Alumni give sports media, entertainment career tips
Eight IU alumni visited virtually Friday in the third installment of a yearlong series of career chats with students.
Friday’s panelists spoke in two sessions about careers in sports media and entertainment.
The virtual chats replace the annual daylong Media Career Day while in-person events are suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The next career chats, Careers in Visual + Game Design and Careers in Film Production, are April 16.
Careers in Sports Media
By Jenna Williams
Four IU alumni who work in sports media virtually shared their stories, experiences and tips.
The panel featured Priya Desai, senior correspondent in the documentary unit at Sports Illustrated; John Koluder, senior director of communications and marketing at Indy Eleven Professional Soccer; DeAntae Prince, sports content editor at the Chicago Tribune; and Josh Rawitch, senior vice president of content and communications with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
All the panelists attributed part of their skill set and mentality to their time spent at IU.
“In my freshman year, I had a professor say to me, ‘Don’t be afraid to send your resume to your hometown team — you never know what will happen,’ and I fired off my resume to the Dodgers, and just got really crazy lucky,” said Rawitch, BS’98, with a framed Sample Gates photo behind him. Rawitch interned and later worked for the Dodgers.
Several of the panelists emphasized the importance of persistence, beginning with internship searches and experiences.
Prince, who now primarily covers the Chicago Bulls, said building relationships is as important as building media skills. He reflected on the importance of networking starting as a student, pointing to his lasting relationships with peers he worked with at the Indiana Daily Student.
“Knowing someone and building relationships is probably one of the most important ways to get your foot in the door,” said Prince, BAJ’10.
Koluder also emphasized the value of student media experience. He worked at the IDS and WIUX during his time at IU.
“My experience as a student journalist absolutely helped me learn how to fail — the first time I got a story edited at the IDS, I was not happy with what came back to me,” said Koluder, BS’02. “I learned about that process.”
Now working in public relations, Koluder said his experience as a student journalist informed his ability to effectively communicate with journalists in his current job.
When asked what advice they could offer to student attendees, each panelist spoke to the need to practice writing, editing and storytelling skills, but also to practice time management, networking and flexibility.
“You have to constantly grow and evolve,” said Desai, ’02. “You want to stay ahead of the curve.”
She also encouraged students to seek out professional organizations, especially if they don’t have easy access to people working in their planned field. When she moved to New York, she said, she didn’t know anyone but was able to get her foot in the door through professional organizations.
Several panelists also stressed how becoming a team player can lead to growth in the industry, personally and professionally.
“We’re here to tell stories,” Koluder said. “Tell me your story.”Watch a recording of the chat
Careers in Entertainment
By Chris Forrester
The most important thing graduating students preparing for the job market can do right now is be kind to themselves, said Julie Gurovitsch, a talent executive for music on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Gurovitsch joined other IU alumni Brian Stack, J. Lee and Shannon Howard to share their stories and career advice for students seeking jobs in entertainment.
“It never even crossed my mind that I could have a career in the entertainment industry,” said Gurovitsch, BAJ’04.
All through college, music, entertainment and pop culture were passions and side interests but never driving career focuses, she said. She focused on honing her writing skills and learning the ropes of print journalism in school, figuring a more fruitful career awaited her as a reporter than anywhere in the entertainment industry. Only by moving to New York did she realize that there were jobs where she could focus on her biggest passions.
Gurovitsch said she went to New York City for four days, cold-emailed people from the IU Alumni Association and was offered a job on the spot by one of two people who responded and met with her.
So she had her mom mail her clothes and other belongings and stayed in New York City, where she still lives and works.
Howard, vice president of comedy development at Warner Bros. TV, told listeners to focus on making meaningful connections within their field of choice.
“Forget the word ‘networking,’” said Howard, BA’06. “Just form actual relationships with people.”
Howard spent her college summers interning in Los Angeles, where she read screenplays for hit television shows like “The O.C.” and “24.” She would return to IU in the fall knowing exactly what was to come as the series’ respective seasons hit the air.
After school, with the end goal of becoming an executive for a TV network, she blindly followed a piece of advice offered to her during school: Start out at a talent agency. It was like grad school for the entertainment industry, she said — a place to learn the business as she worked in it.
Stack, who voiced Cartoon Donald Trump on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” urged students to learn to let themselves fail.
He found his way into comedy through a class he took the summer after graduating. While at IU, he had watched a close friend perform but never had the confidence to try it for himself.
Self-consciousness accompanied Stack through a lot of his early work, he said. He was nervous at auditions and almost too nervous to apply for a job with Conan O’Brien.
“You have to give yourself permission to fail and fall on your face,” said Stack, BA’86.
Lee, an actor in 2019’s “The Lion King” and the TV series “The Orville,” as well as director of three feature films, reminded listeners of the same lesson: Failure can be a learning experience.
He cited a commercial for inspiration, in which a child tries and fails repeatedly to hit a baseball with a bat after tossing it into the air. Each time, he tells himself “I’m the best hitter in the world,” before trying and missing again. Until finally he realizes: “I’m the best pitcher in the world,” he says.
“Just try until you win,” said Lee, BS’05.
Lee also said it’s important to learn from every step of a career path. He moved to Los Angeles after graduating, thinking he was going to be “20 million a movie within six months,” he said. A month later he was working as a receptionist for the “Family Guy” production office.
But as he learned as a pianist, it’s unmanageable to set out on a big endeavor without milestones to look ahead to. It’s more important to make it through a page of notes than aim straight for a perfect performance.
All of the panelists stressed familiar advice: Progress is slow, but rewarding. It takes time to figure yourself and your life out.
For Lee, it took learning to make sense of all of his disparate interests and talents before he could market them as appealing.
Stack had to learn to take risks; he was lucky enough to score a job at Second City because scouts saw him perform at an improv show, but applying to work for O’Brien would mean accepting the possibility of getting passed up. The two went on to work together on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.”
Gurovitch and Howard both had to learn to be patient; it can take years to make it somewhere in the entertainment industry.
“Patience is passion,” Gurovitch said.
Howard said it’s also important not to compare your own progress with that of others. Your path will be right for you, she said. She realized she’d made it somewhere when, after years of answering someone else’s phone for them, she got to answer a phone for herself.
“It was a big deal when I had to answer the phone and say my own name instead of answering and saying someone else’s,” she said.
Now, someone else picks up the phone for her.