Published: March 13, 2024

By Iris Serrano
Photos by Jack Moody and Kimberly Coffin (CritMedia, StratComm’18)

Britney Garcia knows how hard it is to break into sports media.

The aspiring journalist realizes the competition to get work in the field is harder than ever, but took heart at last month’s Sports Media Summit at the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“It's really just about trusting the process, having that thick skin and continuing to stay motivated,” said Garcia, a junior majoring in journalism.

Garcia was one of nearly 300 people to register for the daylong event, which featured 15 speakers—mainly alumni who brought extensive industry experience to the summit. Their range of careers—journalism, public relations, sponsorship, marketing and events management—showed the variety of job opportunities in the sports media industry.

‘Don’t overplan it’

Panelist John Branch (Bus’89; MJour’96), a Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter at The New York Times, showed that the path to careers in this industry is rarely straightforward. He was working as a manager at Costco before returning to CU Boulder for his master’s degree. And his break at the Times came from a connection from his network.

“Don't overplan it—do it. Just keep your head down, and keep doing it and meeting people, and you just don't know where it's going to turn out,” Branch said. “God only knows where I'd be without serendipity and connections.”

“The speakers’ diverse backgrounds and roles hopefully helped students realize that these very successful people were, just five years ago, exactly like them.”
Marina Dmukhovskaya, teaching assistant professor and associate director, sports media minor

Many of the panelists have stories similar to Branch's, including Kate Reed (StratComm’18), a communications coordinator for the Milwaukee Bucks. Only it took her less time to get her dream job.

She said one of the ways that helped her get ahead of the competition was reaching out and keeping in touch with the right people.

“It's helped me throughout my career, which would have never happened had I not been able to put myself out there and just feel comfortable with potential rejections,” Reed said. “Anytime you have the opportunity, offer yourself up.”

Panelists took questions from the audience, which included a sizable group of high school students, members of the Boulder community and CMCI students. During breaks in between panels, students got to engage with alumni and make one-on-one connections.  

Keiran Warger, a first-year student planning to pursue a career in journalism, brought a passion for what goes on behind the scenes in sports to the event. “There are so many different occupations within the industry, not just journalism. I've always looked up to people doing that kind of work,” Warger said.

A growing force in Colorado

Luckily, for students like Warger, Colorado is becoming a bigger place for sports. With the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets both winning championships in the last two years, the industry has grown substantially—not to mention the arrival of Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders to the Buffaloes football team last year.

Prime was a topic of conversation in the opening session, moderated by Ever Figueroa, which discussed how Sanders brought attention and school spirit to CU football.

“CU Boulder is living in a special moment,” said Figueroa, an assistant professor of journalism at CMCI. “There are such incredible opportunities to get involved or invest in sports media right here at your doorstep.”

Marina Dmukhovskaya, associate director of the CMCI sports media minor, said the sports industry is only getting more competitive. But events like this one, she said, help students see and learn from success stories—oftentimes possible through hard work and the application of skills like critical thinking, content creation and writing.

“Sometimes, on-air personalities in the industry might seem to be out of reach,” said Dmukhovskaya, who covered multiple Olympics as a journalist and writer. “The speakers' diverse backgrounds and roles hopefully helped students realize that these very successful people were, just five years ago, exactly like them.”