Born and raised an Ole Miss fan, 2016 graduate Catherine Carroon followed generations of family members to Rebel Nation before beginning her career in the world of sports through the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media.
Although she was not 100 percent set on Ole Miss, she said she decided to attend the university due to its impeccable journalism program.
Carroon embarked on her journalism journey her freshman year; however, she quickly switched her major to the school’s integrated marketing communications program.
The decision to switch career paths came from her passion for sports. She said she knew she didn’t want a career in sports writing, but since the school did not offer sports marketing, IMC became the best decision.
“I thought [IMC] would be the closest thing to get me near that track,” Carroon said.
While attending the university, Carroon had her first taste of experience through ESPN as a “runner” for College Gameday. That behind-the-scenes experience influenced her to hone in on sports operations.
“ESPN was one of those things I always thought ‘there is a one-in-a-million special person’ who would get the job there,” Carroon said. “I never thought it would be obtainable.” Photo courtesy of Carroon.
Carroon furthered her skill set in sport operations by working in the university’s control room—an operations sports program run by ESPN for a majority of SEC universities.
Upon graduation, Carroon said she was unsure what her next steps would be. However, one of the coordinating producers, Meg Aronowitz, sent a mass email to all the SEC control rooms regarding an operations internship in Bristol, Connecticut.
One of the ESPN control room contacts informed Carroon and encouraged her to apply, she said.
“ESPN was one of those things I always thought ‘there is a one-in-a-million special person’ who would get the job there,” Carroon said. “I never thought it would be obtainable.”
Now as a operations coordinator in her third year at the network, Carroon said she can link the framework of her success back to her Ole Miss experiences.
Although her classes in sports and journalism taught her educational information she uses day to day, Carroon credits her time at the university’s control room for her hands on experience in sports. From interacting with producers to handling film, the experience gave her a bird’s eye view on how to work in sports operations.
Carroon has covered a plethora of sports since her stint at ESPN. From the Sunday night MLB package to working on Olympic Sports, there aren’t many sports the young journalist hasn’t covered.
By Talbert Toole, lifestyles editor of HottyToddy.com.
Becoming a book editor had always been a dream for recent Meek School graduate Hannah Fields. However, fate worked its way into her life to lead her down a different career path.
Originally from Jonesboro, Arkansas, Fields moved to Clinton, Mississippi, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in English writing at Mississippi College (MC) with hopes of landing a job among book editors in Nashville.
Before attending The University of Mississippi, Hannah Fields received her bachelor’s degree in English writing at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. Photo courtesy of Hannah Fields.
She searched for jobs in the publishing industry, but came up empty handed. She said she learned that lack of networking gave her a setback chasing her editorial dream. With her background in English writing, Fields was able to land a job as a sports columnist for Rantsports.com—a professional and college sports website—which allowed her to sustain a living in her new city.
“I was covering the Tennessee Titans and some SEC football,” she said.
Before landing the job as a sports columnist, she said she never really had a passion for football until she was introduced to the sport while attending MC. Realizing the popularity of the sport within her friend group, Fields had to jump on board if she wanted to spend quality time with her friends.
“I didn’t know a lot about [football],” she said, “But when I started writing that sports column it reinforced this idea that I wanted to work in sports.”
While reading Paul Finebaum and Gene Wojciechowski’s book, “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference,” Fields started to regret not attending an SEC school with her newfound love for football. She said she wasn’t going to make a career out of her sports column, and becoming a homebody while writing allowed depression to creep in. She realized she needed to make another career change.
Fields said she gained the confidence to follow her new passion after becoming more sports-confident.
“I said ‘I know enough to write this sports column, so why don’t I know enough to work for an [NFL] team?’” she said.
Steps In the Right Direction
Leaving the Music City behind, Fields was on a search for not only a graduate program to further her newfound career, but one with a football program she could grow to love and support.
After looking at several SEC schools with programs in the journalism field and competitive football teams, it was only natural she chose The University of Mississippi since her sister attended Rebel Nation for her undergraduate degree.
“I knew Oxford and the campus,” she said. “Then Ole Miss also had integrated marketing communications (IMC), which turned out to be the perfect fit for what I wanted to do…plus it got me back to Mississippi.”
Fields thoroughly immersed herself in the program by writing class papers on women in sports, said Chris Sparks, associate professor of IMC.
“She is a great example of someone who sets a goal and goes after it,” Sparks said. “She decided she wanted to be in sports marketing at the beginning of her first year in the graduate program at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media and committed to making it happen.”
Sparks said Fields is an excellent example of someone who not only followed her dream but made it happen.
Fields graduated from the IMC program in May 2018 with the goal of being a social media coordinator for an NFL team in sight. Upon graduation, Fields applied for a position with the NFL Green Bay Packers through teamworkonline.com—a website designated to connect people to sports jobs with professional sports teams.
Having experience through an internship with the WNBA Atlanta Dream, along with her background in writing, Fields expertly landed the job. She now had her foot in the door working her dream job in the NFL.
Now as the e-commerce marketing intern for the Packers, Fields assists with promotional marketing for the Packers Pro Shop—the official retail store of the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers since 1989. She said she has mostly been writing copy for products, emails and social media.
“Hopefully this will be a launching pad from which I can do what I want to do, which is social media,” she said.
Reminiscing Over Her Roots
Although she’s on track in her dream field, Fields said there are many things she does miss about the South and Mississippi, such as the southern hospitality.
She said Southerners like herself are known for being extroverts, which seems to be lacking in her new Midwestern home.
Wisconsin might be known for its cheese and dairy, but according to Fields, midwesterners do not relish in starches, carbs and savory delights like their southern neighbors. She said the difference in food variety was something she expected when she made the move to the cheese state, but she didn’t realize it was something that would be so drastically different.
