Quick quotes from Free Spirit ’16

Bennett Durando
Sports Editor

Senior Sports Editor Bennett Durando is photographed with long-time ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman. In his nervous excitement to have his picture taken with Berman, Durando doesn't notice until later that he hastily shoved part of his coat into his back pocket with his reporter's notebook before taking the picture. Photo by Maria Bryk
Senior Sports Editor Bennett Durando is photographed with long-time ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman. In his nervous excitement to have his picture taken with Berman, Durando doesn’t notice until it’s too late that he hastily shoved part of his coat into his back pocket with his reporter’s notebook before taking the picture. Photo by Maria Bryk

As you may know, I was selected for the Al Neuhart Free Spirit and Journalism Conference scholarship this year, which included the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. this summer for a five-day, all-expenses-paid journalism conference with the other 50 recipients (one person being selected for the conference from each state and from D.C.).

I’ll be writing a longer piece on my life-changing experiences at some point in the not-so-distant future, but in the meantime, I just wanted to share the wit and wisdom of the many fantastic speakers we heard from during the conference. If some of these lines seem a little sports-journalism-heavy … well, yknow.

All the people quoted were speakers at the conference, except the late Al Neuharth, the famous media mogul who founded USA Today, the Newseum, and later, this Free Spirit and Journalism scholarship program for students like me. If you want to know more about these speakers or the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference, feel free to give my byline a click and email me at bd061799@wgcloud.org.

To see more pictures than you probably want to of my Free Spirit pals and me at the conference, here’s the link: https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/ifreespirit51/sets/72157669437829142/

Many thanks to our Iowa representative Isabelle Robles, Virginia representative Nina Raneses and Montana representative Audrey Mostek for helping me compile a few of these quotes. From Pulitzer Prize winners to Press Secretaries, from iconic sportscasters to Freedom Riders, here are what some of our speakers had to say.

“Get it first, but first get it right.”  -Val Hoeppner, CEO, Val Hoeppner Media and Consulting LLC; Director, Center for Innovation in Media at MTSU

“It’s because of guys like Al Neuharth that I was able to do that, that I was promoted, because it was so very important for Al that we have a diverse workforce.”  -Val Hoeppner on Al Neuharth’s importance to gender equality in employment

“We look for news on Twitter, we run into news on Facebook.”  -Val Hoeppner on social media’s role in the news

“Journalism doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”  -Emily Chow, story team editor, The Washington Post

“How can you tell that this is your story, this is your voice that makes people recognize you and follow your bylines?”  -Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief, National Geographic Magazine

“As storytellers, when we come up with our own story ideas, we can elevate that personality of what makes us stand out.”  -Emily Chow

“If you want a good story … you gotta get the goods.”  -Susan Goldberg

“The atomic unit of news is a tweet now.”  -Dan Fletcher, head of social media, VICE News; former managing editor, Facebook

“Dig first, decide what goes to print later.”  -Emily Chow

“We’re almost as big as Kim Kardashian on Instagram!”  -Susan Goldberg on NatGeo’s social media presence

“Do not let anyone ever tell you that newspapers or print news are done. There will always be a need for the written word.”  -Sara Ganim, CNN corespondent, 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner for local news reporting (for Jerry Sandusky Penn St. coverage)

“Those little places you start at are so important down the road.”  -Sara Ganim

“What’s your story going to say that already hasn’t been out there for the last 12 hours?”  -Sara Ganim on reporting big stories

“It really matters who your boss is; it really matters who you work for.”  -Sara Ganim

“I was aware that there would be some backlash towards me. At first there wasn’t that much. That changed when Joe Paterno’s legacy became part of the story.”  -Sara Ganim on her 2012 coverage of the Penn St. football scandal

“I get as much hate mail now, four or five years later, as I did back then.”  -Sara Ganim on her 2012 coverage of the Penn St. football scandal

“It’s really easy to be a fan. You’re going to get very passionate but very misguided information.”  -Sara Ganim on sports reporters’ perception of the Penn St. football scandal

“You need to be able to do other things, that’s something I want all sports writers and sports broadcasters to be aware of. You’re not a fan, you’re a journalist.”  -Sara Ganim’s “35 seconds for our sports reporters here”

“You owe it to the players, you owe it to the fans, even though they don’t always know it, to go to these games.”  -Sara Ganim on importance of sports reporters as more than just fans

“Giving them a little bit of what they want while getting a little bit of what you want.”  -Sara Ganim on the best way to deal with school administrative censorship and prior review

“There’s a feeling that by seeing the change that comes with telling the story, you see that difference that’s being made.”  -Sara Ganim on covering tough stories

“Hopefully out of it, we will get some real sense of … these two candidates, which really have amazing differences in temperament and personality and background, in their approach to issues, even in their tone in which they speak to the American people.”  -Mike McCurry, former White House Press Secretary to Bill Clinton (1995-98); co-chairman, Commission on Presidential Debates, on importance of upcoming GE debates

“TV is a conversation. That lens isn’t really a face, it’s a friend, an undefined one … so we’re having a three-way conversation.”  -Chris Berman, legendary ESPN sports broadcaster

