#AwayFromTheNest: Tommy Bennett, multimedia journalist
SOC junior builds his video portfolio through work with a golf pro and a sports psychologist
AU students are on the go year-round, and that only intensifies as the temperature gets warmer and the spring semester ends. From political conventions in California to volunteer trips in South America and beyond, summer takes students away from AU and into the world around them. This summer, the Eagle is launching a summer series chronicling their adventures. Join us as we publish a new story weekly on how students are spending their summer #AwayFromTheNest before they return to campus in the fall.
Rising junior Tommy Bennett is putting his AU broadcast journalism education to the test this summer while working with sports psychologist Brian Levenson, as well as local golf pro Trillium Rose as a video intern. Bennett’s daily responsibility changes often, and he spends his time working on everything from filming to editing to interviewing athletes and coaches. Last week, The Eagle had a chance to talk journalism and sports with Bennett over the phone as part of our #AwayFromTheNest summer series.
EAGLE: What kinds of work are you doing for [Brian Levenson and Trillium Rose]?
TB: With Brian, he’s a sports psychologist, and he’s trying to expand his brand through different kinds of media, so I’m doing his video content. But then we are also doing a short web series, it’s a sit-down interview type of thing called “Beyond the Surface.” He wants it to be a TV show, so this is almost like the pilot, so that’s cool. We’ve been working on making it shorter, more interesting, more like a TV show, like a podcast. Eventually we might do a podcast because a lot of people would like to listen to what he has to say while they’re driving, working out and stuff like that.
For my other client, [she’s] a golf professional, a head director of instruction in Rockville. Her goal is to be on the Golf Channel, she knows people on the Golf Channel, so this is kind of like her portfolio. So I’m doing swing tips, kind of like golf lessons, and then also the big project is kind of like a, I’ve been calling it a video cover letter, something that explains her philosophy, and then when you go to her website, you’ll know what she’s about, and she can send it to the Golf Channel and sell her camera savviness. The gist of both of them is a bunch of little projects that are culminating in big projects to gain clients, to gain confidence, to gain camera work, so it’s pretty cool to see the big picture.
EAGLE: How did your career as a wrestler influence the way you approach your work as a journalist?
TB: I mean, it’s an individual-based sport, you get out of it what you put into it. I think I’m seeing that in everything that I’m doing in college, whether that’s in that class where if you don’t study, if you don’t do your homework, you’re not going to pass. You have to do the work to get out of it what you want, and same with video production, same with getting a job, same with writing. If you work really hard, if you do all the work, you’re going to get out of it what you want.
EAGLE: What would you say is the most common misconception about sports journalism?
TB: I feel like some of unprofessional blogging, such as Bleacher Report, I feel like sites like those are undermining the AP style and the longform stuff of The Ringer, Grantland. I feel like some of these blogs are taking away the legitimacy [of sports journalism]. It feels like everyone thinks they can be a sportswriter, and I think that’s a downfall of the Internet. But in the other sense, it’s kind of nice because there is opportunity everywhere. It’s a double-edged sword.
EAGLE: You’ve said that you don’t want be a writer who just discusses statistics, but rather you strive to tell stories that go beyond the playing field. What kinds of stories off the field are you looking to tell?
TB: I think it started with the “30 for 30” [ESPN] documentaries. I think it makes athletes relatable, and people want to read that, people want to watch that. I just think those kinds of stories are amazing, I want to tell those, and I really enjoy that. I like learning about people, and what I’m enjoying about working with Brian in the “Beyond the Surface” series [is] that [what] we’re doing is the interesting stories. Brian asks a question to everyone we interview: do you prefer a resume or a eulogy? I just think hearing people talk about that is interesting, whether they want to be remembered now for what they’ve done or their legacy, and I want to be remembered for what I’ve done not what I’m doing, but that’s an interesting question to pose to people. I’m enjoying hearing people’s answers and learning about people, that’s what I hope to do eventually.
EAGLE: I know Brian has a “Message of the Day.” Can you tell me a little about those and if you have a favorite?
Brian's Message of the Day: Curiosity https://t.co/Fm669jz9BN
— Brian Levenson (@BrianLevenson) July 21, 2016
TB: I just think he just thinks about things a lot, and he comes up with some amazing things. Ever since Brian gave his presentation to AU wrestling when I was a freshman, he said something that about no matter how crappy your day may be going, if you’re two hours into a hard practice, and you still have sprints to run, or if you're in double overtime, just think about the opportunity you have to be here. So I would say the ‘happy to be here’ thing really impacted me. No matter how you may be feeling or what may be going on in your life, that you’re happy to be here. Just take advantage of the opportunities, so I would say that’s my favorite message.
Progression is more tangible than perfection.
— Brian Levenson (@BrianLevenson) July 22, 2016
EAGLE: There’s been a lot of talk about athletes taking stances on political issues, and even sports journalists taking stances on political issues. What’s your view on those in the sports world using their platform for more than athletics?
— VICE Sports (@VICESports) July 12, 2016
TB: I think that’s awesome. I love the idea of transcending sports. I was watching something on FOX about how people watch sports to avoid politics, but politics influences sports, politics is in it whether it's legitimately Democrat or Republican or controversial ideas, politics is everywhere. I just think that as someone with a voice at all, with people listening to you, with people reading you, watching you, I think you shouldn’t be restricted to one category or another. I like the idea of transcending sports because I think that everything transcends sport. I just think that with that voice, if you want to say something, you can say something, you don’t have to be quiet.
EAGLE: What advice would you give your freshman journalism self coming into AU?
TB: Not that my freshman year was a waste, but I didn’t get to do everything that I wanted to do. Every opportunity that comes your way you have to take it when you’re in college, and I feel like I wasn’t able to do that as much as I wanted to my freshman year, and I almost feel like I’m just catching up, so I just try to take advantage of every opportunity.
EAGLE: Now that you’re here, balancing two internships, what's next?
TB: I just feel like your resume never stops building, so I have a bunch of creative ideas that I want to explore, and I just want to keep telling stories, keep trying new things, keep meeting people. I would love to have a job with ESPN within 12 months, 18 months when I graduate, but I’m also realistic, and I know I have to work my way up, and hopefully be there someday, so I’m just going to take advantage of every opportunity that I have and in general just keep telling stories because, the more you write, the more you produce, the more content I produce, the better I’ll get, whether that’s podcast, whether that’s video, whether that’s writing.
Multimedia is everywhere, so I’m just trying to be the most well-rounded journalist I can, and, in 2016, that’s imperative, so that’s kind of what I’m going for. My mom always told me that if you know how to write, you're going to get a job because a lot of people don’t. I think writing is imperative, and I think that opens doors to other things too. You see writers and journalists on TV all the time, so I think writing is a fantastic building block, and that’s kind of why I’ve tried to embrace it more.
Tommy Bennett is a rising junior in the School of Communication. He is spending his summer as a video marketing intern.