An Interview with Frank H. Shorr
“Future opportunities for employment in the sports media field lay on the local fronts…Community newspapers and small market television stations… Though they won’t pay on the same scale, the chances of working should be greater and if a journalist can bring multimedia skills to the table, he or she should be able to find employment.”
“Knowing how to cover the story is only half the battle, presenting and marketing the story are just as important. Can you shoot your own video? Can you edit on your laptop? Do you have your own website? Are people following you on Twitter? A no answer to any of those questions can be disastrous if you’re starting out.”
“On-air types get the money, the credit and most of the publicity but a good producer is muchharder to find. You’re part assignment editor, writer, editor, shooter, reporter and all too often, baby sitter.”
Frank H. Shorr: Interviewed on July 27, 2009
Position: Lecturer, Boston University; Director, Sports Institute at BU
Born: 1948, Bay Shore, New York
Education: Boston University, B.S. in Business Administration, 1970; BU, Masters of Science, Broadcasting and Film, 1973
Career: Warner Cable, 1973-1980; WCVB-TV, Boston 1979-80; WNAC/WHDH Channel 7, Boston, 1980-2001
Personal: Married, 3 children, 30, 16 & 11; two dogs: Weezer and Rufus
Favorite restaurant (home): Giancarlo’s, Marblehead, Ma. “took my wife there on our first date…we still laugh about the strolling minstrels!”
Favorite restaurant (away): Chevy’s, Orlando “raised all my kids there and we love the flautas!”
Favorite hotel: Grand Cypress Hyatt, Orlando “great food, great pool, links style golf…a luxury in the middle of the theme parks.”
Excerpted from the course prospectus at The Sports Institute, 2009:
Sports Journalism: Punch your own ticket. Write your way to The Show. Sports Journalism as a practical writing course covering the major formats of game stories, features, columns and player profiles. Learn reporting and interviewing skills, story structure and ways to put color in your copy. The course also offers a look at the job market and the freelance writing business.
Broadcast Sports Journalism: Train to be a Sports Anchor. During each class, we will produce a half-hour episode of “Sports Summer”, a program combining hard news, feature stories, commentary and live guests. We will format, write, edit and produce the show within the three-hour class time. Students will get hands on experience on the Anchor desk and in reporting sports stories from the field. Your resume tape starts here!
Multimedia Sports: Today’s audience wants more than can be delivered through the straight broadcast or print story. In order to stay competitive, today’s outlets are leaning heavily on young journalists with fresh ideas to get the rest of the story out. Learn how to take the time-honored techniques of good storytelling and new techniques in multimedia – video, audio, photos and text – to the web with tools like Final Cut Pro, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, WordPress and other content management systems. At the end of four weeks, you will have a state-of-the-art web presence that will impress and entice future employers.
Sports Seminar: A panel of working journalists will join students in a discussion of a topical sports issue. The panel will be interviewed by the Director of the Institute, followed by a Q and A period by students.
Seminars will cover: Sports in the Television Newsroom; Women in Sports; Agents and Jobs; Sports Journalism; Radio/Internet Sports
Q. Size up future opportunities for employment in sports media?
A. Future opportunities for employment in the sports media field lay on the local fronts. Community newspapers and small market television stations provide the only coverage of those areas,
While major markets concentrate on national sports news, no one but the local newspapers and local TV stations are covering high school and hometown college sports. Though they won’t pay on the same scale, the chances of working should be greater and if a journalist can bring multimedia skills to the table, he or she should be able to find employment.
Interesting enough, however, is that these jobs, long the starting spot for graduating students and first timers, are also being coveted by the people being laid off in larger markets. Their desire to stay in the field is causing more competition at the lower levels.
Q. If you were starting out today how would you prepare for and go after a career in sports media?
A. First and foremost, I’d make sure I was as technologically savvy as I could be. Knowing how to cover the story is only half the battle, presenting and marketing the story are just as important. Can you shoot your own video? Can you edit on your laptop? Do you have your own website? Are people following you on Twitter? A no answer to any of those questions can be disastrous if you’re starting out.
Q. Describe your program at Sports Institute at BU?
A. The Sports Institute is an education-based program combining four sports journalism courses regularly taught at Boston University. Packed into a month, the students get to enjoy Boston and take with them life skills and hopefully the tools for a successful career.
Give us four weeks, we’ll give you a lifetime!
Q. What sports media do you consume and why, and what do you avoid and why?
A. I still read the daily newspapers – old habits die hard – but ESPN.com keeps me up-to-date nationally. I love Boston Media Sports Watch to keep track of the local market. WEEI sports talk radio and Comcast SportsNet are good sources of opinion. NESN, for all its promise, still hasn’t figured out what it wants to be and its insistence on Red Sox, Bruins coverage all the time, is disheartening.
Q. Tell us about your career and your history with John Dennis (WEEI radio, Boston).
A. John and I started working together in 1980 when local television was coming into its own. We saw the birth of live coverage and spent a lot of hours figuring it all out. But it was also the most sustained time in Boston local sports history for non stop high caliber action. For 18 years we worked shoulder to shoulder through an amazing time. John was, and still is, the best interviewer in Boston and I always knew when he was covering a story, we’d have the best material on air. That’s all a producer can ask for.
Q. The good, bad, and ugly of sports talk radio?
A. I guess I expected more journalism from sports talk radio but perhaps that’s my own bias. As Glenn Ordway (WEEI) points out, it really is “narrowcasting”. It’s entertainment. There’s too much yelling from time to time but that’s what happens in a good sports argument, right? It’s an interesting debate.
Q. You were a producer – what makes a good producer?
A. On-air types get the money, the credit and most of the publicity but a good producer is muchharder to find. You’re part assignment editor, writer, editor, shooter, reporter and all too often, baby sitter.
A good producer is truly the person who has to act as intermediary between theforces of evil that stand in the way. While many in the newsroom have very specific jobs to perform, a good producer has to know how to do them all. It helps to be prepared to take the heat and like a good fight.
I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Broadcast News when Holly Hunter’s character, Jane Craig, is cornered by an Executive Producer. He says, “It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you’re the smartest person in the room.” And she says, “No. It’s awful.”
She was totally serious and I understood exactly how she felt. The end result is still the same, did the job get done, butit’s the producer who improves on the recipe, a pinch of this, a pinch of that – dessert is served.
Q. Your thoughts on ESPN’s size and influence over sports coverage?
A. ESPN has fulfilled everything it started out to be and I think right now they are trying to stay current. They are stretching and sometimes not always in the right direction. Their first two ombudsmen, for example, had virtually no television sports background – was that by design? It will be very interesting to see if Don Ohlmeyer sinks his teeth into them. Their penchant for only covering sports they have rights to raises the eyebrows. World Wide Leader, for sure, but not without faults.
(SMG thanks Frank H. Shorr for his cooperation)