Saturday, February 14, 2015

Daniel Coldwell: "This is Not a Job. Television is a Lifestyle."

On Daniel Coldwell's second day as a Temple University student, he walked into the student-run radio station and asked to get involved. Within weeks, he was reading the news on air. And by his second semester, he had his own sports talk radio show.

He wanted to be a writer (or a second baseman for he Phillies) and wound up loving the behind the scenes stuff involved in broadcast.

Three months before he graduated in 2000, he was offered a job as a production assistant at ESPN. It was a seven month trial gig, mostly cutting highlights for SportsCenter.

He still had to finish classes and sort of wondered why. But he recalled Prof. Karen Turner telling him, "You're going to go there and represent Temple University. You're going to represent my class. There are things you need to learn."

So he worked hard, graduated and then took initiative during his trial gig. He stayed late, edited even the low-level game highlights and made himself available whenever work had to be done.

"I had to prove I was ESPN material," he recalled.

After the seven month period, most of his fellow trial-run employees were released. Daniel was offered a full-time job. Then he worked his way up the ladder over 8 years. He became the head of a production team, essentially quarterbacking the crew covering events and putting on shows. He covered X Games, Super Bowls and random sports along the way.

He made errors at times, one time presenting the wrong athlete as having been suspended for steroid usage.

"You have to have a long and short memory," Daniel said. "You dust yourself up and get right back on track."

He left ESPN for the startup MLB Network a few months before the network launched in 2009.

Now, as a senior producer, he oversees parts of their 10 hours of live television per day. He meets with the talent, develops story ideas, outlines shows and then sits in the control room as segments are produced.

"Each day is a clean slate," he said. "The producers are the sun and everything else revolves around them."

Here are a few other things he said that stood out for me:

• When he was younger, he worked at Wawa, making shorties in the deli.
• When he met his sports heroes at ESPN and then at MLB, he had to play it cool. "You're not allowed to fan out," he said. "You need to keep a professional demeanor."
• While the MLB Network is owned by the 30 Major League Baseball teams, the network staff tries to maintain their journalistic standards.  "If A.Rod gets suspended, we want people turning to us, not SportsCenter," Daniel said. "We lose our journalistic integrity if we are scared to be critical."
• He said he'd rather be second and right than first and wrong with breaking information.
• He's developed a niche working with graphics, virtual displays and dynamic studios.
• He works long hours, every day. "This is not a job," he said. "Television is a lifestyle."

For students, he suggested a few things:

• Build a resume reel, even if you are uncertain about being on camera or behind the scenes. When you land a job, you may not have the opportunity to get in front of the camera. So do it now.
• Do well in classes (naturally) but also build up your resume with work away from the classroom - TUTV, school newspaper, internships, etc.
• Network with everyone, even your professors. Prof. Vince Hill made the phone call to ESPN that landed Daniel his initial interview there.
• Learning to edit will make you a valuable commodity.
• Plan B? Forget that. Focus on your Plan A and make it happen.


Tracy Yatsko said...

I took notes on Daniels lecture and you definitely wrote down all of my key notes in this article. It was a very inspiring lecture considering I want to work in sports media.When he said this industry is a lifestyle and not a job, it is definitely something we (future journalists) need to understand if we decide to choose this career path.

Madeline Archambault said...

I honestly thought that Daniel was very inspiring. He was so down to Earth and gave us all an insight into what working on TV is really like. Even though he obviously loves his job he let us know that TV is not just a job, it's a lifestyle. I really enjoyed his lecture.

Devon Winterbottom said...

I really enjoyed that Daniel mentioned that he's from the suburbs. Where I am from, outside of Philly, a lot of kids get stuck graduating from high school, getting a dead end job in the same area, and never expanding their horizons. So, to see a fellow "suburbian" do so much in life is very motivational.

Iman Sultan said...

What I liked best about Daniel Coldwell’s talk was his emphasis on the passion and absolute hard work journalism requires. To be a committed and talented journalist and win the success Coldwell eventually acquired, he had to “prove [he] was ESPN material” and work hard and take risks. For Coldwell, journalism constitutes not only his life’s work but his identity and personhood. His passion manifests in the ultimate initiative he took in starting and customizing his own network. I also loved him recounting the mistakes he made while doing the job, such as attributing steroid usage to the wrong player. His attitude of persisting even after making these mistakes and enduring the embarrassment shows that it’s only with making mistakes that one can live, work and gain concrete experience. It’s better to get hurt than do nothing in life.

Anonymous said...

Adriana Vela

I really enjoyed his speech and his lecture to our class was very motivating. I liked how he worked at Wawa, it shows that when you work hard you appreciate everything you have and it makes you work even harder. His job sounds great but Its because he found his passion. He made me think I need to start paying more attention and what I enjoying doing and just going for it as a goal for a career. Great lecture.