After 20 years, a Florida A&M alumnus and Washington Wizards beat reporter returned to his alma mater to answer questions from students about sports reporting.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post opened with a brief story of his life before he opened the floor for questions. The first question Lee was asked was how reporters can make themselves distinct in a field where many reporters show the same interest.
“I always say that there’s got to be something that distinguishes you from everybody else,” Lee said to the audience. “Your voice’s got to be distinctive. Your style should be distinctive. Just what you do and what your niche is.”
Lee said that in a time where there are many bloggers and writers all interested in the same thing, it is important to stand out.
Another student asked Lee what to do about covering a “bad” team. Lee said it is not just game coverage when a reporter is assigned a beat covering a particular team. Whether the team is performing well, the stories can come from the players, some of whom have amazing stories.
“I had a guy who was a cancer survivor,” Lee said. “He had testicular cancer about five years ago, and he’s still playing. And around the same time he was diagnosed with cancer, his wife, they found a tumor in her head.”
Students who came to the event found Lee to be insightful. They took a lot of inspiration from Lee as he spoke about his experiences in the field.
“I follow him on Twitter, so I am familiar with the event, and it was just a good opportunity to speak to him, to pick the brain of an [alumnus],” said James Jackson, a fourth-year political science student from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Jackson also learned how to treat sources that a reporter would have constant contact with. He now knows the importance of not having any preconceived notions about people he may interview.
Aubrey Upshur, a third-year newspaper journalism student from Philadelphia, came to learn from a seasoned sports reporter.
“I came because sports writing is my main concern,” Upshur said. “But anytime you can come and get information from someone proven in the field, it’s good to go out and get a little something.”
Upshur said he also learned how to stay motivated when he receives a downtrodden beat.
“He made a good point that there are not bad beats, just bad reporters,” Upshur said.
Born and raised in Kansas City, Mo., Lee got involved with journalism at 15 when he participated in a program sponsored by the Kansas City Association of Black Journalists.
Lee did not think journalism would be something he would do, but after being nominated through KCABJ for a program at the University of North Carolina, he fell in love with the career. He said he loves the time and values the experiences he got at FAMU. He wants all students to stay persistent in pursuing their dreams.
“I was here, and I’m not anything great, but I’m here,” Lee said. “There will be some bumps in the road and some difficult times when you hit the professional world, but you just got to stay persistent, and you got to stay confident. Believe in yourself and also have faith in what you learned.”