio in Boston, and in the sports departments of Fox 25 and WHDH-TV.
“We have an under-the-radar and consistently strong program,” she said.
Rooke said that the sports journalism industry is more competitive than ever because of budget cuts and the need for journalists to also be fluent in online formats and social media.
“You’ve really got to be a bulldog to have success,” Rooke said.
As an instructor of “old school” thought and “new school” techniques, Rooke said he teaches his students how to appear on broadcasts as well as podcasts, and to write prose as well as 140 Twitter characters.
“It takes tremendous versatility to go back and forth between these mediums,” he said.
Rooke, who persuaded a number of his students to apply for the Sportscasters Talent Agency contest, credits his students’ work ethic and other Emerson professors who accommodate students whose passion is in sports journalism.
His students often take on professional assignments for his class, such as covering Bruins and Celtics games, as well as the National Football League draft.
Competing with professional reporters, he said, is the best way to learn.
“I encourage all of my students to shoot for the stars but catch the moon,” he said. “If they do that, they will be wildly successful.”
Rooke said he is looking forward to training many more sports journalists.
“It’s fantastic,” he said of his students’ achievements. “I feel like a proud father.”