NORTH METRO ATLANTA — The coronavirus pandemic put a hard stop to sports at all levels in mid-March, leaving sports journalists out in the cold.
Filling TV airtime and newspaper pages without any games to cover, most seasoned writers have made due adjusting to the altered landscape. But with the complete absence of live games, those studying sports journalism in school are facing an added burden.
Carlo Finlay, assistant director of Grady Sports Media at the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication at UGA, said the adjustment for his classes been significant.
“It has been tough,” Finlay said. “Our first class, intro to sports journalism, is based on going to a sports game, and when that disappears, what do we do?”
Finlay said this semester had been building up to covering the NCAA Final Four Media Day in Atlanta, and the cancellation of the event was hard on his students.
“We have helped them come up with story ideas and did what we could, but without live sporting events, it’s not the same,” he said.
Amelia Ray Green, a 2018 graduate of Cambridge High School, is wrapping up her second year at the University of Georgia. She is a public relations major with an English minor and is pursuing a sports media certificate from UGA’s Grady College.
Along with her classmates, Green’s studies were completely altered by the cancellation and postponement of sports seasons. Instead of covering live events, Green compiled pieces on prior seasons, created an infographic and story on Baylor’s men’s basketball and compiled an article on the impact to senior runners in Blessed Trinity’s track and field program.
However, those assignments do not fully replace covering live events.
“Nothing can match or compare with the real-life experience of sports,” Green said. “That’s the point of going to things like [the Final Four media day] and games. You learn so much from talking to people and by doing and learning from your mistakes.”
Recently, most of her time has been spent polishing pieces she had compiled before the pandemic.
Green credited her instructors for pivoting the curriculum on almost no notice.
“The professors did a good job of helping us continue developing our skills,” she said. “UGA itself has done an outstanding job in handling this situation.”
The pandemic’s impact to Green’s education extends beyond the classroom. She applied for 10 summer internships. All of them have been nixed.
Cecily Stoute, a sophomore at UGA and graduate of Chattahoochee High School, had a slew of events set for the spring, from the Final Four media day to Atlanta United matches, UGA women’s basketball games and UGA gymnastics meets.
“My sports reporting class was directly affected,” Stoute said. “It pretty much caused a halt in all our upcoming projects.”
As a substitute, Green reported on factors and critical stats that led to the success of LSU men’s basketball in the abbreviated 2019-20 season, and she wrote a piece on how three former Chattahoochee football players are dealing with the pandemic.
Stoute said she was drawn to sports journalism to keep in the game if she decides not to extend her athletic career to the professional level. In addition to covering sports, Stoute is a defender on the women’s soccer team at UGA.
“Honestly, that has been the toughest part from this whole thing,” she said. “Having no clue when we can go back to training is really hard. I don’t have many resources, and there is only so much you can do on your own when soccer is a team sport. I definitely miss my team and our field.”
As all sports fans await the return of all live sports, Green is ready to jump back into what she believes will be a reinvigorated sports atmosphere.
“I’ve come to realize that sports is so much more than numbers and how athletes perform,” Green said. “It’s the community glue for some cities, and now more than ever we need that sense of belonging. I think things will come back stronger than before, and all this anticipation will pay off. Everyone has had a lot of time to think about things, and I think that will be really beneficial for the sports world. Whether its those in sports media, sports journalists, or just the athletes themselves, this is going to give them a lot more motivation.”