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Rob King

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I believe in the magic of Facebook.

Well, maybe not the magic. But the healing and redemptive powers. The ability to bridge gaps.

The reason—Rob King.

A couple of years ago, I really disliked Rob. Did I know him personally? Eh, no. But back when I was a columnist for ESPN.com, Rob was in charge of the entity. Toward the end of my gig (it was freelance, and I stopped for a reason I can’t actually remember), the website agreed to run an excerpt from my forthcoming Roger Clemens biography. I was psyched, thrilled, euphoric. Then, because I am actually quite stupid, I wrote a post on this blog listing 10 things I disliked about ESPN. It was merely a flip entry. No good reason. Just … because.

Anyhow, the day before the excerpt was scheduled to run, an ESPN.com editor told me that Rob—upset over my blog post—changed his mind. Goodbye Roger Clemens material. Farewell, direct link from ESPN.com to Amazon.

Man, was I pissed. P-I-S-S-E-D. I ripped Rob to my friends and family members; swore off ESPN and … and … and …

I was wrong. Like, not even close to being right. You don’t ask for a favor, then slam the favor giver. It was stupid and short-sighted and—via, Facebook, months and months later—I acknowledged to Rob that he was correct and I was a toad. And, with that, we became Facebook chums.

Rob and I chat from time to time, and he’s great people. He’s also had a tremendous career, rising from newspaper obscurity to the head and overseer of SportsCenter. Here, Rob talks Stuart Scott, The Network and why, in a digital age, ESPN’s signature show still matters.

Rob King, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Before we really get into this, Rob, I’d love to know—with his recent passing—how will you remember Stuart Scott?

ROB KING: A ferociously proud father. A trailblazer. A relentlessly competitive athlete. A kind, generous, courageous man who embraced new friends, cherished old friends and understood our profound responsibility to show humanity to one another.

How will I remember Stuart Scott? Every day. Every single day.

J.P.: OK, Rob, so earlier this year you were named the Senior Vice President, SportsCenter and News, jumping over from digital and news. My question is this: Does SportsCenter still matter and—even if the answer is yes—how can it continue to matter? What I mean is—we have access to information at all times. Smart phone, tablet, laptop—whatever. We don’t need to wait for a broadcast to deliver information. So how do you keep a popular program rolling when, it seems, we don’t really need a popular program?

R.K.: Here’s a shocker: I think SportsCenter still matters! More important, by orders of measure: fans think SportsCenter matters.

It matters because the very idea of SportsCenter has always centered on more than just being “a popular show.” SportsCenter is a promise to fans. Wherever, whenever something happens in the world of sports, our team is driven to serve fans with the very best information, perspective and original content.

We bust it to produce engaging, unforgettable television, but we also expend the same energy to provide that level of service across digital-native environments: social platforms, mobile screens, etc.  And fans hold us to that promise, believe me. My TweetDeck dashboard includes a channel that monitors activity around “@SportsCenter.” Everything we put on air and every piece of content we post online or on our social handles generate immense feedback, positive and negative.

In the end, SportsCenter has a unique and cherished place in the hearts and minds of sports fans. We view this as our dearest possession and our greatest responsibility.

With Tallulah.
With Tallulah.

J.P.: I recently moved to California, and I’m at the gym during the late-night SportsCenter. The two anchors are usually Stan and Neil and—just being honest—they sorta irk me. Actually, lemme rephrase. They don’t irk me. They seem like nice, fun guys. But the schtick irks me. Constant jokes, comments, laughs, catch phrases. Dammit, I just wanna know what happened. My question is: What’s the line between delivering sports news and making it sports news/entertainment?

R.K.: Wait a sec! Your first question just got through explaining that you already know what happened.

Truth is, we’re charged with serving an array of sports fans. Avid fans know much of the news of the day, but still enjoy interacting with the informed perspective and unique personalities on our shows. Casual fans may or may not know every headline or each new development. Some fans receive mobile alerts or see highlight clips shortly after plays happen. Others have heard about the play, or have seen a version of the clip but want to know a little more about the context of the action.

