Newhouse junior leads team of Newhouse students to cover Super Bowl LIII

By Jishnu Nair

January 25, 2019

Broadcast and digital journalism major Jonah Karp organized coverage for Super Bowl’s media week

Jonah Karp, Jackson Ajello and Drew Carter sitting in room laughing
Jonah Karp, Jackson Ajello and Drew Carter Photo by Jishnu Nair

Last February, in Professor Dennis Deninger’s The Super Bowl: Sport, Culture, and Entertainment class, broadcast and digital journalism (BDJ) junior Jonah Karp listened to Deninger recap the Philadelphia Eagles’ defeat of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Towards the end of the lecture, Deninger pulled up a slide showing students who had attended media week, a pre-game reporting event leading up to the Super Bowl. Karp was shocked to see a familiar face.

Joe Ceraulo, one of Karp’s high school classmates who is now attending St. Bonaventure University, had organized a team of student journalists to work alongside professional sports reporters during media week. Deninger posed a question: If St. Bonaventure students could report on the Super Bowl, why couldn’t Newhouse students do the same?

Seeing someone he knew making such a thing happen inspired Karp. Immediately after class, he and Deninger began planning a Newhouse presence at Super Bowl LIII media week, which starts Monday, Jan. 28. The team—consisting of Karp and BDJ seniors Jackson Ajello and Drew Carter—will fly to Atlanta, where the game will be held, on Sunday. They’ll do live radio broadcasts and interview players and sportscasters in the build-up to the big game before returning to Syracuse on Saturday. Deninger says the team will not be able to cover the actual game, but the experience reporting the pre-game alongside professionals is invaluable.

The path to Atlanta was anything but smooth. Karp, who at that time was the research director at the independent student-run Z89 Radio, started by planning the trip as a Z89 project using the station’s equipment. The next step: press credentials, which are hard for students to get. That’s where Ajello, WAER Sports director, came in. Since WAER isn’t a student station, but rather a professional NPR affiliate that hires students, Ajello’s participation helped secure the credentials.

Karp says he wanted viewers to experience both the sights and sounds of the Super Bowl pregame, so he brought in Carter, a reporter at CitrusTV, the Syracuse student-run TV station.

Once the team was assembled, Karp needed to find a way to fund the trip. Rachel Vassel ’91, Syracuse University’s assistant vice president of multicultural advancement, volunteered to cover hotel costs, and Karp and the team reached out to several major play-by-play broadcast alumni and asked them to become benefactors.

“We knew this was going to be a CBS broadcast so we [reached] out to Ian Eagle [‘90], Adam Schein [‘99]—a whole bunch of Syracuse grads [at CBS],” Karp says. “We plan on speaking with them down there, and they sound happy to talk with us so far.”

At media week, Karp and the Newhouse team will set up shop at the legendary “Radio Row,” where sports talk radio stations are based before the game. Z89 will air live broadcasts recapping the week, while WAER will produce packages using interviews conducted on-site. Meanwhile, CitrusTV will air live segments on their news shows.

“We’ll have banners and a booth so everyone there knows we’re the Syracuse people,” Karp says.

Karp says he was “beyond stoked” when his team received their press credentials allowing them to cover media week.

“It’s really cool to see your brainchild become reality,” Karp says. “It kind of hits you like, ‘Oh man, this is happening.’”

Deninger says that video and sound from the trip will be used in a special lecture for his Super Bowl class this semester. Karp, Carter and Ajello will each receive one credit for independent study.

Karp says he doesn’t want this trip to be a one-time thing. He hopes that next year, he will be able to include more student media organizations, such as The Daily Orange.

“At the end of the day, we’re here to learn and get experience,” Karp says. “The more friends we make, [the more it] will help us in the future. If we have an opportunity to collaborate with other outlets we should take advantage of it.”

Super Bowl media week starts Monday, Jan. 28 and runs through Saturday, Feb. 2. You can catch the student team coverage on Z89, WAER and CitrusTV.

Jishnu Nair is a junior newspaper and online journalism major at the Newhouse School.