Cronkite School honors ESPN director

November 17, 2009

Chip Dean, award-winning director of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” is the newest member of the Cronkite Alumni Hall of Fame.

Dean, a 1977 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, joined ESPN 30 years ago, just two months after the network’s September 1979 launch.  Download Full Image

He worked on “Sunday Night Football” from 2001 to 2005, then moved to one of the top positions in the industry in 2006 as director of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” He is one of 43 original ESPN employees still with the company. Dean will be recognized at the Cronkite School’s annual Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism luncheon on Nov. 18. This year’s luncheon at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel will feature "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams. 

While at ASU, Dean studied broadcast journalism and played free safety for the Sun Devils under longtime former football coach Frank Kush.

“I wanted to be an on-air talent until I took some [broadcast] production classes and realized it’s just like playing a team sport,” Dean says. “You all work together as a team and every show and every event is different.”

A native of Ridgefield, Conn., Dean returned to his home state after graduation to work for a cable television station. But in 1979, he heard about a new sports cable television network and signed on as a production assistant without any idea that ESPN would grow into a worldwide enterprise that regularly attracts more than a million viewers.

“I was young. I wasn’t thinking about the future,” he says. “I couldn’t anticipate that ESPN would grow into such a force in sports as it is today.”

Dean went on to a number of high-profile assignments for ESPN. He was director of the network’s prime-time college football telecasts from 1987 to 1996 and the network’s lead college basketball director from 1985 to 2000. His other high-profile directorial assignments have included ESPN’s College World Series coverage, the ESPYs, the X Games, the NCAA Women’s Final Four, “Wednesday Night Baseball,” men’s college basketball and more. He also served as coordinating director for ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft.

In addition, Dean served as the lead director for ABC Sports’ college football telecasts from 1997 to 2000, featuring two Rose Bowls, two Orange Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl and a pair of National Championship games.

Dean’s work, along with that of producer Jay Rothman, on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Football” earned the pair sports television’s highest honor in 2004 – the Emmy in the Live Series category. Under their direction, ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” has grown to the most-watched series in cable television history. Dean also has been recognized with two other Sports Emmy Awards as well as two CableACE Awards.

Cronkite broadcast engineer Jim Dove, who has worked part-time as an editor for “Monday Night Football” for 18 years, described Dean as an innovator who understands technology, a leader who challenges and inspires others, and a hard worker who pays attention to detail.

“Work ethic says a lot about a person,” Dove says. “And you can’t find a lot of people who work harder than Chip. He’s a real role model for students.”

Dean says one of the highlights of his career was returning to ASU to direct coverage of the 1999 Fiesta Bowl – a bowl he played in as a college student.

“Walter Cronkite [was] probably the greatest newsman of our time,” he says. “And to be remembered by his school ... it’s incredible.”

Brian Williams broadcasts live from Cronkite School

November 17, 2009

Brian Williams hosted the “NBC Nightly News” live from the rooftop of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Nov. 17, the day before he was scheduled to accept the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Williams hosted the news from the northwest corner of the six-story building in downtown Phoenix with a view of Camelback Mountain in the distance.  Download Full Image

“Water is precious and contentious,” said Williams as he led into a story about water issues in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Williams also covered stories ranging from President Barack Obama’s trip to China to airline fees, taking his cues via an earpiece from the director of the newscast stationed in New York City. 

Broadcasting a network television newscast from a journalism school is “if not unprecedented, certainly unusual,” said Mark Lodato, the Cronkite news director who oversees Cronkite NewsWatch, the school’s student television newscast.

Lodato said an NBC crew arrived at the school early Monday morning to prepare for the broadcast, bringing with them tons of equipment including cameras, lights, monitors, tents, air conditioning units, computers and other electronics.  

The crew also ran about 400 feet of cable from the roof to an NBC satellite truck in the parking lot north of the school, said Jim Dove, the Cronkite School's chief broadcast engineer.

“Essentially, they’re building an outdoor set from scratch,” Lodato said. “It’s taking one of the most high-tech news operations in the world and putting it on the roof of our building.”

Williams promoted the live broadcast throughout the day from the set. The show went live at 4:30 p.m. for the East Coast audience and 5:30 p.m. for the West Coast.

Williams is to receive the 26th Cronkite Award Nov. 18 at the annual Cronkite Awards Luncheon, which each year honors one of the nation’s pre-eminent journalists. 

Williams, the anchor and managing editor of the nation’s top-rated evening network newscast, is the first sitting network news anchor to receive the Cronkite Award.

A 16-year veteran of NBC News, Williams also is the most decorated network evening news anchor. He has received four Edward R. Murrow awards, five Emmys, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and the George Foster Peabody Award. In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the 100 “People Who Shape Our World.”

Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” in 2004, replacing Tom Brokaw, who won the Cronkite Award three years ago.

Williams and NBC News President Steve Capus took time during the day Tuesday to talk to students, answer their questions and even critique their work. Williams did an impromptu question-and-answer session with Cronkite NewsWatch students in their sixth-floor newsroom, and Capus “went from edit bay to edit bay looking at the students’ work and critiquing it for them,” Lodato said. “They were incredibly generous with their time and attention.”

Lodato said the experience was “a terrific opportunity for students to see what goes into a broadcast of this caliber and to work adjacent to some of the most seasoned professional in the business.”

Senior Lindsey Worthy said having Williams and Capus in the newsroom was “surreal. It was awesome to sit down with one of the greatest news anchors,” she said. “And Mr. Capus personally took time to talk to us and give us advice. It was definitely a very cool day.”

The Cronkite building in downtown Phoenix opened its doors to students in August 2008.

The building features 14 professional newsrooms and digital media labs, two state-of-the-art television studios, nearly 1,000 classroom seats and 280 digital workstations for students. The Cronkite School shares the building with local public television affiliate Eight/KAET.