Newhouse students represent student media at Super Bowl media week

Newhouse students experience media work at Super Bowl

Newhouse students Jonah Karp, Jackson Ajello and Drew Carter broadcasted to Syracuse University student media from Atlanta, Georgia before Super Bowl LIII
Published: February 11, 2019 | Updated: February 18th, 2019 at 8:39 pm

“It was like we were supposed to be there,” Jonah Karp reminisced about Super Bowl’s pre-game coverage in Atlanta the past week.

Karp, a broadcast and digital journalism junior, envisioned this opportunity in Professor Dennis Deninger’s class titled The Super Bowl: Sport, Culture and Entertainment close to a year ago. Not so soon after, Karp approached BDJ seniors Jackson Ajello and Drew Carter with an idea. The plan became a reality and gave this trio an experience they described as “surreal.”

“In many ways, we went in blind,” Karp said. “We saw our setup right next to Sirius XM, Westwood One, NBC and CBS and we were like ‘this is nuts’. So, in the beginning, it was overwhelming.” The team started working from Monday, scheduling interviews on the fly. Karp said that people readily agreed to get interviewed and treated the trio like they were “one of their peers.”

“You grow up admiring certain people and all you want to do is impress them,” Karp said. “They’re willing to sit down, take time out of their day to spend time with you – you don’t want to waste their time.”

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From left to right: Jackson Ajello, Drew Carter, CBS' Adam Schein, Jonah Karp and Professor Dennis Deninger. Schein, who graduated from Syracuse in 1999, was one of many sports media personalities that the SU students interviewed in Atlanta.

Karp interviewed Adam Schein, a ’99 broadcast journalism grad, at the event and also before travelling to Atlanta. That was the first moment that Karp said he couldn’t believe happened. When he was applying to Newhouse three years ago, Karp wrote an essay about his admiration and goal to emulate Schein.

On Tuesday night, the team attended the media party along with organizations who were covering the Super Bowl. “Wolfgang Puck was there – the international, Michelin-star chef was serving duck to everybody. It was weird – an eye-opening and jaw-dropping experience,” Karp said. He said it was a “ridiculously cool” night to share a space with people from all over the world.

According to Ajello, a lot of people working at the event did a really good job of making them feel that they belonged there. “They made us feel like we didn’t stick out,” he said.”We had at least 15, if not 20, different Syracuse alums who were just working at the Super Bowl event and helped us out in one form or another.”

“No matter what I go do, I now know that there’s nothing bigger than covering the Super Bowl – the biggest event for sports,” Ajello said. “Honestly, it makes me more comfortable doing whatever it is I’m doing because it’s kind of like ‘been there’, you know?”

For Carter, the whole experience was like a whirlwind. “It was kind of like being dropped into a fantasy-land,” he said. “When we walked in on Thursday, I look to my left and the first person I see is [1982 Heisman Trophy winner] Herschel Walker – it was nuts.” Carter pointed out that planning was one of their biggest challenges because it was their first time covering a large-scale event like that of Super Bowl.

“When you’re here in Syracuse, you’re sort of in a bubble and everything is sort of laid out – it’s like a very linear path,” he said. “But when we were down there, we were fending for ourselves. Luckily, we had Prof. Deninger there to kind of show us the way.”

Deninger said that the three students did three hours of radio everyday and did over 30 interviews, both live and pre-recorded. “They got to interact with a lot of professional media people, former players and people who analyze the NFL and see how the United States media covers a major event,” he said. The team also got the opportunity to visit the Mercedes-Benz stadium to check out the pre-game operations, CBS broadcasting truck and the ESPN compound.

According to Deninger, “Adapting to the long hours was challenging.” The team also faced technical difficulties, such as finding an Ethernet cable to transmit back to the Z89 studio. Deninger said that Syracuse grads such as Howard Deneroff, now a producer at Westwood One, helped them out.

The students hosted shows the entire week, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Z89, recorded reports for WAER, video – both recorded and live segments for Citrus TV from Atlanta, Deninger shared. “I think it was an amazing educational experience – they’ve been part of the coverage of America’s biggest sporting event and they haven’t even graduated college yet.”

Avatar for Sajida Ayyup

is a contributor to The NewsHouse.