Our anchors accept the challenge of serving the diverse needs of the audience, and they do it with a mixture of authority, humor, and curiosity. Yes, there’s an important level of utility to what SportsCenter provides—scores and highlights, as fast and as complete as possible. But the other imperative—wonder—shouldn’t be ignored. Not only do fans what to know what happened, they also want to know what might happen, or how something happened, or what’s likely to happen next. And because sports routinely delivers an Odell Beckham Jr. catch or a Russell Westbrook lane attack, fans also want to connect with people – our anchors and analysts – who are every bit as excited about these moments as they are.

By the way, you and I see Stan Verrett and Neil Everett very differently. I think they’re amazing. And man, they work hard at what they do.

J.P.: You and I are both print guys. We started at newspapers, worked at newspapers for a long time. I wonder how you feel about the death of print. When you hear of newspapers folding and staffs being cut back and six-page sections, does your heart break? Or do you simply see it as an inevitable transition?

R.K.: So let me go “silver-lining” first. There’s more writing and more reading being done out there than ever before. So when we talk about the death of print, we’re really just talking about a particular form of distribution of the written word. Writers and editors matter and will continue to do so, it says here.

But yes, my heart does break when I hear of the gradual dissolution of newspaper and magazine newsrooms. So many friends have moved away from journalism and storytelling, and that’s an incalculable loss to society, to culture, even to fair, responsible government.

I also ache for those who are attempting to re-imagine the business model against a backdrop of breathtaking volatility. Change may be inevitable, but transition is far too genteel a term for what’s going on these days.

As you know, a hallmark of the business—lousy hours and so-so pay aside—was that it was fun, and you always went to work hopeful to discover a new story or publish something fascinating. I hate watching the hope seep out of newsrooms.

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J.P.: It’s no secret that, in big-time televised sports involving male athletes, women seem to have a marginal role: Perky sideline reporters. Often blonde, often young, often charged with asking a couple of lame questions. Rob, why do you think women aren’t doing play by play or color commentary? Certainly there are women in media who are more than qualified, no?

R.K.: I’m proud to work at a place that has recognized the play-by-play talent of folks like Doris Burke, Beth Mowins and Cara Capuano. Lisa Salters, Julie Foudy and Maria Taylor are unique performers who report with creativity, tenacity and fairness. Across our networks, whip-smart journalists such as Jemele Hill, Heather Dinich, Kate Fagan and Jane McManus are constantly redefining the “margins” within which women can perform.

It’s an honor to have Hannah Storm, Linda Cohn, Suzy Kolber and Chris McKendry—trailblazers who have excelled in each of the roles you mention above – as colleagues and mentors to everyone in our shop.

I don’t mean to duck your question, because its basic premise—that we have miles to go before we can claim true equal opportunity—is one I wholeheartedly agree with. I would simply be remiss if I didn’t point out that our company is committed to leading this necessary change. An important part of that commitment is empowering women in decision-making roles, and that’s an enormous priority across all of ESPN.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t say that blonde hair isn’t a sin, and it doesn’t signal uniformity of intellect. Holly Rowe, Sam Ponder and Britt McHenry are hardly the same people, but each is experienced, talented, informed and essential to our mission.

J.P.: I know you attended Wesleyan and Penn State, know you started at the Commercial-News in Danville, Illinois. But … what’s your path? What I mean is, why journalism? When did you know? What was the bug? The moment? The incident that made you realize, “This is what I want to do with my life?”

R.K.: All I ever wanted to be was a cartoonist. That’s it. You know that Malcolm Gladwell theory about the 10,000 hours? Well, that’s how I spent mine, from the time I was about 4 or 5 until I hung up my brush and pen in 1997. I copied comic book art, swiped “How-to-Draw” books from libraries, won book fair poster contests and pored over newspaper comic strips.

In seventh grade, I read an article about famed St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial cartoonist Bill Maudlin and thought, “That’s it. That’s what I’ll be.” I joined the junior high newsletter and the yearbook committee and began my career.

