Journalism, Ohio University

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Sitting at the controls in an ESPN truck outside of Peden Stadium.

Wednesday is Always a Party in Athens, a sign read during the Ohio vs. Temple football game the earlier this week. Although I don’t really believe that the sign’s statement is indicative of my study habits, the Bobcats sure did put on quite a show.

Maybe it was the blackout that packed the student section to the gills. Or maybe it was ESPN planting its cameras up and down the sidelines. Either way, Ohio impressed almost 20,000 people with a close win over Temple, an emerging rival in the Mid-American Conference’s East Division.

Okay, enough of that junk.

If you cared about the game you would have read about it already. If you really want to know, I had the best seat in the house, so just give me a holler.

The best seat in the house, you ask?

I guess it technically wasn’t in the house — more in the parking lot, if we are getting picky. The best view of the game wasn’t from the sidelines — where I usually stand — or from the press box, where my counterparts were typing away. It wasn’t the front row of the Ozone, Ohio’s student section. Heck, it wasn’t from your couch at home, even though that would have been pretty comfortable on what was a pretty cool, but beautiful night.

The best view of Ohio’s victory over the Owls was in front of 55 TV screens. Nope, not Buffalo Wild Wings. They have like 10.

I’m starting to feel like I should go on with the story. I watched a football game from inside the ESPN truck Wednesday.

And man, was it an experience.

My week under ESPN’s wing started on Monday, when I chatted with producer Wayne Edwards on the phone. He invited me to interview the crew Tuesday morning before everything started getting moving.

As soon as I showed up, I was welcomed with open arms, which was weird because I figured that there is a kid like me pretty much every week who wants to know everything about everything and bugs the crap out of them. I walked into one of the two semi trailers that the television giant had set up and was greeted by at least six or seven people that were willing to talk with me.

Woah! Now there’s a first.

I ended up getting a really great feature story out of the trip, in addition to a more typical, “this is how ESPN works” story. One of the technical directors, Brad Shaffer, is an Ohio graduate. Cha-ching!

The guy was great, and said that I should look him up on Facebook. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.

Oh yeah, and he was the one who told me to come back and “chill” with them for the evening broadcast.

I showed up Wednesday night with no real bearing of how the game was going to go. Would the crew tear each other apart throughout the game, yelling and trying to one-up each other over the headsets? Would the trailer be a little out of control, hectic and heated?

The answer to both, simply, was no.

Edwards directed his troops — 24 of them — with what seemed like ease. All the pieces of the puzzle fit together very well. Each of the men (weirdly, all men, except for one of the directors that I didn’t notice much) played his role professionally and coolly.

The crew only raised its voice once, near the end of the fourth quarter when there was a totally unexpected fumble, which caused major confusion in the truck. Other than that, you’d never guess that the guys were directing a broadcast for an audience of millions.

It was amazing to me what went into the production. Not only does the crew control the camera angles and which shots are being used at what particular point, but they also control the animations, sound, and interaction with Sportscenter, which was always on tap from the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT.

Overall, this was one of the coolest things I have done yet, journalistically. It was really cool to see what goes into making a telecast, not just checking out a final product on TV. You see the cameramen running down the sidelines, cords being coiled and uncoiled, coaches’ challenges being reviewed and everything else you wish you saw at home.

And it’s all happening at once — each on a different pattern of the 55 TVs.

I don’t know if I could ever see myself doing what they do, although I do have a newfound respect for what goes into such a major production. Really, I don’t know if those guys even consider themselves journalists. I don’t think any of them had journalism degrees.

I live blogged throughout my entire six-hour stay in the truck. To my surprise, the blog entry was wildly successful. Over 1,100 hits were recorded and I had a ton of positive feedback from people that normally don’t give a hoot about anything journalistic or sports related.

All in all, I think I could get used to doing what they do for a living. It’s cool to me that many of the crew members flew in from around the country to work the game. One even flew in from China, where he was covering mixed martial arts. I’d love to be on that level someday. For some reason, I don’t think that is completely unattainable, either.

Where I’m at now, it’d be crazy to think that in the future people will be paying me to fly from city to city, game to game. But at the same time, that’s what they all say.

I’m typing this from the front seat of my car, which is parked in a high school parking lot at the point where the borders of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia meet. It’s going to be a long road somewhere… even longer than the road it took me to get here. However, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a blast, actually. For now, though, I’ve got a game to cover — my last high school football matchup for quite some time, probably.

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My name is Jim Ryan, and I'm a breaking news reporter for The Oregonian and OregonLive in Portland. I'm an Ohio University graduate from Gaylord, Michigan.

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