“Little stuff like food… you don’t realize is unique to where you live until you move out of [your state],” she said.
Fields might miss the warm temperatures, sweet tea and foods indicative to Mississippi, but she said she’s excited to embark on a new journey to achieve her goals as a social media coordinator in the NFL.
Baltimore native Herb May, a former University of Mississippi student, returned to the Meek School this week to talk about his job with On Location Experiences. May said the company is the official hospitality partner of the NFL, and he works as a manager in premium sales, selling NFL and sports experiences to diehard fans and corporate entities who host high level clients.
May, who attended a boarding school in Connecticut before becoming an Ole Miss student, said he came to UM because he was a football fan and wanted to have an NFL-related job. He worked for the Ole Miss Football Team as a recruiting and coach assistant his first year before becoming involved with Sigma Nu fraternity.
“I had a really great relationship with Scott Fiene,” he said, “and he was really helpful in guiding me where to look and what classes to take to get me through school. It was the best four and a half years of my life.”
Fiene is the assistant dean for curriculum and assessment and assistant professor of integrated marketing communications.
May said he learned there were many job opportunities in the world and decided to stop limiting himself. But after learning about a position with On Location Experiences through a connection with another Sigma Nu fraternity brother, he returned to his original career path seeking an NFL-related job. He said he was “perfectly persistent” when requesting a job interview with the company.
May said On Location Experiences owns a number of subsidiary companies, including businesses in the travel and entertainment industry. “It’s a full service, one-stop shop company that curates a premium experience around the NFL.” The corporate office is located in New York, but they are also establishing a presence in Atlanta.
May’s career advice? He encourages students to familiarize themselves with LinkedIn and use it as a tool to network with professionals. He said the after-college job search can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to start job seeking long before you graduate.
He tells students to pick five industries, five job roles, and five cities, and narrow down their search. He said don’t overlook small companies because they enable you to network with the heads of companies and other leaders within the company who may think of you when they move on to another job.
It’s also important to be humble. “Guys who have a certain degree and have done certain internships, but who are not willing to do the grunt work – get the coffees, get the mail, and do all that stuff – that’s where people lose jobs.”
May said he has prospective clients in Oxford, and as the company grows, they could be hiring in the future. He described his ideal employee.
“I need to have someone that I cannot only have a relationship with and be a mentor to, but that I can also be firm with when there is a mistake,” he said. “It should be someone who I could show why there is a mistake, how to improve it, and what I would have done differently. And I need someone on the other side of the table to be receptive to that.”
Videographer, journalist and social media guru are all words used to describe Kayla Beatty. Beatty is a senior at the University of Mississippi and in her second year working for Ole Miss Athletics in production.
As a journalism student, she has gained essential skills for working professionally in the field. As a main videographer for Ole Miss Athletics, Beatty has worked every sports event at Ole Miss. Her favorite sport is basketball, but not always.
“I grew up watching soccer,” she said. “I knew nothing about football, basketball or baseball.
She quickly learned the sports and now sometimes thinks she could coach them. Beatty works on a team of roughly nine to 12 people. Half of them are students. This a paid job, but her first year counted as internship credit.
“While I may not go into the sports production field, the skills and opportunities I have been given are out of this world,” said Beatty.
Before every basketball game, the team of videographers meet two hours before to begin testing equipment. There are multiple cameras around the Pavilion to get high and low shots. They check lighting, sound and angles to get the perfect shot at game time.
An hour before the game begins, they get into position. They start getting clips of the crowd, and the teams warm up. The team films everything that spectators see in the arena and what is posted throughout the game on social media.
Everything that the cameras in the arena pick up is sent immediately to the control room. There, staff members operate music, lights and everything you see on the jumbotron. They also quickly make graphics for social media and talk with SEC Sports.
“We all have headsets on so we know what we all are doing,” Beatty. “Communication is key in the industry.”
Beatty’s favorite video to capture is when she follows the ball closely on camera and gets the angle as it lands in the net. She uses a “slash camera” to achieve this. This was one of the hardest skills to perfect. She said she is still learning.
Videography and photography is all about practicing. When she first started, she shadowed an existing staff member to learn the basics.
“They take baby steps so they can ensure you will know everything before you are on your own,” she said. “A lot of basic skills I taught myself on my iPhone.”
After shadowing someone with experience, the videographers are on their own. After about a year, they usually end up having a shadow or “buddy” to teach.
Beatty said the most important piece of advice is know your equipment. Supervisor Hank Lena is their main support. Lena works the control room and is in charge of the team during the game.
“The staff is so talented,” Lena said. “They are always eager to learn. For my students, I am here to make sure they are getting the knowledge they will need to continue a career in production and journalism.”
Another favorite part of the job for Beatty is creating graphics for Ole Miss sports teams’ social media. Within minutes of the live footage, the staff sends Tweets, Instagram posts and Snapchats.
A great part of working for Ole Miss productions is they allow everyone to rotate positions. Everyone may have their preference, but they are given the opportunity to use a high camera, low camera or work in the control room. Staff is exposed to videography, still photography and social media.
“I get to play with toys and get paid,” said Beatty. “I get to work with the best cameras and equipment in the industry.”
Work does not feel like work when it is doing something you love. Everyday is different working in production.
“I love what I get to do for a living, so hiring people that are also so passionate about journalism is the best part,” said Lena.
A lot of hard work goes into what looks easy to the average viewer at a sporting event. From preparation to putting all the footage together at the end, students and staff move quickly.
Beatty said she wishes she had known about this job earlier in her college career because of the skills she has learned and the connections and people she has met. She hopes to continue learning as much as she can this upcoming basketball season.