When I got to Wesleyan, my plan was to major in government and minor in art. I did neither, choosing instead to major in English and waste time clinging to the edge of the men’s basketball team’s bench. When I graduated without a portfolio or an NBA contract, I returned to the ignominy of my parents’ house. Luckily, I got a job sorting mail at the Washington Post, where Ben Bradlee strode the hallways and Herblock, the Post’s legendary editorial cartoonist, took me in as a mentee. The Post newsroom immediately felt like home. On occasional Sundays, Bob Woodward would ask me to accompany him to Baskin-Robbins, where he’d buy ice cream for everybody in the office. Herblock demanded that I draw a cartoon a day and bring it to him each day to review.

So that’s where I first fell in love with newspapers and journalism.

I managed to sell several cartoons at the Post, lucked into a one-year university fellowship at Penn State, and took the first gig that would let me be a cartoonist—in Danville, Illinois. I didn’t pay much attention to the job offer apparently, because once I arrived at the 27,000-circulation paper, I learned that I was also an assignment reporter and a graphic artist, too.

After a year, two weeks and three days in Danville (not that I was counting), I moved on to Gannett newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J. and Louisville. Both places let me do cartoons, including a daily comic strip called “The Family Business.” The strip lasted six years and earned me zero dollars, as both newspapers also required that I also perform real work in the design and photo departments.

The work apart from cartooning introduced me to two new passions: storytelling and working with people. Cartoonists are solitary performers, especially in collegial settings like a newsroom. I found that I’m happier and more productive when I’m part of a team. And writing and editing—key cartooning skills, as it happens—have never felt like actual work.

I “retired” from cartooning when my wife and I moved back east to be closer to family. Again, I lucked into a sports designer role at the Philadelphia Inquirer, which turned into bigger assignments over the ensuing seven years. I left visual journalism for sports in 1998, taking on a deputy sports editor job that had one unforgettable perk: meeting and befriending one Stephen A. Smith. That’s right, I admit it.

I departed the Inquirer as deputy managing editor and joined ESPN, plunging headlong into sports TV in 2004. After three years in studio production, featuring work with Outside the Lines, ESPNews and our golf and NBA studio shows, I moved to ESPN.com as its editor-in-chief. The next six years were a Digital/Print blur that introduced me to a redesign of the web site, oversight of ESPN The Magazine, espnW and the Local sites and a host of product developments.

And now I’m back in studio production, working in an environment where storytelling and teamwork and visual creativity are the lingua franca. Looking back, it almost feels as though there was something of a path. Let’s pretend there was.

J.P.: Serious question—why do we continue to place former athletes in the TV both? With v-e-r-y rare exception, they never add any genuine insight, and oftentimes they speak in clichés and nonsense drivel. I know you’re gonna disagree, but am I REALLY wrong? Are Ray Lewis and Trent Dilfer telling me anything a guy who’s watched tons of football can’t?

R.K.: Yep, I disagree. Trent Dilfer’s breadth of knowledge of how to play the QB position is astonishing, if you ask me. Trevor Matich teaches a master class every time he talks. Cris Carter has been amazing all season long. And I have never heard Tom Jackson offer anything but passionate, genuine, heartfelt insight. I can think of dozens of others, including newer performers like Kara Lawson, Danny Kannell, Taylor Twellman and Brian Griese , who have made a huge difference in our shows. Dag, I forgot Jay Bilas! Curt Schilling! Jalen Rose!

Argh, this question got me all aggravated. Next question!

J.P.: I used to work at Sports Illustrated, and there were, literally, two African-Americans on staff, I mean, it was pathetic—we’re covering fields that are heavily minority represented, yet we didn’t reflect that demographic at all. I’m wondering, as an African-American man, if you’re satisfied with diversity in the sports media. Do you feel like enough strides have been made? Is there still resistance? And have you ever felt, throughout your career, that employers or co-workers viewed you with skepticism or limited respect because of race?

