Front-row seat: Newhouse student journalists cover Super Bowl LIV media week

by Lani Diane Rich

February 12, 2020
Corey Spector, Jonathon Hoppe, Cailtin Allsop, Jonah Karp
Corey Spector, Jonathon Hoppe, Cailtin Allsop and Jonah Karp at Super Bowl LIV Media Week in Miami, January 2020 Photo courtesy Jonathon Hoppe

For the second year in a row, the Newhouse School was represented at Super Bowl media week. From Monday, Jan. 27 through Friday, Jan. 31, a team of four student journalists providing daily interviews and commentary for Z89, Citrus-TV and WAER from Radio Row, a cleared-out convention floor teeming with sports luminaries and media professionals eager to grab an interview with them.

Broadcast and digital journalism (BDJ) seniors Jonah Karp and Jonathon Hoppe went to Super Bowl media week in Miami with junior BDJ student Corey Spector and junior television, radio and film (TRF) student Caitlin Allsop. Together, the team produced two hours of pre-recorded and live radio interviews per day for student station Z89, as well as radio packages for local NPR affiliate WAER and television packages for student-run Citrus-TV. Topics ranged from an impromptu interview with NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin to coverage of the Wounded Warrior scrimmage in Davie, Florida, in which NFL players suited up against wounded veterans for a benefit game of flag football.

“That was really cool to see some of the people who have fought for our country and are still competing,” says Spector. “People without arms, people without legs, but yet they're on the football field. It's really inspiring to watch.”

Hoppe says the trip was made possible through the support of Newhouse Sports Media Center director Olivia Stomski; interim dean Amy Falkner; and Falk College professor and TRF adjunct Dennis Deninger, whose  course The Super Bowl: Sport, Culture and Entertainment first inspired Karp to push for the opportunity to cover media week.

“Newhouse is a school that is willing to give out these opportunities,” says Hoppe. “For them to pay for us to go down there, to pay for our hotels, and then to also trust that we can do all this by ourselves in Miami was a really neat thing."

Jonathon Hoppe, Adam Schein '99, Jonah Karp, Corey Spector
Jonathon Hoppe, Adam Schein '99 (host with Sirius XM NFL), Jonah Karp and Corey Spector during Super Bowl LIV Media Week Photo courtesy of Jonathon Hoppe

While the three men focused on being on mic or in front of the camera, Allsop says she saw herself in more of a producer role.

“I have always said that if I was ever in front of the camera, it [would be] because I had died or committed a crime,” Allsop jokes. But when she spotted a player with some interesting tattoos, she grabbed the mic and conducted the interview herself, fascinated as the player shared the stories behind each tattoo.

“There's so much humanity,” Allsop says, “and there are so many stories, because [the players] themselves are beautiful human beings. That was my favorite part, being able to discover that.”

The inherently wild nature of media week, with sports superstars wandering by at any given moment, means journalists have to act on  their feet, something Allsop found a little challenging.

“I'm usually an over-planner, so letting go of those rigid planning tendencies was a bit of a hurdle,” she says.

Corey Spector, Donovan McNabb '98, Jonah Karp
Corey Spector, Donovan McNabb '98, Jonah Karp

But being able to go with the flow opened up opportunities for the team to get some Syracuse-focused coverage when former NFL quarterback and Orangeman Donovan McNabb ’98 appeared on Radio Row minutes before they were to go live on-air with the prerecorded interviews they’d been producing all day. In consultation with their producer, BDJ junior and Z89 sports director Brandon Ross, they decided to scrap the prerecorded interviews in favor of a live interview with McNabb, says Karp.

That, however, was just the beginning of the day’s excitement. Karp recounts a thrilling series of events:

Corey and I get on the air and [Howard Deneroff, executive vice president at Westwood One Sports] comes over and he goes, “I have [veteran NFL referee] Gene Steratore here.” We kicked off the show with Gene, and then [former NFL vice president of officiating] Mike Pereira walks over because he and Gene are friends and they start messing with each other and we're like, “This is great!” And then [former NFL quarterback] Mark Sanchez comes in and Corey's like, “Hey, let's get Mark Sanchez.” I run to go get Mark Sanchez and I get a call from [Los Angeles Rams play-by-play announcer] Andrew Siciliano [’96] so I'm like, “All right, well, maybe we won't get Mark Sanchez.”

Karp recalls that, though the team had planned to play several prerecorded interviews, “we ended up doing more live interviews that day than we did all week.”

Hours later, the team was on a plane, headed home to watch the game from Syracuse.

Deninger says that now that Newhouse students have shown what they can make happen, it’s time for other students to generate their own opportunities.

“A student should come forward and say, ‘You know, I grew up watching horse racing, how about if we went and covered the Kentucky Derby?’” he says. “[We’ve got] lots of people in every corner of this building who've got contacts and connections, and that can make things happen for students. And that's another good reason to come to Syracuse University, isn't it?”