The question posed by panel moderator Malcolm Moran seemed right out of any home in the United States.
"If your son or daughter was seated with you at the kitchen table," Moran, the Knight Chair for Sports Journalism and Society at Penn State, said, "and they said they wanted to do this (newspapering), what would you tell them."
The question wasn’t directed at his panel of four Penn State University students, but to the audience, which were APSE members from the Mid-Atlantic Region.
"I’d be proud, thrilled and scared as hell," Baltimore Sun Executive Sports Editor Ron Fritz said.
The Mid-Atlantic held its annual meeting in State College, Pa., on Dec. 1 and the unusual "reverse" panel was the headline event. For 90 minutes the panel of students – Josh Langenbacher, Kimberly Meyer, Quinn Roberts and Mark Viera – were the questioners rather than the sports editors in attendance. It was a chance for students who will be entering the sports journalism profession to ask those currently in it how what’s really going on.
"You’re coming in at a wonderful time," Newark Star-Ledger Sports Editor Tom Bergeron said. "The key is to be able to do everything. You should pick up as much as you can (in college), but remember, reporting is the bedrock."
That sentiment was echoed by another editor in the room.
"Being a one-trick pony isn’t going to work anymore," Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, Assistant Managing Editor-Sports at the Washington Post said.
All four of the panelists have been inside newsrooms before, so they have some ideas of the tremendous changes the industry is going through. Viera interned at the Washington Post; Langenbacher at the Patriot-News in Harrisburg; Quinn at FoxSports.com and Meyer on the Post-Gazette’s sports copy desk in Pittsburgh.
And while they were at their posts, they each took something away with them.
"The more information, context and background you have when you start a story, the better it is," Langenbacher said.
"I think reading every section of the paper (while you’re an intern) is important," Viera said. "Just showing up and showing that you want to work is important. Meet deadlines and be accurate."
"You have to go the extra mile and do whatever you can," Quinn said. "If you do that it makes them (the other employees) able to help you, too."
"I think I learned the importance of teamwork," Meyer said. "I thought it might be intimidating to work there, but they welcomed me with open arms."
The 90-minute session included a lot of advice and real-life experiences from the various editors, who often made the point that while our industry is in dire financial times, there’s still a need for good journalists. And new ideas and leadership.
"You’re coming into a whole different world," Garcia-Ruiz said. "What comes out of all this (changes) is an entirely different world. You will tell us how to communicate with people. This is the most exciting time imaginable."
Even if that start may not be at a newspaper, the panelists were encouraged to stick with it.
"There are qualities you learn working in sports, whether you do writing or design," Fritz said. "Though you may not be at a newspaper, I think you learn things (in sports journalism) that will help you through life. Maybe you might be at a Web site or public relations or advertising, but people are always going to want news."
Allentown Morning Call Assistant Sports Editor Ernie Long said that people are always going to want to read what’s going on in their own communities.
"We’re still going to have room for game stories," he said. "Local events, high school stories. People want that information."