R.K.: The answer here mirrors the earlier discussion about women in sports media. No, much more can be done, and yes, resistance exists in pockets. Happily, at every level at ESPN and across the Disney Company, we’ve embraced Diversity and Inclusion as a core company value. This isn’t just about numbers, it’s about opportunity and education and smart business. It’s about getting the very best out of people. To your point, it’s about positioning ourselves to be reflective of the audience we’re trying to serve.

And yeah, I have encountered skepticism throughout my career. My parents worked hard to prepare my siblings and me for this as we grew up. They emphasized the importance of integrity and intelligence and being willing to burn the last drop of midnight oil. They also emphasized that this wasn’t just about us. It’s also about respecting the sacrifices they and others made for us. And it’s about honoring the colleagues in our current workplaces and the generations to come.

My daughter is the LeBron James of 7-year-old West Hartford, CT soccer, and she deserves a career in sports if she wants one. With that at stake, I can withstand a little skepticism.

J.P.: Do you ever feel dizzy? It just seems like everything in the business changes every five seconds. It’s all about websites! No, Twitter! No, tablets! We need shorter articles! No, we need longer articles! How do you keep up? And how do you know what’s around the corner? Is it even possible to know?

R.K.: Change isn’t a problem in our world, it is our world. Audiences have changing expectations. Technology continually offers solutions to new problems. Consumption of content is constant. So is production. We aren’t going backward, so we may as well buckle up. I think it’s exciting to ask how we should tell stories in a world in which more than half of our audience will a) view them on a tiny screen, b) discover them on a social feed, or c) try to consume the content while in transit, bringing inconsistent mobile data speeds into play.

Earlier, I talked about folks who are attempting to reimagine the business model against a backdrop of breathtaking volatility. Well, that isn’t just the duty of business types. We content folks share that same responsibility.  We should be energized by bold attempts to attack these problems, like Medium and BuzzFeed and Vox. And we need to join in.

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J.P.: Back in 2010 I released a Roger Clemens biography, “The Rocket that Fell to Earth.” You were heading ESPN.com at the time, and the site was going to run an excerpt. Then, a few days beforehand, I wrote a blog post (Top 10 Things That Irk Me About ESPN), and you decided not to run the excerpt. I was bitter at the time—genuinely bitter. I mean, I’d spent the preview two years writing regularly for the site. But, when I really reflected, I understood it was a stupid move on my part—don’t shit on someone doing you a favor. This is my lead in to a long question—how protective are you of ESPN? How important is it to you to defend the company? Its integrity? Its name? Because, lord knows, ESPN gets slammed all the time …

R.K.: ESPN is an amazing place, full of incredible, passionate professionals who love sports and love serving sports fans. I am so grateful to be here. And so, yes, I’m protective of the brand.

But I’m especially protective of our people. As you know, what we do is hard, Jeff. Working here means working day and night, holidays and weekends, pre-game, in-game and post-game. Everywhere I look, I see someone with his or head buried in a screen, busting to get the subject and verb right, to cut the perfect highlight, to surface an amazing stat, to create something fans will never forget.

Our people deserve to believe that their integrity and commitment to excellence is worthy of protection … especially from unwarranted criticism.

Having said all that, I’m personally glad that you and I went from where we were in 2010 to where we are now, especially since it led to our publishing an excerpt from your book on the Showtime era of the Los Angeles Lakers. Being protective doesn’t mean being vindictive, particularly where it might keep a great piece of writing from fans.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH ROB KING:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Danville Dans, Reggie Jefferson, Karate Kid II, Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda, Central Park, Toledo, blueberry muffins, the Nike campus, neck tattoos, dimples, Maggie Gyllenhaal: Central Park, Nike campus (never been but oh would I love to), Danville Dans, dimples, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda, Reggie Jefferson, Toledo, blueberry muffins, neck tattoos, Karate Kid II.

• In exactly 15 words, make an argument for or against Tim Raines as a Hall of Famer: Better all-around Expo than Andre Dawson and Gary Carter. And they’re already in The Hall.

