Thursday Q & A: Drew Smith from WLUK
Our guest for the return of the Thursday Q & A is Drew Smith, Sports Director at WLUK, the Fox Affiliate here in Green Bay. From Drew we’ll find out what it was like covering the Packers during the Super Bowl run, what he things will happen with the NFL this coming season, thoughts on the Brewers as well as some advice for aspiring sports reporters out there.
In reading your bio, before coming to Green Bay it appears as though you traveled around a bit with your most recent gig being in Las Vegas before coming to WLUK. How did you end up going from the desert to the Tundra & WLUK?
I loved my time in Vegas, but they don’t have any top level professional sports (unless you count UNLV basketball- I kid!) and I was hoping to get to an NFL town to further my career. The Packers had recently been to two Super Bowls, and the high profile meant a number of anchors had moved on, so WLUK was looking for some help. I got a cold call from the news director searching for a reporter, and I asked if she needed a sports director. Within four weeks, I was pulling into Green Bay, reading my “Football for Dummies” book, and devouring any Packers history I could get my hands on.
This past year for area sports reporters was a pretty big one with the Packers Super Bowl run. What was the experience like, covering the Super Bowl for the team you cover locally & is there a particular memory from this season that stood out that you’d want to share with our readers.
I have covered a number of big time events, from the NCAA tournament, to the Olympics, but the Super Bowl is its own animal. The fact that it was so unexpected even heightened the experience, since after Aaron Rodgers 2nd concussion; they couldn’t lose again and stay in the race. In mid-December, we had all but given up on the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl, but the train kept on chugging along. I think the activities in Dallas (minus the freak weather and the problems it caused) were particularly memorable. Being on the field after the game ended and interviewing the players was just too cool. You dream about being right there to see the guys that you know well experience this international success, and I felt like I shared in that in just a small way. It’s why we do what we do. As for some of the moments, we did a Super Bowl Report live from a lodge/water park with a couple of Packers fans behind me that was just crazy. Those are the kinds of experiences you remember the most- the ones that involve people.
Beyond your ‘official’ capacity at WLUK you also are the host of ‘Inside the Huddle’, a locally aired show featuring Donald Driver, Clay Matthews, Jermichael Finley & James Jones as co-hosts. What’s the planning process for an airing of Inside the Huddle? Is it pretty much scripted or do you & your co-host for the week just sort of go with the flow and see what happens?
Inside the Huddle has been one of my favorite shows to produce, and we have now been doing it for more than eight years! It started as a single post-season special, “The Bump and Quickie Show” with Nate Wayne and Donald Driver. Nate got cut that winter, but we kept it going with DD, and this year added the others. Basically, I put the show together with my producer, coming up with bits, games, funny video, and anything else we can throw into it, including some regular features, like the Quickie Quiz and “In the House with James Jones”. My co-host for that night is usually seeing the material for the first time with the viewers, which helps make it more spontaneous. Some of my favorite moments have been the interaction between my co-host and the Packers guest he brings- we usually get some good stories out of them, and never know where it will lead us. One night we had Gilbert Brown on as a guest, and he offered go pick me up and do the grave digger with me straight onto the floor of the set. For about two seconds, I thought he was actually going to do it! Luckily, he was just kidding…
You have a background in radio and also are part of the WDUZ Packers pregame show. Do you prepare yourself differently for radio work vs television or is your approach similar no matter the medium.
To me radio and TV are two totally different skills. On television, there is more of an emphasis on writing and condensing the information into small bites that people can quickly digest as they watch the news. The time is very limited, and at times limiting. I love doing the radio because it allows me to show my personality, and lets me delve into topics with more depth. I find that with radio I had better have my facts straight in my head before starting because it isn’t scripted, so I have to connect the dots as I go. Also, I don’t have to comb my hair on the radio. Or wear a tie.
The 800 lb gorilla in the room these days is the current state of the NFL, or lack thereof. What are your thoughts on the situation in general and do you think there will be a 2011 NFL season?
