Our guest for this week’s Q & A is no stranger to the Wisconsin Sporting Landscape, sports reporter Jen Lada from Fox 6 in Milwaukee, one of the most active people out there as it relates to covering Wisconsin sports.  Jen is also is very involved with many charity events in the area, most recently co-chairing the “Athletes get NEWD for MS”, a fashion show fund raiser & just a couple days ago the Ryan Grant/Brandon Chillar/Nick and Andrea Collins charity food drive. We run the gambit with Jen as to questions, finding out about how she became a sports reporter, her thoughts on the Brewers, Golden Eagles & Packers and her advice to aspiring sports reporters out there. 

Share with us how you first got into sports reporting and your path to your current position at Fox 6.

Well the details of my auspicious start in sports get a little fuzzier every time I’m asked to recount them. Just kidding. Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve sports: playing HORSE in the driveway, running bases and home run derby in the yard. My three siblings and I were constantly outside earning grass stains and scars. I’ve always been a tomboy and have climbed more trees than I can remember… though I’ll never forget the one I fell out of the summer before my senior year of high school. That’s actually a good story – while trying to rehang our rope swing, I let go of the branch I was on and crash-landed on our seawall and into the water. Luckily, I walked away with just a fractured wrist and elbow. They weren’t my first broken bones. Probably won’t be my last. 

While in high school, I went to state 4 times in cross country and track and was on the cheerleading/dance team. I actually earned female Athlete of the Year as a senior. Academically speaking, I always knew I’d do something communications-related because I had such a passion for writing and forensics. I worked for our city’s newspaper and wrote sports stories for a few years there. I still have the clippings of my first few bylines. I also interned at a local radio station when I was 17. It was a once a week gig where I compiled stories from the wire, then delivered them in hourly updates. A lot of the technical stuff I learned there is obsolete now but that early on-air practice was invaluable.

I went to Marquette University because I wanted to be in a big city and MU’s College of Communications is very well-respected. Most people know that I was on the cheerleading team at MU but I also did several internships at Milwaukee tv and radio stations while working for MUTV. Instead of finding a job at a small market tv station right out of school, I took a non-paid position working for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PrepsPlus. I learned so much during that year and put together a pretty good resume reel that landed me several interviews. Pretty soon after, I got my first full-time paid gig at the NBC station in Rockford, IL. I was the weekend sports anchor and a feature sports reporter for a couple years when I was promoted to a news anchor position. And I despised it. I really missed the fun and irreverence of sportscasting! Thankfully, the position at Fox 6 became available shortly thereafter and I made the jump. Been here in Milwaukee ever since.

Is there a particular sport or team you enjoy covering more than others?

We all have sports and teams we’re more versed or knowledgeable about and usually those are more enjoyable because of an increased comfort level. But one of the great things about local sports coverage is the constant changing of seasons and in turn, sports. So you never get too overwhelmed or bored with one activity. Plus, there are always new players, coaches, managers, GMs etc. to get to know and develop rapport with. The turnover keeps things pretty interesting which definitely levels the preference playing field.   

Any particular coaches and/or players that are among your favorites to interview?

Well Bob Uecker isn’t a current player or coach, but I could sit and listen to him for hours. I’ve had several opportunities to have extended conversations with Mr. Baseball and I always leave informed, enlightened and aching from laughter. He’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever met and I think Brewers fans and Wisconsinites are pretty lucky to have a treasure like him around.

I also think Buzz Williams and Bo Ryan are fascinating people. I’ve found myself quoting these men’s wisdom in my everyday life. Buzz is an incredible storyteller and delivers some really great anecdotes. You could leave an interview with either head coach and be inspired to do better, be better.

As for a specific example, my one-on-one conversation with Aaron Rodgers (for his charity event to benefit the MACC Fund last May) certainly ranks as a favorite of mine because the QB was so candid in that setting. As Packers fans are quickly learning, Rodgers is a character. Very funny yet incredibly cerebral. He really appreciates the position he’s in – works hard and doesn’t take his success for granted. The opportunity to also hear him stress the importance of giving back to the community that’s embraced him and then act on that mantra was unique. Definitely a highlight for me.   

You also contribute to ESPNMilwaukee.com, on The Broad Side with Trenni Kusnierek. It sounds like you two have a lot of fun doing those, how much preparation and work goes into each podcast?

Well I appreciate you saying that because that’s the idea – it is a lot of fun. When Craig Karmazin gave us this opportunity he said he really wanted us to be ourselves and not try to fit into some preconceived mold of what we thought sports talk radio should be. The chance to prattle on about news and timely topics is every sports fan’s dream and we’re just thankful someone considers us credible and competent enough to pull it off. Is it rough around the edges? Naturally – we’ve only been doing it for a few months. But we’ll continue to get more comfortable in our thoughts, opinions and delivery. As long as we’re still enjoying it, we’ll continue. As for the preparation, there’s probably isn’t as much as there should be. We’re good friends so sometimes topics come up organically in conversation but usually we just brainstorm a bit about things that have piqued our interest and then try not to spill our guts/thoughts until we’re rolling.