• How did you propose to Jennifer?: We met in a Philly tavern/restaurant called The Rose Tattoo, where she was waiting tables. Five years later, as she got off her shift, I got down on one knee right at the very spot we met. We were living together at the time, so a “No” would have been awkward.

• As I write this, someone is spreading strawberry cream cheese on a bagel. This just seems wrong. Thoughts?: Live and let live weirdly.

 • How did you find out Santa Claus wasn’t real?: Wait, what?

• Five reasons one should make Bristol, Conn. his/her home?: I live 20 minutes away, so the only answer I’m really qualified to give is “proximity to the office.”

• What’s the greatest moment of your youth sports career?: Two homer, two double, all-star game MVP performance in the Montgomery County, Md. fourth-grade Cub Scout softball league. And a trip to McDonald’s after. All downhill from there.

This is my favorite TV moment in history. Your thoughts?: That’s tough to beat. Gives a whole new meaning to a “mean tweet.”

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and a one-armed Ray Lewis? What’s the result?: The bell rings, Ray charges and I soil my trunks. Ref stops the match right there.

• Five greatest sports journalists of your lifetime?: In alphabetical order: Richard Ben Cramer, David Halberstam, Gary Smith, Wright Thompson, Ralph Wiley

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Blog Media News QUAZ

Britt McHenry

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ESPN is a striking entity to behold.

It’s a place where television stars are made; where names go from regional obscurity to national recognition. Chris Berman. Stuart Scott, Dan Patrick. Rich Eisen. Robin Roberts. Kenny Mayne. Linda Cohn. Whether you like these people or abhor these people, you almost certainly know these people. Their stylings. Their catchphrases. Their high and low TV moments.

You know them.

Just being honest … I’m not sure how many people reading this know Britt McHenry just yet. Yeah, she’s got 65,200 Twitter followers and 19,200 more on Instagram. But, at age 28, she only arrived at the network in March, and seems to randomly pop up here and there. This game. That locker room. This moment. That moment.

The relative obscurity won’t last.

Why? Because McHenry is very good at her job. She asks strong questions, without merely nodding robot-like at the answers. She follows up. She insists she’s not in this for fame or endorsement, but because she loves sports and loves journalism. Her pedigree (Stetson University soccer player; Northwestern masters in journalism) backs it up.

Anyhow, I love the idea of having rising stars explain how, exactly, they became rising stars.

The Quaz welcomes Britt McHenry …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Britt, I’m gonna start with a totally weird question. My daughter is 11, and r-e-a-l-l-y tall. You’re 5-foot-10—also really tall. How was that for you as a kid, being taller than boys? Being—I’m guessing—the “gangly, skinny, long girl”? Did you have to grow into your height? Were you always happy being tall?

BRITT MCHENRY: I played a lot of sports as kid, predominantly soccer. Ironically, I was the shortest on every roster for a long time. Coaches used to call me “Little Brittany” when I was your daughter’s age. I absolutely hated it and would cry to my parents about it weekly. My dad is 6’3 and my mother is 5’7, so they constantly reassured me that I wouldn’t be vertically challenged. Turns out they were right. In seventh grade, I grew 6 inches. Yes, 6 inches. The following year, I grew another three. I was skinny, gawky, and had big feet before I grew into them; oh, and don’t forget the braces. It was a really attractive time in my life.

Now, I love being tall. It benefited me in athletics and afforded me an opportunity to work with the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency in college. Thanks to Wilhelmina, I never had to work another day at the T-Shirt and Sandal Factory Outlet in Key Largo or enlist in another real “character building” summer job, much to my parent’s chagrin. Tell your daughter height pays off.

McHenry, left, during her college soccer days.
McHenry, left, during her college soccer days.

 J.P.: You’ve had a crazy fast rise—you’re 28, holding a prime position at ESPN. So … how the hell did this happen? I mean, I know you’re a New Jersey kid, know you played college soccer at Stetson. But I’m sure many aspiring TV journalists would love to hear the path.