I think there will be a season in some form, but I have a rather pessimistic view of it all. I don’t expect things to get serious until the Players Association start losing game checks, which means missing games. What I think would be cool would be a truncated regular season, then a post season that seeds each conference 1-16 and have a March Madness playoff to see who goes to the Super Bowl. Who wouldn’t absolutely LOVE that? In fact, that would be something they could think about putting in on a regular basis. The regular season would be for seeding purposes only, so you could play anywhere from 5-10 games and still make it work with tie-breakers. Just back up the six weeks from the date of the Super Bowl, and have at it. Talk about an awesome playoff. Think of the upsets, since “any given Sunday” you could have a favorite go down. Just something to think about…
Moving away from the Packers for now, the expectations for the Brewers this year are pretty high. So far the Brewers haven’t lived up to those expectations no matter how young the season is. Do you think the Brewers will settle in now, put together a solid rest of the season and still be playing baseball come October?
They’ve got to figure out a way to win on the road. I love their pitching staff as it is right now, especially the starting rotation, but for some reason guys just aren’t hitting. That will come, I think, and when it does, they may start getting a few wins on the road, which would put them right back in the thick of things. At least I hope they get back in it before July, because if not, say “Adios” to Prince Fielder at the trade deadline.
What’s your opinion of the job Brewers rookie manager Ron Roenicke has done so far, or is the sample size just too small at this point to pass any sort of realistic judgment?
I think it is still a little early, but I think he’s done OK. He’s a players’ manager, and sometimes he allows them a little too much sway in the decision making process. Remember the Kammeron Loe situation a couple of weeks ago where he was sent out a third straight day and stunk up the joint, losing the game? That kind of thing should never happen. The manager needs to have a better idea of what his players can do, despite what they tell him. I like him personally, so have a tendency to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Bucks owner Herb Kohl announced he will not be seeking re-election for his Senate seat this coming year. Do you think this could be a good thing for the Bucks, not only in the near future but for the viability of the franchise in Milwaukee (and the State of Wisconsin) long-term?
I don’t know that Herb Kohl with extra time on his hands means Andrew Bogut will stay healthy! John Hammonds has done wonders with the roster with limited means the last couple of years, and they were unlucky with injuries again this year. I think there is a lot of support from the community, and with a good young nucleus, they should bet better and better. However, that’s such a wildcard.
I always like to ask this question of the ‘main stream media’ folks I’m lucky enough to have on the Q & A. How has social media, blogs & the Internet in general changed the way you work, for good or bad?
Social media is great, and has gotten us as journalists closer to the players we cover. The good thing right now is the players don’t know how big that is, that a tweet is tantamount to a press release, so we are getting to know these guys better than before, sometimes to their detriment. As a journalist my only concern is the speed with which information, true or false, is able and allowed to travel. While there used to be a few gatekeepers, that barn door is wide open now, so consumers have to make sure they know where the information originates to help them determine its worth. The internet has also changed the way we “mainstreamers” focus our coverage. I used to have to run a ton of scores and do national highlights, but now sports fans already have seen the dunks, home runs and big hits before they even get to me, so I have to give them something they won’t get anywhere else, whether it is inside information about their favorite teams through our specialty programming, or hyper local information from the high schools and the like. Some changes aren’t good or bad- just different- but on the new age of information and commentary, I have to pick my game up, which is never a bad thing.
What advice would you give to aspiring sports media/reporters out there?
LEARN HOW TO WRITE IN ENGLISH! Was that forceful enough? I get so many young reporters who want to show me how they can do the highlights, but have 10 misspellings on their cover letter. This is the communication business, and the better writer you are, but further you will go, whether that’s in TV, on the internet, and anywhere you prepare copy. Also, do as many internships as you have time to do. It is essential for your networking, and this business is a small one. Many jobs are gotten because you are in the right place at the right time.
…and now for the lightening round.
Your all-time favorite professional athlete is:
Tie: Don Mattingly, Yankees 1st baseman and Graig Nettles, Yankees 3rd baseman.
Your favorite sports blog to read is:
Yours, of course!!
If there were no sports to report, you would be doing:
Roaming the streets doing play-by-play of mundane everyday events- waiting for bus, ordering in a restaurant, shopping for clothes, you know, the really interesting stuff. That, or be a lawyer.
If you were a professional athlete, your sport & position would be:
Tie: Top ten PGA golfer, or 3rd base for the Yankees.
Should I ever run into you at a local establishment here in Green Bay, I should buy you a ___________________ for taking the time to answer these questions.
Chocolate milk! It’s a great post-workout recovery drink, and sooo delicious!
Thank you to Drew for coming on board this week. You can of course catch Drew on WLUK and also keep up with him online via his blog on the WLUK website and of course his Twitter account, @DrewSmithSports.
Would you like to be the guest for a PocketDoppler.com Thursday Q & A? Let us know!