By: RoseAnn Sapia
The sports media industry is one of the most rapidly changing and moving industries in the world.
One second you’ll be writing for a newspaper, and the next you’ll be reporting on a digital platform. If there’s anyone that knows the twists a career in sports can have, it’s Jane McManus, one of espnW’s original contributors. After about two decades in the sports industry, McManus now finds herself returning to the place where the careers of most sports journalists begin: college.
“Some of the most rewarding moments in my career have been in the classroom”, says McManus, who will be taking over as the Director of Sports Communication at Marist College on December 1 of this year. After Marist College concluded a thorough national search of candidates to fill the position, it was announced just two weeks ago that the longtime New York resident was selected for the job.
It isn’t uncommon for established media professionals to take their talents back to the classroom in an effort to better prepare the next generation of journalists. In fact, this won’t be the first time McManus has returned to a college campus since concluding her own studies.
“I’ve been an adjunct at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for over a decade, and as a result have a lot of former students now working in the field”, she says, citing this as one of the reasons she was interested in the position at Marist. Students can really benefit from learning from someone who has actually worked in the industry, and McManus has a lot of experience.
Like several other sports media members, her love for sports began on the court: “I was basically a gym rat who turned my passion into a job”. A basketball player at St. John’s College in Maryland, she would spend her free time after class and on weekends playing pickup games. She continued playing pickup even after college at the Prospect Park YMCA after she moved to Brooklyn, New York. For McManus, a career in sports just made sense.
McManus graduated with a Master’s Degree from Columbia Journalism School in 1997, and began her career covering New York sports in 1998. Since then, her work has been featured in outlets like Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News, The New York Times, and ESPN.
She has worked in the industry long enough to see it undergo major changes that have altered many careers. “The biggest change has been the collapse of the financial model in newspapers”, says McManus, “That's changed everything: the path into the industry, the amount of mentoring and editing young aspiring media types can expect and the amount of money they can hope to earn”.
In this era of technological advancements and instant access to news, newspapers are starting to become obsolete, and other outlets are downsizing. McManus has seen talented colleagues “get the unceremonious axe”, and has witnessed “bloviators” be promoted to high-paying roles.
Although this seasoned sports journalist has written for several prestigious outlets, her time with ESPN has perhaps had the biggest impact on the industry.
In 2010, ESPN created espnW, a platform dedicated to the women who love sports and the women who play sports. Jane McManus was one of the original contributors to the site when it launched that December.
“Rob King and Laura Gentile approached me early on about espnW, and I loved the idea. Some dismissed it as the pink ribbon of ESPN, but there are a ton of stories that never would have been written if not for W”, says McManus, who believes that W serves as an outlet for promising young women to write, and grow in their lives and careers.
While with ESPN and espnW, she had the opportunity to co-host a radio show on ESPN Radio. The Trifecta, which included herself, Sarah Spain, and Kate Fagan, debuted in January 2016. Originally pitched as a television show, The Trifecta, which McManus names as one of her favorite projects, was the first-ever sports radio show hosted by three women. It featured the discussion of mainstream trending topics in the sports world, but also highlighted stories within women’s sports that weren’t being covered elsewhere.
Like any good journalist, McManus continues the conversation of these important, but often overlooked topics on social media. She isn’t one to shy away from expressing her personal views or sharing her reaction to political happenings on Twitter because she believes it’s a platform people look to for “authenticity”. However, she does note that it’s important to keep reputation and personal ethics in mind when sharing online.
McManus credits espnW as one of the main reasons why she became more active on Twitter in this way. “I started tweeting more about issues like sexual assault and Title IX while at W because that was a lot of what we covered”, McManus says. She tries to be fair in everything she posts online, and never wants to take anything too far, but it was sports that made her realize just how big of an issue society is currently facing.
“Covering sports gave me some insight into the backlash against women who make accusations against powerful men”, she notes, adding that it has also honed her understanding of gender and race dynamics in a way she never anticipated. Because these issues have been such a big focus in the work that she’s done, McManus chooses to express her opinions when she feels it’s appropriate. “I could ignore that and just cover wins and losses, but that's not who I am.”
In all her years of sports journalism, the Columbia Journalism School alum has gotten to cover some of the best moments in New York sports. From U.S. Opens to Super Bowls and NCAA Tournaments, she’s gotten the opportunity to witness some great games. It’s telling then, that she cites a women’s sports moment as the best sports moment she’s ever witnessed.
McManus got credentialed to cover the first season of the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden in 1997 just after she graduated from Journalism School. “When they dimmed the lights and announced those women -- Teresa Weatherspoon, Kym Hampton, Lobo, Wicks, Witherspoon... It's a moment I'll never forget”, she recalls.
Madison Square Garden was a place that McManus often frequented. She attended several Knicks games that year courtesy of a paralegal job, but seeing that court filled with women who were playing the sport that she loved had so much more of an impact on her. “It meant a lot to me, a freshly-minted reporter trying to maintain my professional composure, to see this amazing group of women own the floor I'd seen Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing play on”, she remembers.
McManus will bring all of these experiences and the knowledge she has acquired about this ever-changing industry with her to Marist College, and be able to use them as tools to educate the next wave of media professionals.
As Director of Sports Communication, she'll provide her students with insight about the sports media industry, and offer advice that will help them grow in their careers.
Sports Communication is all about storytelling and engaging your audience, two areas in which McManus is highly skilled. The most important part of telling any story is seeing the story from that person’s point of view. “You have to get to a place where you don't impose your own opinions or experience on what someone else tells you. You may have those thoughts, but if you can see through someone's eye you can tell their story faithfully, flaws and glory.”
The 20-year industry vet will be teaching her students the importance of human interaction, noting the value of conducting face to face interviews whenever possible. She’ll stress the necessity of finding your own voice and building confidence, especially in a group setting. “It's an acquired skill for some, but if you are just freeloading off other reporter's questions then you aren't developing your own story ideas”, McManus suggests.
The position of Sports Communication Director will provide McManus with the opportunity to learn and grow as well. She’ll be able to get creative with the curriculum, and continue to think about sports and media in a larger context.
“I think the trend in some quarters of the industry is to have reporters who keep their heads down and just focus on the teams or the sport they cover, but I've always enjoyed taking a big picture approach”, she remarks.
She’ll get to use this approach in everything she gets involved with while working with the Center for Sports Communication, from the discussions she’ll host with students and top professionals to the work she’ll do with students to ensure they have the skills needed for when they enter the workforce.
With the wealth of knowledge and quality years of experience she brings to the table, Jane McManus’ career has taken her to yet another place where she can make an impact. Her time as the Director of Sports Communication at Marist College will surely include important advancements and innovations for the sports media industry.