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‘The Opportunity of a Lifetime’

Communication and Media students get real-life experience covering Pro Football Hall of Fame

Posted in: Communication and Media, Homepage News, University

Professor Stacy Gitlin, student Gianna Daginis, Professor Steve McCarthy, Head Football Coach Rick Giancola and student Jason Naccarella
From left to right, Professor Stacy Gitlin, student Gianna Daginis, Professor Steve McCarthy, Head Football Coach Rick Giancola and student Jason Naccarella take a break from prep for the students' trip to cover Sam Mills' induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The August 6 ceremony enshrining former Montclair State and NFL star Sam Mills into the Pro Football Hall of Fame marked the culmination of an incredible career. For five School of Communication and Media students who made the trip to Canton, Ohio, to cover the ceremony and a series of related events, their hope is that it will build on their Montclair State experiences to launch their own impressive careers.

Under the guidance of Professors Stacy Gitlin and Steve McCarthy who accompanied them on the trip, students Teni Bello, Matt Bruchez, Gianna Daginis, Jason Naccarella and Matt Orth covered events ranging from a Fashion Show, to a private BBQ for the Mills family, to the Class of 2022 Enshrinement ceremony. The experience helped the students improve their technical skills such as writing, editing, producing, and interviewing, and “soft” skills such as teamwork and leadership.

Leading up to the trip, Orth, who takes the reins as The Montclarion’s sports editor this fall, said, “This trip to Canton is going to be one of the biggest moments of my life. I hope this trip will inspire me to continue to become a better journalist and person in my last year and beyond. I have already learned that in this business, you need to be proactive and communicate as much as possible.”

The students prepared for the trip all summer. “We all had different roles preparing for this trip and we’ve had great teamwork,” said Bello, who completed an internship at the Men’s Final Four this past spring. “I researched and have been preparing to interview Melanie Mills, the widow of Sam Mills, and captured footage and researched the history behind the annual Fashion Show.”

Senior Teni Bello’s internship at the Final Four prepared her for the team’s trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bruchez, who does play-by-play and color commentary for the Red Hawk Sports Network, echoed the importance of research and preparation. “I have prepared for this trip like I prepare for my broadcasts, with lots of research. I want to know everything about everyone we are interviewing as well as the other inductees to be prepared for every situation. I learned a lot more about who Sam Mills was as a person, and the type of impact that he made on others.”

Prior to the national event, Naccarella, who is also part of the Red Hawk Sports Network and interned with CBS for the Heisman Trophy presentation this spring, noted that the weekend would test the skills of all the student journalists. “I’m excited to see how I perform,” he said before leaving for Ohio. “This is also a fantastic opportunity to learn more about adjusting on the fly and executing our plan.”

“I know the students’ work will be fantastic and we will all learn more about Sam’s life and legacy through their storytelling efforts,” said Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of the School of Communication and Media, who along with Professor Kelly Whiteside, Director of Sports Publicity Mike Scala, and Sports Information Coordinator Pat Duffy prepared the students for the trip. “I am happy that the experience they’ve gained in the classroom, at our student media organizations and internships has led to this special opportunity.”

Story by Keith Green, School of Communication and Media