Inside the Press Box: UHart’s Hands-On Sports Beat Course

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Students at work in the press box at the XL Center.
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Kyle Corbliss '20 reports from the XL Center press box. Photo credit: Derek Bennett.
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Derek Bennett '22 reports on the Wolf Pack on Twitter.

UHart’s School of Communication students often express that the best part of the curriculum is the hands-on field experience it offers. The Sports Beat course taught by Assistant Professor of Communication Abe Hefter is no different. This insightful class replicates the responsibilities and expectations of a sports reporter who covers a particular “beat,” with students spending their class time in the press box of the XL Center, home of the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League, the top New York Rangers’ minor-league affiliate.
The Wolf Pack gives Sports Beat students an all-access pass to games so that each can attend and complete their coverage in the official arena press box. As part of the game coverage, students are responsible for podcasting, live tweeting, blogging, and writing pre- and post-game stories that are posted on their personal websites. All of their work serves as a digital portfolio they can present to potential employers to demonstrate the advanced knowledge and skills they are gaining. 
“The course is great for students who want real-world experience and want to take the non-traditional academic route,” says Kyle Corbliss ’20, who is pursuing majors in digital media and journalism, and communication. While covering one of the games, Kyle says he had the opportunity to speak with a professional sports reporter and ask him about his work in the field.   Kyle says the reporter told him his college experience fueled his passion for reporting, which is true for him as well.    
Outside of class, Kyle also serves as the sports director for STN2, the campus television network. He says he is integrating the skills he’s learning in class into his broadcasting role at the studio like booking rooms, thinking on his feet, and completing statistical analytics.
However, Kyle isn’t the only Sports Beat student and STN2 enthusiast who has found immense value from the course. Derek Bennett ’22, a digital media and journalism major, says he chose to take the class as a way to combine both his love for sports and passion for reporting. Derek says his ultimate goal is to be a professional sports journalist, so the class is a great way for him to experience the different roles and responsibilities. The Sports Beat students get to take on different “jobs” on a rotating basis, which include editor, pre-game reporter, or post-game reporter, with each student responsible for reporting on different platforms. 
“Going to the games is really cool and in recent games, I was able to live-tweet which was a great experience for producing both quick and accurate information,” says Derek, who also says he’s learned a lot about technical reporting. He says the class also introduced him to hockey, which he didn’t know that much about. Growing up, Derek played basketball, soccer, and football, and he’s currently the president of UHart’s club soccer team.
Hefter started the first Sports Beat class in summer 2018, as students covered the Hartford Yard Goats baseball team—the Colorado Rockies’ Double-A affiliate. UHart School of Communication students have had the chance to cover the Wolf Pack in Hefter’s Sports Journalism class, in the context of individual game reporting assignments. The Sports Beat class is a natural extension of the two reporting initiatives.
For future course offerings, Hefter says, “The Sports Beat is an initiative I hope to keep building on. I want to give students the opportunity to create content, share their content, and do the work that professional beat reporters do. These opportunities have been made available to University of Hartford students thanks to the tremendous cooperation on the part of both the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Hartford Yard Goats.”

The course is great for students who want real-world experience and want to take the non-traditional academic route.

Kyle Corbliss '20, Digital Media and Journalism