Former Online Intern Excels in Sports Reporting

By Blaine Grisak
Online Reporter Project

Haley Sawyer was a former intern with the online reporter project and has moved on to do great things. A recent graduate of Robert Morris University, she has interned with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sporting News.

Sawyer is very interested in sports journalism and is excited to see where her career takes her. This week, she discussed her experience with the online reporting project and  where she sees her journalism career going.

Q: How did your interest in journalism begin?

A: I was always good at writing and reading. Growing up, my mom made me keep a diary when I was younger and I always wrote down what was going on in my life and my thoughts on everything that was going on. I actually do sports journalism now. I was never really an athlete growing up. I was a dancer and I was a cheerleader. As a cheerleader being on the sidelines, I’m hearing what is going on. Being so all in the moment and being so close to the sidelines, I was very drawn to it.

So, I think just doing writing, which is something that I was good at and combining it with sports, something else that I was interested in, it just kind of paired up really well together and kind of went from there.

Q: What aspects of journalism do you enjoy the most?

A: I think journalism is cool because you can talk to a whole bunch of different people and just see the world through a whole bunch of different people’s eyes. In my concentration of sports it’s always interesting because you get information of what goes beyond. You get the full perspective. You get what the players are thinking, you get what the coaches are thinking. So, you put everything together and it just fits together. I think just talking to everyone and just seeing how they see things is really interesting to me.

Q: What did you do while you were in school to get experience?

I went to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. I wrote for my student newspaper which was interesting because we started as a print publication and then we stopped our print publication when I was a junior and we went strictly online. It was an interesting transition to be a part of. And when I wrote for the student paper I wrote for our men’s hockey NCAA team and I I did a documentary on the football team.

After I was done with the student newspaper I got an internship with a regional daily newspaper called The Beaver County Times. I covered high school sports with them. And then after that I did another internship with the Pittsburgh Penguins. I was at that internship and then I was continuing to freelance with The Beaver County Times. So I got to learn a little bit about how to balance everything though that. Then after I was done with the Penguins I did a little bit of freelancing with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and that was also mostly high school sports and some college sports too.

Q: What did you do with the Penguins and how did you get with them?

A: Well, this is definitely a story about connections. When I was at The Beaver County Times, they assigned me a Penguins story because they knew I was interested in hockey and I knew about the Penguins. They paired me up with one of their writers to go cover a practice. So I went to the practice and the guy who was supposed to be paired with me couldn’t be there.

One of his friends who just happened to be a beat writer for the Penguins for the Tribune Review, showed me the ropes and everything going on. We really hit it off and we had a professional connection right off the bat.

I mentioned to him that I was applying to a Penguins internship and he was, I shouldn’t say adamant, but he definitely helped me in the sense that he knew who was in charge of the Penguins and knew people from there so he could put a bug in their ear and be like ‘Hey this Haley girl, I think she’d be a really good fit for you guys.’ It’s just an example of how meeting people and how making a good professional connection can help you later on down the road.

Q: What was your experience doing the online internship like and what did you enjoy most about it?

A: The online reporter project was really cool. It was short. It was only two days, but we  learned a lot. We did social media, we did video, we did different stories, we did stuff before the conference had even started. It taught you how to connect with everybody who was one the staff and work with your deadlines, and work with your editors.

I think the best part about this two-day extravaganza is that you are literally like in the same room as some of the greatest minds in Pennsylvania journalism which is pretty good because you have Pittsburgh, you have Philadelphia, which between those two places, there’s a lot of smart people and a lot of people who know what they’re doing. So, it was definitely cool to be in their company and kind of pick their brains and see how they do things and how to help myself throughout my career.

Q: How did you get your position with the Sporting News?

A: I graduated college a semester early, so I graduated in December. I was looking around for some full time jobs when someone from The Tribune Review had suggested that I take an internship. I had never thought of that before. He sent me a notice for the Sporting News internship. I read through the description and I had a good feel for it. It’s in North Carolina, so it was an opportunity to travel which was cool. I decided to apply for that and I heard back pretty quickly from them that they were interested in me. I experienced a different culture and I also got to learn a little bit about a national publication.

Q: Where do you see your journalism career heading in the next couple of years?

A: I just finished up my Sporting News internship. But once you’re done and you’re ready to go out into the real world, it’s like your plans change from one week to the next. Something actually just dropped into my lap the other day and I might be moving to New York to NBC. I could be moving out to Los Angeles to do some freelancing out there.

It’s kind of tricky to nail down an answer, but I guess I’ll give a big picture answer. I just want to keep continuing to move up the ladder and move to bigger and bigger publications. Hopefully I’ll get to write sports for the rest of my life and if not I think it would be kind of cool to get into editing or something with management position.

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