B.M.: Honestly, until about the age  of 18, I wanted to be the next Mia Hamm. Clearly, that wasn’t in the cards. To this day, I still idolize her. But, I was never one of those people who dreamt about being on television. I was an English major and thought I’d go to law school. My parents were actually the ones who recommended the reporting route (fearful I’d end up on their sofa with a seemingly worthless English degree). In high school, I’d always wanted to go to Northwestern’s acclaimed journalism program, so I decided to apply there for my masters. Since I graduated Stetson early and Northwestern’s masters program is only one year, I ended up at the ripe age of 22 in Washington with a community reporter job at the local cable station, NewsChannel 8.

It was very unglamorous. On my first day, I was handed keys to a beat up Ford Focus, a camera, a laptop, and told to go shoot a story. I had never even driven in DC before that. I started out in news and a year later graduated to weekend anchoring. It felt forced, though. As a former athlete, sports just seemed to fit my personality better. My news director, who oversaw both NewsChannel 8 and the ABC affiliate (the promised land to us cable reporters), was like most local news directors: He hated sports. I remember him telling me, “the sports department just asked to cover Nats Spring Training. If I won’t send a news reporter out of state for budgetary reasons, why would I send a sports reporter out of state?” Well, It just so happened that I was going home to Melbourne, Florida for a brief vacation. It also just so happened to be Stephen Strasburg’s first big league training camp, and the Nationals train 20 miles away from my parent’s house. So, I grabbed my camera and told the sports guys I would shoot video for them. In turn, it led to my first shot at anchoring (because nobody wanted to work on Easter) and my news director figured it’d be a slow news day. Wrong. Donovan McNabb was traded to the Redskins that night.

There’s no better test than live TV, and somehow I passed. They permanently moved me to the ABC affiliate as a sports reporter, and I gradually became a weekend anchor as well. When Rachel Nichols left ESPN, there was an obvious void and opening within the bureau department. An aside, I’ve always looked up to Nichols, who’s a fellow Northwestern alum. Fortunately, I didn’t bomb my audition. The hiring process is grueling at ESPN, you meet with no fewer than 20 people, and they really test your sports knowledge. Understandably, there was some concern about my age for a role that is entrenched in professional sports (I auditioned at age 26), but some great people at the network believed in me. I owe several people thanks for the opportunity.

Alongside Pete Rose.
Alongside Pete Rose.

J.P.: So when I did a YouTube search for you, the very first thing that pops up is a video titled, BRITT MCHENRY..SHE’S GOT WHATEVER IT IS. Many of your Instagram photos are accompanied by sexual comments. It seems like women in journalism go through this shit all the time, and I wonder how it makes you feel. Weirded out? Concerned? What?

B.M.: It definitely weirds out my close friends and family. My best girl friends joke they hate being in any photo with me because they instantly get followed by 10 strangers. I don’t get bothered by it because I don’t pay attention to it. There’s always going to be some list or ranking of “hottest this” “hottest that,” and it’s both subjective and trivial. At the end of the day, and hopefully a very long career, I want to emulate women like Hannah Storm, Robin Roberts, Suzy Kolber, Wendi Nix. All those women are beautiful, no doubt. But they’ve proven themselves as credible journalists and empowered business women. The goal is to have somebody watch my reports and enjoy the substance. Good or bad, the only feedback that truly matters is that of my employers and colleagues.

J.P.: I’ve always been a writer, and I sorta cringe when I hear TV reporters called “The talent.” Britt, serious question: Does it really take that much talent to be very good on television? More than it takes to write? Or produce? And what are the necessary skills?

B.M.: I wouldn’t say either requires more “talent,” but obviously all are very different skill sets. It is absolutely difficult to host a show when the prompter goes down, segments get cut, guests are sitting next to you, and you have to quarterback the whole situation. It’s also very challenging to ad lib and come across smoothly on camera if things break down in the field.  Essentially, in my opinion, the best on air people can combine all of those skills. A great example is Trey Wingo on NFL Live. He has a producer’s mind, he’s extremely poised on air and like all of us, he writes his own material. It’s a personal favorite of mine when the occasional critic will say, “Thank God you have a writer and a teleprompter or else you wouldn’t have a job.” Well, we have neither in the field. That particular insult is actually a compliment (in a weird Twitter sort of way).