“Talk with, talk to, never talk at.”  -Chris Berman

“I’ll always appreciate those who compete. In sports, you can have a lot more fun with the news.”  -Chris Berman

“It’s so exciting that we come to work everyday not knowing what’s going to happen. Sports, there’s no ceiling. It’s one of the last things we have that’s not scripted for us.”  -Chris Berman on the value of sports

“If you dream, dare, and do … well I’m exhausted from doing all those things.”  -Chris Berman on the Free Spirit Program’s slogan

“‘What happened?’ will be the first thing you ask whether you’re a sports reporter or a policeman. Don’t ever stop asking what happened.”  -Chris Berman

“You need the trust of the people you cover …. Do some digging and be friendly about it …. If they see you did some homework, they’ll respect that.”  -Chris Berman on establishing relationships with the players you cover

“Now if you’ve got someone like, ‘I just struck out four times, what do you want?’ It’s hard to ask about pottery at that point.”  -Chris Berman on establishing relationships with the players you cover

“You can’t allow [fandom] to shade what you see and say.”  -Chris Berman on staying unbiased in sports journalism

“You can’t always say everyone played a great game. You’re doing yourself a disservice.”  -Chris Berman

“It’s 13-1 in the fourth inning, you can’t say it’s a full moon, you already said that.”  -Chris Berman on being prepared as a broadcaster

“It was unheard of to do a 30-minute sports show …. We weren’t going to replace the Nightly News, we were going to augment with sports …. We made it up as we went along, which is a good way to live.”  -Chris Berman on the early days of ESPN

“I like to think sports journalism is alive and well.”  -Chris Berman

“You can’t teach somebody how to see.”  -Scott Applewhite, senior photojournalist, Associated Press; White House beat photographing six presidents; two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for Feature Photography

“We are sorta a part of the landscape.”  -Scott Applewhite on photographers’ place in events

“Is journalism dead? It’s immortal.”  -Scott Applewhite

“It’s better to fight for something than to get run over by a car running the red light.”  -Ernest “Rip” Patton, 1961 Freedom Rider from MTSU imprisoned at Parchman State Prison Farm

“That’s how we were able to make it, through music.”  -Ernest Patton on importance of music to prisoners

“When I’m filling out applications or something, I’m glad they say ‘other’ at the bottom. I always choose ‘other’ and write ‘human being.'”  -Ernest Patton on racial identification on forms

“The blessing and curse of being a reporter: everything’s a story.”  -Mary Pilon, author, “The Monopolists;” TV Producer to cover 2016 Olympics, NBC Sports; former sports reporter, The New York Times; former business reporter, The Wall Street Journal; Free Spirit 2004

“Media jobs are like NBA coaching jobs, where everyone stays in the league but just switches teams.”  -Mary Pilon

“Here’s the beautiful thing about sports: you can go anywhere in the world, there’s a sports story.”  -Mary Pilon

“It’s like Model UN, but with sports.”  -Mary Pilon on the Olympics

“I love the stories about sports that aren’t sports stories.”  -Mary Pilon

“Nobody cares about what I’m eating for breakfast, nobody cares.”  -Mary Pilon on what (not) to tweet

“If you write about athletes, going to the gym is the worst thing for your self-esteem ever.”  -Mary Pilon

“Whether I get hired or don’t get hired … people just want to know you can do good s***.”  -Mary Pilon

“Anyone who gets into journalism for fame and fortune, you can immediately write off as an idiot.”  -Mary Pilon

“When we live in a country that is increasingly suppressing the youth voice, we are undermining the first amendment.”  -Dr. Charles Haynes, Vice President, Newseum Institute; founding director, Religious Freedom Center

“There’s no free press where there’s prior review …. If you are in a situation where there’s prior review, it’s got to stop.”  -Dr. Charles Haynes on censorship of student journalism

“Anybody who tells you you can’t make a difference is wrong.”  -Dr. Charles Haynes

“We are first amendment absolutists in a first amendment shrine.”  -Dr. Charles Haynes on the Free Spirits

“We are a religiously illiterate country.”  -Dr. Charles Haynes

“This event captures so many of the great questions about what kind of country we’re going to be.”  -Dr. Charles Haynes on 2016 election

“I’ll be willing to say ‘Islamic extremism’ when they want to call the white supremacist Christian church ‘Christian extremism.'”  -Dr. Charles Haynes

“Little league failures lead to big league successes.”  -(the late) Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, the Newseum, the Free Spirit Program

“Coasting is for kids on bicycles.”  -Al Neuharth

“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.”  -Al Neuharth

“Give your enemies enough rope to hang themselves.”  -Al Neuharth

“Winning is the most important thing in life …. The goal should be to win 100 percent of the time. But don’t expect to. And be glad that you don’t. Winning them all means you haven’t taken enough risks. And that takes the fun out of life …. Your won-lost record is the most important thing on the report card for how you have lived your life. One hundred percent is too much. Ninety-nine percent is great but unlikely. Ninety-five percent is good. Anything below 90 percent is unsatisfactory.”  -Al Neuharth

“There’s a little S.O.B. in all of us … loveable, borderline or bad.”  -Al Neuharth

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