SPORTS NIGHT: Journalists Inspire By Example


Rodney Fequiere

Student editors moderate a sportswriting event at Leahy House with eminent sportswriters. From left: Benedict News Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Dulce SY, Lindsay Berra, Doug Doyle, Mike Tully 69, Editor-in-Chief Kevin Calle SY, and Sports Editor Jonathan Oniyama SY.

Editors from The Benedict News and students of Leahy House hosted an event Thursday, Nov. 7 —  the first of its kind — to explore the world of sports writing.

Three leading sportswriters were invited to speak at the Hive as panelists: broadcaster Doug Doyle, writer Lindsay Berra, and coach/author Mike Tully ‘69.

Despite the evening being cold and wet, more than 100 students gathered in Leahy House, many heading there instead of home. They raised hands to learn more about the special guests who said they traveled to Benedict’s for good reason.

“I’ve been in journalism for 20 years now and I had people who I looked up to as a young journalist,” said Ms. Berra, the granddaughter of the legendary New York Yankees catcher, manager and coach Yogi Berra. “And I feel like anytime I can help other people who want to come into the profession, I’m always happy to do that.” 

Rodney Fequiere
Leading sports writers, from left, Mike Tully ’69, Lindsay Berra, and, at far right, Doug Doyle, brought sportswriting tips and life lessons to SBP students during a Nov. 7 panel discussion. SBP Journalism Teacher Kitta MacPherson joins the group.

Student editors moderated the panel. Benedict News Editor-in-Chief Kevin Calle and Sports Editor Jonathan Oniyama got the discussion started by asking the guests a few pointed questions. Editor-in Chief Jonathan Dulce made introductory remarks about the importance of journalism.   “The special thing about sports often isn’t the sport itself but the story that surrounds it,” said Jonathan Dulce. “These stories fascinate us. They anger us. They sadden us. They even motivate us.”

 The visitors were also drawn by the sense of community at SBP. 

“I almost come to expect the lightness and friendliness, the enthusiasm,” said Mr. Doyle, the news director at the WBGO radio station in Newark. “I think it’s important that high schoolers know what it’s like out there and what they could do as far as careers if they enjoy sports or writing.”

Mr. Tully agreed.

“I just think that there is a tremendous sense of community here,” said Mr. Tully, who covered a wide range of sports and the Olympics for United Press International. “There’s a sense of purpose, there’s a sense of quality. There’s always a sense of tradition and it’s especially beautiful to see all those young men here carrying out a tradition that I was a part of and that my father was a part of.” 

Many thought the night would be routine with simple answers given to basic questions, mainly focused on sportswriting. But it really became, in the words of some, an important sit-down conversation about life. “The things they were saying were helpful,” said Barra Njie SY, who plays point guard for the varsity basketball team. “They were saying an athlete off camera is showing (his or her) true character.” 

Rhys Armstrong, who is both a student athlete and a journalist, said he drew unforgettable lessons from the panelists. “They said you don’t have to be the smartest or the most talented to be successful,” said Rhys, center midfielder of SBP’s national champion Varsity Soccer Team and a special correspondent for the Benedict News. “But you have to have dedication and try your best every time.”

Ryciere Scott
Sportswriter Lindsay Berra fields a question from the Leahy House audience.

This event began with a dinner by Leahy House Chef Neandra “Nene” Barracks in the cafeteria. The fare included fried chicken, herbed pork loin, roasted potatoes, spiced garden vegetables, and dinner rolls. The crowd then moved to Leahy House for the panel discussion.

SBP Athletics Director Mr. Thomas Leahy opened the discussion at Leahy House with remarks about the importance of sports journalism and with a special plea for students to become more involved in opportunities available at SBP, including operating the scoreboard for basketball games and announcing.

The guests talked about what they go through as sportswriters and their sometimes challenging experiences. They offered tips on conducting interviews. “If you ask an important question,” Mr. Doyle said, “you will get a good response.”

 It’s important, the panelists said, that sportswriters ask relevant questions so that the interviewees can talk about what they really know.

When Ms. Berra was interviewing the now-retired Yankee star shortstop Derek Jeter, she said that he made the decision to withhold information. As she was a features writer, she found that infuriating. But she also respected Mr. Jeter for his silence — he was nice, she said, and he was one of the most respectful athletes in interviews, from her perspective. He never badmouthed another player and did everything right, she said, for the Yankees. 

Ms. Berra played hockey when she was young. She grew up with hockey fans around her and her grandfather, Yogi Berra took her to hockey games. She loved everything about skating from the start. However, when she reached high school, there was no hockey team for girls. Still, she wanted to play. So she played with the boys. After high school she continued with men’s hockey. It has always been her favorite sport. 

Mr. Tully, who both attended Benedict’s and worked down the street at the headquarters of The Newark Star-Ledger for many years, views the city of Newark as a piece of his soul. “I see a lot of this city and it’s in my heart,” Mr. Tully said. “It has been a long process.” One student’s words inspired Mr. Tully and many in the audience that night with his poignant remark. “I often look at the (city’s) welfare center and I just see a long line of people waiting to get help,”said Criston Brown UDII. “I just think to myself like how many people really pay attention to how there is a long line of people waiting for welfare.” He was saying that students at St. Benedicts and other young people should appreciate that they have a life and to recognize the people who are struggling.

 When asked about what it’s like to perform as a sidekick to another broadcaster, Mr. Doyle spoke about the ups and downs of the working arrangement he has had with Gary Walker on The Morning Show for 20 years.  “The challenge is that you learn all of the aspects of the person that you’re working with,” said Mr. Doyle. “You try to bring the best while they’re bringing the best in you.” The arrangement gets competitive sometimes. He or she could try to be better at the job than the other person, he noted.

Students said they learned much from the evening.

There are “a lot of opportunities in the media field, not just for athletes but for people who love to be around sports all day,” said Nick Black SY, a varsity basketball guard.

Sayveon Blake UDII, who is on the varsity track team, said he liked the writers’ positive outlook. “Not to bring your teammates down and to bring them up, ’cause everyone  fails,” he said. “So the only way to win is to build stepping stones with your failures and come back up with victories and to keep bringing national titles!”

Even student athletes were motivated to write about sports after the event.  

“It’s a great opportunity for me, especially for guys like me who play basketball,” said Varsity Basketball Center Mounir Mohamadou Hima SY. “You could be a journalist one day. This is good for you to ask questions for what you don’t know about journalism. Maybe it will be a great career for me in the future.”