We actually have a Marquette fan ‘on staff’ and he was interested in your take on Buzz Williams and his focus on developing a program culture with his players. Bo Ryan seems to have built his program around his offensive and defensive system, Buzz seems to focus on finding players that fit his toughness mentality and then will build the offense and defense around the players once they are here.

I have an incredible amount of respect for the way Buzz is going about his business at Marquette and I’d challenge you to find someone who doesn’t feel the same. His principles are admirable as is his focus on the growth and maturity of his young men as people, not just players. Having gone to MU and dedicated so much of my time to following the team, I’m absolutely insatiable for information about the program. Shows like Marquette Basketball Revealed and Buzz’s show on Sports 32 have been such pleasant developments. It’s that inside glimpse to what’s happening at the Old Gym or The Al that even members of the media aren’t always permitted otherwise. And it’s in those episodes you see how Buzz interacts with his players and the characteristics he values. I think his priorities are straight and that will only lead these young men down successful paths… so long as they opt to stick with him for the long haul.  

What are your thoughts on the hiring of former Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke for the Brewers Manager position?

Since I’ve had no interaction with the Brewers new skipper, I’m not really in a position to critique Roenicke as a person or a manager yet. Just as I wouldn’t want someone passing judgement on my qualifications as a sportscaster based solely on a bio or record of success, I try to refrain from comment until I’m better qualified. I am looking forward to meeting the man. He has an impeccable reputation and I hope, for the franchise’s and city’s sake, that he can lead this team back to the playoffs. The millions of people who actively support the squad deserve a winner again. Soon.    

Up to date the Bucks have been a little uninspiring.  Do you think this has more to do with getting the new players added over the Summer in sync with the existing core or perhaps are the Bucks a little overrated this season?

There’s always going to be a learning curve as players get used to each other’s strengths and tendencies. The NBA season is so long and that stretch can be a blessing and a curse. I’m really not worried about the Bucks taking the next step and making/advancing in the playoffs. Most of that confidence stems from the track record of John Hammond. I believe in the moves and acquisitions he’s made because he boasts a history of success. I don’t know if we’re talking about Brandon Jennings and Co. hoisting the Larry O’Brien in 2011 but if the players can get/stay healthy and continue becoming more cohesive, the Fear the Deer family is in for an exciting season.   

We’ll switch to football here. The Packers are coming off of their BYE week & into the second half of the season.  Up to this point, what has been the one thing that has really stuck out for you in regards to this 2010 team?

Well you don’t have to be overly observant to note the unfortunate rash of injures plaguing the Packers this season. Nearly a dozen guys on IR? That’s absurd! Coaches will tell you that the sooner a team has to deal with adversity, the sooner it can overcome those circumstances and learn from the struggle. Now, I don’t think the Green Bay staff ever expected it to reach this level but the fact that the team is still competitive and contending for the division title means Ted Thompson has done something right. There’s some pretty good depth there and you have to be impressed with the way certain guys have seized the opportunities those injuries presented.   

What advice would you give to aspiring sports reporters out there?

Its never too early to get your feet wet. Advances in technology have made it a lot easier to work on your craft well before you get to the college classroom. DVR/Tivo ball games and record yourself doing mock play-by-play or highlights from your living room. Ask a friend to shoot stand-ups with a cell phone or flip cam then upload them to YouTube. It doesn’t even matter what the event is. Little league game. Swim meet. 5K. Make up the details to start. Eventually people will start telling you stories. Practice is practice. Ask for critiques. Learn from the criticism. Keep improving. I’m still trying to get better every single day. 

The business is changing. Convergence is the rule not the exception. Embrace social media and always be thinking of new ways to bring the product and information to your audience. I went down to the women’s NCAA soccer game between MU and WI Sunday afternoon. In-state rivals. Double overtime. Shootout. Our cameraman had long since left and there were no other stations there to capture the Golden Eagle’s victory. So I did an interview with one of Marquette’s players on my cell phone’s video camera and send it back to the station. We used it that night. Try new things. Take note when they work. Figure out why they don’t when they don’t. 

All that is important but the best advice I can give is to aspiring sportscasters is work on your writing skills. Verbal delivery aside, sports broadcasting is mostly about weaving tales of victory and heroism, defeat and struggle, inspiration and adversity. There’s nothing worse than a great story told poorly. Plus, every outlet has access to the same highlights and information. The only thing that really differentiates anchor at WXYZ from anchor at WGHI is the way they articulate the information. I think the edge goes to the more compelling/entertaining writer.      

…and now for the lighting round:

Your all-time favorite professional athlete is:

Andre Dawson

Your favorite sports blogs to read are:

www.espnmilwaukee/wilde

http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/

If there were no sports to report, you would be doing:

Writing a novel. Teaching/coaching. Trial attorney. Depends on the day.

If you were a professional athlete, your sport & position would be:

I’d be a Professional Triathlete competing in Iron Man races all over the world.

Should I ever run into you at a bar, I should buy you a _____________ for taking the time to answer these questions.

Dirty martini. Up. Extra dirty. And then I’d buy you whatever you were having to say thanks for taking an interest.=

As always, a big thank you to Jen for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer all of our questions.  You can see Jen on Fox 6 out of Milwaukee as well as follow her on Twitter or catch her on The Broadside .

Would you like to be the guest for a PocketDoppler.com Thursday Q & A? Let us know!

 

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