How To Become a Sportscaster: Insight from Gina Miller
As society has become more and more dependent on just add water solutions and quick fixes, the fact remains there is no fast pass to sportscaster stardom. Ask any seasoned sportscaster for advice and expect to hear phrases like: start small, work hard, make mistakes and grow.
“I hear so many young people say they want to start their on-camera career in a market like Dallas or Houston. No you don't!” says Gina Miller, 17-year sportscaster and founder of That Sports Girl Media.
“The talent in top markets have years of experience, are polished and understand nuanced ways of storytelling that most 22-year-olds just can't command. The expectation level in those markets is also much higher and there is little room for error.
“Small market experiences and mistakes are your friend.”
After almost 15 years working on camera in Dallas, a top five market, Miller recently decided to leave CBS11 & TXA21 to focus primarily on her multimedia business. We caught her at just the right time, ready to share her knowledge with truth as her only goal.
Miller’s ideas about getting started on camera, what skills you need to learn, who to appreciate and what it’s like to be a female sportscaster are better than any Masters class you could take. So read on and learn from a true pro how to become a sportscaster:
Most people take for granted how hard it is to become a sportscaster – to launch your on camera career you traveled far - can you describe the early parts of your on camera journey?
Miller: While I was working as a production assistant in the sports department at KHOU-TV my senior year at University of Houston, I made it a point to send out five resume tapes a week. These were the pre-YouTube and pre-DVD days.
Each tape cost $3.76 to send so it cost me about $75 bucks a month. Unfortunately, most of what I received in return was simply rejection letters. Except for a few stations.
The intriguing offer came from Guam. Yes, the small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
KUAM-TV made me an offer to be its Sports Director, a position for which I was way in over my head. I leapt at the chance rationalizing that I would likely never get the opportunity to work halfway around the world in a tropical paradise.
At the time, it was hard. I went from one of the most technically advanced stations in the country to a small-market station on a remote island that didn't have nearly the bells and whistles. In hindsight it was the perfect opportunity. I was on air for about 24 minutes a day, making mistakes, refining my craft, learning how to shoot and edit with sub-par equipment (which they have since completely overhauled, btw. KUAM is a fabulous station).
It was the ultimate on the job training experience.
If someone, maybe an intern, came up to you today and said, “Can you teach me how to become a sportscaster?” what’s the best advice you could give them?
1 - Learn what goes on OFF-CAMERA, as well. So many interns I meet feel like all they need to do is step in front of camera and POOF magic happens. Hardly. Doing a great job on-camera is a collaborative effort. You must work in conjunction with your photographer to ensure the overall product is successful. (more on that in a bit)
If you are in studio there is an entire team of individuals working behind the scenes to make sure things run smoothly. I learned how to shoot in the field, run tape, run a teleprompter, run camera, even direct with a basic board. It's important to have an understanding of what others do so that you empathize when things go wrong (and they will). Also, if things do go wrong, you can help find a solution.
2 - Practice. Practice. Practice. Stand in front of a mirror, holding a brush or can of hair spray to mimic a microphone. Record yourself on your computer or iPad doing a standup. Get in the habit of turning a quick 7-8 second standup. You need to learn how to talk, breathe and gesture on-camera so that it all looks natural. It's not as easy as it looks and it takes practice.
3 - Take care of your photographer. Without him or her, you are not on-camera. Make sure they have water, carry the tripod and communicate with them on story ideas. It's a team effort and your photog is an essential part of the team.
You’ve covered the Cowboys for some time now, and will continue to host “Cowboys Special Edition”, take us through what a “normal” game day is like for you.
Miller: The days can be routine but the stories rarely are.
If I am involved in any sort of pre-game show, like I was for the better part of decade, NFL Sundays began around 7am. I co-hosted a Cowboys pre-game show that required me onsite and ready to roll between 8:30-9am.
Once the pre-game show ended, depending on the time of kickoff, we wait for the game to start, either noon, 3pm or a night game.
During the game, this is where a big misconception lies, we are not cheering or drinking. We are watching with a critical eye to determine what the key plays, storylines and defining moments of the game are so that we can be prepared to ask questions and discuss them after the game.
Once the game ends, we are in the locker room or press conference room, gathering material (soundbites) for our postgame coverage. This is usually about an hour or hour and a half. Once that is done and our standups are recorded, we head back to the station or edit on site to produce material for a Sunday night show.
At times we do postgame shows right outside the Cowboys locker room. This involves getting players or, many times, Jerry Jones to join us live to discuss what happened during the game.
These are always long days, 12-14 hours at least.
Do you find there are still higher hurdles for women in the sports industry, especially as it relates to reporting sports, or have we finally gotten to a point where people are judged purely on their abilities?
Miller: Initially, there was a lot of "Gina is a female sportscaster" talk. This was early in my career in the 90's. Now I don't think that it is as much of an issue, although a CEO of Fortune 500 company recently asked me what it's like being a female in my industry.
Now, I LIKE to believe that we are judged solely on our abilities but I do still get email about clothing, hair and makeup. I have also experienced a situation where a male colleague and I went on the air making the exact same mistake. I received a fair amount of response. He didn't receive any. Sometimes I feel that when a women in this industry makes a mistake, it can be magnified.
In my situation, though, I don't focus on the gender aspect of what I do. I simply focus on doing the best job I can.
Like me, you began your sports television career before social media was around - how much has journalism changed since before social media? Do you think it is better now or worse?
Miller: In some ways it's better, in others it is worse.
Social media has certainly led to the democratization of reporting. Anyone can "report" a story now. That has power and, many times, can be a good thing. But the drawback comes when someone who doesn't follow the best journalism practices takes to a medium like Twitter to start reporting something as fact without truly vetting out the story.
As a reporter, my duty to report a story is to get details and facts from both sides and consider the information
I love how social media allows you to engage with people in ways we never before had and connect with individuals around the world. It's also great insight into a person's personality. I love it for that.
It's also outstanding in a breaking news environment when the right people are breaking the news. When individuals are just irresponsibly throwing out information they do not know to be correct, it's a detriment to our industry.
Tell us about your new venture, That Sports Girl Media:
Miller: I am thrilled about my new endeavor, That Sports Girl Media. So many companies and brands are looking for unique and creative ways to connect with and engage their core consumers and clients.
That Sports Girl Media can help.
We provide media content ranging from blog posts to full-scale video features to help a company tell a story that resonates in a crowded digital marketplace. We also assist with content curation, social media strategy, pitch consulting and more.
Please add your comments and questions for Gina below, remember to use a real email address - I’m known to give out free passes to our job board for good comments!
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