J.P.: What does it feel like to absolutely fuck up on air? And what’s your biggest fuck up?

B.M.: It’s not ideal, can tell you that much. We have so many hits throughout the day, you’re bound to trip up from time to time. It’s just inevitable. The key is to be able to recover quickly—which isn’t always easy when things replay. I used to take mess-up’s particularly hard because I know there’s a large base of people out there waiting for it given that I’m both young and female. It doesn’t matter if you have 20 perfect hits, viewers will harp on the one that’s not. So, you have to learn to let that go. If I pronounce a name wrong every now and then, so be it; just don’t make it frequent (and pray it’s not recorded).

J.P.: You’re all over Twitter and all over Instagram. Serious question: Why?

B.M.: Good question. Facebook was created my freshman year of college, so my generation is arguably the first to grow up with social media. From a news gathering purpose, I love Twitter. I very rarely read newspapers anymore. Instead, I follow all my favorite writers and publications which span a variety of topics. If something interests me, I’ll click on the tweet. I genuinely like engaging with viewers—even find it to be a test of wit if I can respond to mean tweets creatively. Do I wish I had a thicker skin handling inappropriate comments on social media? Absolutely. There are people far better at handling it.

What bothers me is when the trolling comes from fellow media members. In a Utopian world, we would all have enough professionalism and respect for one another to avoid such behavior. Not always the case. For example, a local Philadelphia anchor, whom I had never even met before, tweeted a response to a picture I recently posted that read, “Crazy how modest you are.” The picture was of me as a teenager wearing a polo and pigtails. It was hardly meant to brag; if anything I was poking fun at myself. It was intended in jest as part of the “throwback” trend on social media and to engage with viewers. But, the picture came from Wilhelmina, whom I included in the tweet. I have no doubt in my mind this man took issue with it because the picture was related to a modeling agency. Which in my opinion is a bit sexist.

The fact is, anytime the positive comments start to proliferate so will the negative ones. Everybody in media, in this growing age of social media, needs to learn to deal with that. My focus is journalism. It’s not anything else. But, I don’t see the harm in documenting travels or sharing creative ideas or jokes that might come along. I’ve rarely, if ever, posted anything regarding my personal life, nor will I. Professionally, however, Twitter and Instagram are great vehicles for the network and for branding. I believe you can balance the serious element of things with what you enjoy on the side. I did it as a student athlete and hope to continue to do that as a professional.

With Teddy Bridgewater
With Teddy Bridgewater

J.P.: Sometimes, especially when something like Ferguson happens, I think to myself, “Damn, why do I care about sports?” I mean, it just feels so meaningless and inconsequential. Do you ever get that way? Are you ever like, “Steelers? Who gives a crap when climate change is melting the planet”?

B.M.: To an extent. I think no matter what you’re doing, it’s important to stay abreast of current events. During football season, I buy a copy of The Economist every week for that very reason. I’ve found it can be dangerous to get too involved in subjects like Ferguson because I’m not covering it, nor am I completely knowledgeable about everything that’s happening. Once again, it goes back to the previous question and issues with Twitter. More often than not, it’s wise to hesitate before typing to ensure any kind of opinion is warranted.

J.P.: Random question alert: Tell me everything about your senior prom experience.

B.M.: The only thing any girl remembers is the dress (apologies in advance to my friend and date, Dustin Brookshire). I wore a rhinestone studded hot pink gown, and my mom took a million pictures. The allure of prom was always the stuff leading up to it, not the actual dance. I do vaguely remember dancing to Lil Jon’s “To the Window, to the Wall.” Not sure if that’s the actual title of the song, just remember those genius lyrics. It’s an early 2000’s classic.

