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ASU's Cronkite News Phoenix Sports Bureau students gain valuable experience covering major events

Journalism student taking photos of players on a baseball field.

Cronkite News Phoenix Sports Bureau students have reported on some of the country’s largest sporting events, including spring training. Courtesy photo

March 25, 2024

Sports journalism students at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication are receiving opportunities that many professional sports reporters envy.

Throughout the year, students enrolled in the Cronkite News Phoenix Sports Bureau provide daily coverage of the Valley’s five major professional sports teams. However, since February, they’ve made the jump to the national stage, reporting on some of the country’s largest sporting events happening right in their backyard. The students have covered Super Bowl week in Las Vegas, the PGA Tour’s WM Phoenix Open and Major League Baseball’s Cactus League spring training. They are also preparing to cover the NCAA Men’s Final Four next month in Glendale.

The Cronkite News Phoenix Sports Bureau is one of the school’s signature immersive capstone experiences, serving as a multiplatform newsroom that allows students to cover major sporting events in Phoenix and other parts of the country. Students’ work has been published by major metropolitan media organizations and national news outlets such as, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bay Area News Group and Sports Illustrated. Cronkite students have covered the previous two Super Bowls in Glendale and Los Angeles, the World Series last fall and have reported on Cactus League spring training since 2011

Cronkite student Lauren Avenatti covered Super Bowl Opening Night last month, which included the first opportunity for the media to interview players and coaches. 

“The fact that I was able to go to the Super Bowl at 21 years old is just absolutely mind-blowing,” Avenatti said. “If you told me four years ago that I would have gone and was able to meet some of the greatest players of our generation, I wouldn’t have believed you. That was all thanks to Cronkite.”

Avenatti put together a broadcast package on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, who is from Queen Creek and played high school football in Gilbert. 

“I was able to talk to his coaches, former high school coaches, personal quarterback coaches and really talk to them about the person he was,” she said. “They told me he changed their lives, he changed the school’s culture and he was an incredible human being.” 

During the same week Avenatti traveled to Las Vegas, Ethan Tuttle and other Cronkite students stayed in the Valley to report on the WM Phoenix Open, one of the most popular golf tournaments in the world.

Tuttle credited Cronkite News Phoenix Sports Bureau Professor of Practice Gail Rhodes and other faculty with providing valuable feedback to help him advance his skills.

“She’s basically the person I report to, and she helps me with script writing and gives me video critiques. So being able to get in-person feedback pretty much whenever I want is something that’s really special and has helped me elevate my craft,” he said. 

Student Aaron Schmidt is covering spring training for the second straight year.

“Talking to players, talking to managers ... it’s really been a good experience for me because I’ve been learning how to interview properly and get better with approaching players and enhancing my writing skills all around,” he said. 

Schmidt, who wants to cover baseball as a beat writer, values his classes at the Cronkite School because they have prepared him for experiences like spring training. 

Students in the bureau are now preparing for the Final Four by following teams that could advance deep into the tournament and searching for story ideas. 

Cronkite News Phoenix Sports Bureau Director Paola Boivin said it’s “highly unusual” for college students to cover these major sporting events so early in their careers. But that’s what differentiates Cronkite from other journalism schools.

“I often run into veteran sports writers who tell me our reporters are covering things they have yet to cover,” Boivin said. “I think that makes our journalism school so unique. We’re right in the middle of all the major professional sports leagues and two Power Five universities.”

Written by Lauren Boykins

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