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Faculty Focus: Malcolm Moran

by on October 24, 2012 6:00 AM

The Faculty Focus feature is a new, weekly question-and-answer spotlight on the administrators, instructors and all Penn State employees who keep the university running.

This week, Laura Nichols sat down with Malcolm Moran, Professor and Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society. 

Moran, who has been at Penn State since 2006, was recently named the Director of the National Sports Journalism Center, which was started by the Indiana School of Journalism at Indiana University in 2009. Moran will begin his new role effective Jan. 1. 

In the excerpts below, Moran discusses his role within the College of Communications, the students he's influenced – who have since become grateful alumni – and some of what he's enjoyed most traveling to the NCAA Final Four, the BCS National Championship game and this past summer, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. 

What has your role been at Penn State? 

"I started in August of '06 so this is the thirteenth semester in six-plus years. The role has been to direct the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, which was the first of its kind in the country when it was founded in '03. So I joined after three years and next year will be the tenth anniversary which is something that no place in the country will be able to say."

How has your teaching changed in just this past year given the events going on at Penn State? 

"Well, it's kind of a two-pronged answer. The first part is there's a wavelength that has existed here in the last year that could not have existed before Nov. 5 of last year. That's not to say the students that were here before then were incapable of it, but it's just that when you think about the front-row seat students have had in the last year not only to an event in the history of college football, but really to an event in the history of of American higher education. 

"There has not been a sequence of events quite like the events that this community and this campus has gone through ... When you're dealing with students that are reporting on that in real time – either for student media organizations or in many cases, professional organizations, students and/or recent grads, I'm talking about USA Today, The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News, Harrisburg Patriot-News – pressurized situations, late-night, unexpected or unanticipated events, a riot, a Hall of Fame coach being fired, a longtime and successful president no longer in office, all of those things were happening in some kind of deadline situation and here you have people that were in the early stages of their career trying to learn how to navigate in this industry that 30-year veterans have never experienced. 

"So, to go through that with them and to talk about it on a daily basis in class offered up the kind of conversation that couldn't have been possible anywhere before Nov. 5 of 2011 much less here." 

How have you seen students grow from this opportunity? 

"I think it's only been recently that many of us have begun to grasp how much they've grown. I can remember having a conversation last November, and one of the reporters from the Collegian had remarked that the Collegian had a relatively young staff. What he meant was because people like me have worked to create opportunities at places like the Inquirer and Harrisburg, students that would otherwise have been working for the Collegian as juniors or seniors last Fall were working for professional outlets, which created opportunities for younger students. 

" ... Not anymore. You may be chronologically young in terms of the tradition of opportunities like that coming available, but in terms of what you've experienced – you're not young anymore.

"They are so much more prepared to go out into the business and take on real responsibility." 

Another opportunity for students is the chance to report from the NCAA, the Final Four, the BCS Championship Game and this past summer, the 2012 Olympics in London. What has that experience been like? 

"First of all ... I can't tell you how much fun it's been. For one thing, as much as I try to create what I call, 'the real thing,' in the classroom and try and have that exist as close to a newsroom type of an environment as I can – this is the real thing. 

"I never thought about this until we got home from London, but the five students and recent grads that were with me were by far, the youngest credentialed reporters who were out and about covering stories ... All of the people that were with me were holding their own. 

"What I could pass along to them, having been to it twice before in Los Angeles and Atlanta, was that your adrenaline gets you through roughly the middle of the first week. And then, you're grinding. You're grinding every day. On average, we would catch a shuttlebus to the main press center at Olympic Park somewhere between 8-9 a.m. On average, we would come back on the shuttlebus to the dorms we were staying in ... sometime between midnight and 2 a.m.

"Well, if you're 20-21 years old, you've got all this energy, you can do this for a night or two. But 17 days, back-to-back, with those hours, I mean, after the first half week, you're grinding.

"I was able to prepare them for that based on my Los Angeles and Atlanta experience but really in hindsight, this was much more grueling, even for me, because I had never covered an Olympics that had a five-hour time difference to the East Coast. 

"It was great fun because I felt like I was back in the game. I was seeing my friends, the students and recent grads – for better or worse – were exposed to my friends (so my friends could tell them things like, "You really listen to him, like, really?") so those kind of connections could be made.

"And really, just to see them respond to high-pressure situations, on deadline, and just do what they had to do."



Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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