J.P.: Britt, I just read this story about former NFL star Darryl Talley, and I have to ask: When do we, as a profession, say, “We’re done glorifying a sport that is destroying people?” We don’t endorse cigarette smoking, crack, coke, etc. Even soda and fast food. But we cover and glorify football as if it’s this amazing thing. You agree? Disagree?

B.M.: Since I’m currently in the middle of NFL coverage, I’m going to abstain from answering this one.

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J.P.: Bob Ley spoke with me about “red light fever”—the arrogance, the ego that comes with excessive TV exposure. Do you ever feel it? The high of airport recognition? Of signing an autograph? Is it a real thing? And why do you think people are so drawn to those who appear on TV? I mean, it’s just a box in our living rooms, no?

B.M.: Living out of a suitcase, I rarely look all that put together at the airport so hopefully people don’t recognize me. Occasionally, I’ll get a weird stare like, “Hey, you look familiar,” or “Did I just see you on TV?,” but that’s about it. I used to think all of that would be much cooler than it actually is. While flattering, it doesn’t matter if your name trends on Twitter or a thousand people follow you because that’s not tangible love or affection. Ultimately, what matters is if you’re fulfilled in real life; the day to day interactions with people you care about and trust. Loving your job is part of that. Even though people see what they think is a glamorous version of an individual covering their favorite sport, when the camera stops rolling that individual is probably headed to a dingy satellite truck to eat fast food with their producer. Still awesome, but that’s the reality. No disrespect to Jimmy Johns…

Having the opportunity to start at the network so young has taught me that crucial lesson early. Reporters shouldn’t become the story. Now, do I like using the platform to help certain non-profits? Yes. Is it fun to do an occasional magazine shoot? Definitely. All of that has its perks but should be used in doses. Thankfully, I have a family that will bring me back down to earth real quick, if I ever acted or thought otherwise.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH BRITT MCHENRY:

• Tell me three things about your dad: He’s incredibly intelligent, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, and he asks more questions than any reporter I’ve ever met—fact.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Darren McFadden, spiced nuts, Rick Ocasek, Johnson & Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Adam Levine, Cage the Elephant, your coat hangers, Kingpin, neck tattoos: Chris Hemsworth was the only thing I saw in this sentence.

• The world needs to know: What was it like being soccer teammates with Brittany Jones?: If the world finds out, let me know. We weren’t teammates. I was, however, teammates with US Women’s National Team goalie Ashlyn Harris. To this day, she’s the most naturally gifted athlete I’ve ever seen. Ask her to randomly play any sport, you’ll see.

• When you hear “Reggie Jackson,” do you first think of the Yankee slugger, the Thunder guard or my third grade classmate?: Your third grade classmate told you he knows me? Man, some things aren’t sacred anymore …

• Greatest moment as a San Diego Padre dugout reporter?: When I left. Quitting a job after two weeks was something I never thought I’d do. Technically, I never truly started, there were contractual issues. I wanted to be more than just a sideline reporter in my career. Therefore, it’s probably the best “worst” decision I’ve ever made.

• If roses smelled like shit, and shit smelled like roses, would we love the smell of shit or roses?: Roses. We’re a culture that loves visual stimulation, even if what’s beneath the surface stinks.

• You last updated your Facebook page in 2012. Why?: I made the mistake early on in my career of accepting EVERY friend request, thinking it would help people see my work online. Big mistake. My Facebook is beyond repair in the amount of strangers it’s accumulated. Also, who doesn’t get sick of the constant baby and proposal pictures. It’s a sad world when you consider Twitter to be your respite.

• How many times per year would you say you pick your nose? And do you think the phrase, “I never pick my nose” is a 100 percent lie when uttered by adults?: I’m sure in 20 degree temperatures during some of my live shots recently, there’s a lot of questionable nose activity in an effort to compose myself on air.

• Five reasons one should make Mount Holly Township his/her next vacation destination?: None, ha. I was born there, but my parents moved shortly thereafter. Dad knew what was up (my very feisty mother, who’s a New Jersey native, will not approve of this comment).

• One question you would ask Priscilla Presley were she here right now?: Can we go back to the Chris Hemsworth question. What about him?