Journalism students from California State University, Long Beach filled a conference room at the Spectrum SportsNet studios in El Segundo, California on a chilly Tuesday evening. The Los Angeles Lakers were slotted to play the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center and it was business as usual for the kind, hard-working folks at Spectrum SportsNet.
Chris ‘Geeter’ McGee, Mike Bresnahan, and Antawn Jamison reported to set for Access SportsNet: Lakers for the pre-game festivities and Long Beach students got a special behind-the-scenes look at the complicated production that is necessary to bring the team into living rooms across Southern California. The group of 16 students from the nearby university were treated to a tour of the facility and had the opportunity to pick the brains of McGee, Bresnahan, and producers.
Bresnahan spent 22 years at the Los Angeles Times and was the primary beat writer for the Lakers for 12 of those years. His experience in journalism is invaluable and he recently joined Spectrum SportsNet prior to the 2016-17 NBA season. During a Q&A session with the prospective journalists from CSULB, Bresnahan had some key advice for the students who are pursuing a career in broadcasting and journalism.
“The three most important things for journalism: You want to be accurate, you want to be insightful and inform people about something, and you want to be entertaining,” Bresnahan said. “If you can do those three things, you’re nailing your stories.”
The room full of aspiring journalists listened intently to Bresnahan’s advice. He also stressed the importance of making sure the news they write about is both timely and accurate.
“A lot of people are in a rush to break news on Twitter and they say the wrong thing,” Bresnahan said. “Really good beat writers who are covering big teams will mess up on Twitter and say ‘This guy is getting traded,’ and he’s not getting traded. You always have to be accurate.”
Last but not least, the veteran journalist expressed that writers must be passionate about their craft while also being open to criticism.
“Allow yourself to be criticized and do not fall in love with your story,” Bresnahan said. “Work hard on the story, but accept criticism.”
The room was filled with a unique energy as the students took copious notes and attempted to soak in as much knowledge from the seasoned writer in the limited time they had with him. Bresnahan was so eager to share some of the tricks of the trade with the students in the room that he lost track of time.
Two minutes remained in the first half of the game and Bresnahan was set to be on air in 45 seconds. Producer A.J. Ponsiglione hurried into the conference room to grab him and the two rushed down the hall to prepare for the halftime show.
Bresnahan vowed to return after his halftime obligations and the CSULB students had a new perspective on the man in front of the camera. The Lakers ended up losing to the Hornets in a game that came down to the wire.
The next generation of sports journalists and broadcasters will have a different experience than Bresnahan had during his 22 years with the Los Angeles Times, but the advice that he passed on to the room full of students will always apply.