The Lemke Department has launched a sports journalism program, one of few such specialized programs in the country.
Thanks to backing from UA Athletic Director Jeff Long and Fulbright Dean William Schwab, journalism students can now study the developing field of sports information and get hands-on training working with the Athletic Department to help produce UA sports events.
Courses, which started in the summer of 2010, were developed by Dennis Kirkpatrick, who was hired to head the sports journalism program. Kirkpatrick graduated in 1974 from the UA with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and continued his education for a master’s from the University of Southern California in communication and journalism. Since then, he has gained a background of 20 years in broadcast sports reporting and producing at a national level. He has worked with major sports broadcasting networks such as Fox Sports Net, ABC, Raycom Sports, and ESPN.
Kirkpatrick brings his experience to the students in the journalism department through the new sports journalism program. A friend told Kirkpatrick about the job opportunity. Kirkpatrick said “absolutely” after receiving the job offer.
“This was an opportunity I could not pass up,” Kirkpatrick said. Long came up with a concept for the sports program to merge the journalism and athletic departments, which was also influenced by his idea of RazorVision.
The program brings the members of journalism department closer to the athletic department.
“We must have the academic community to be able to support the athletic department or you are not going to be successful,” Kirkpatrick said. In the Athletic Department, Bobby Petrino does a great job recruiting by making sure to bring in professors to choose players. It is not all about the playing; the academics need to be good as well.
The basic outline of the sports journalism program, Kirkpatrick said, is having a professor teach sports television and in return the students do a telecast for RazorVision.
“I teach sports television and sports journalism to the kids, and then we turn it around and do webcasts for the Arkansas athletic department,” Kirkpatrick said. “A goal of ours is to teach students what is necessary in sports reporting and giving them actual practice.”
RazorVision is a premium content, subscription-based web product that is found at http://www.arkansasrazorbacks.com/. It is produced by the UA Athletic Department and focuses on streaming live or archived video and other exclusive content. Through RazorVision students are able to hear and watch various sports broadcasts.
Working with RazorVision, his students are able to broadcast a live pregame show including interviews with football coaches, homecoming queens, ex-players, current players and fans from Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The show is produced solely by students giving them practice with interviews and production skills.
“Everyone gets a chance to do any job that they want to in class,” Kirkpatrick said. He wants to be able to teach students they can do what they want, once they get a taste of it and go with it, he said. Kirkpatrick is working with the university staff to expand the program’s coverage to other sports such as basketball, softball and track.
Kirkpatrick’s class is able to Skype, or live video broadcast, with people he has met over the years who work or have worked in sports broadcasting. Students are able to ask questions and receive information from a professional view. Kirkpatrick’s career-long networking is paying off for students through possible internships. He is working to find internships for students at CBS, Fox and ESPN.
“This is not easy work… it is a particular art,” Kirkpatrick said. “You have to work and believe in yourself to accomplish it.”
“This is the students’ first time to do this, and I feel the same way. I have never taught before… it is something new for me too, something fun to do.” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick has high goals for the sports journalism program.
“I want to give students the chance, all they need is an opportunity and they will go far,” Kirkpatrick said.
Story Credit: Andrea Waddell, Advertising/ PR
Photo Credits: Andrea Waddell, Advertising/ PR