The Roads to ESPN

Alumni talk with students about career moves.

By Gillian Smith ’12

0n April 15, Ithaca College welcomed 13 alumni employed by ESPN to talk to students about the television industry.

The guests participated in a panel discussion in Park Auditorium about how their experiences at the College led them into the television industry, and specifically ESPN. The panel was run by two Park students, journalism major Tom Eschen ’11 and television-radio major Nick Karski ’11. The panel included Mark Gross ’88, senior vice president and executive producer of ESPN; Robert Labay ’93, senior post-production editor; and Karl Ravech ’87, ESPN anchor.

The discussion began with Karski and Eschen asking the panelists to describe their experiences at IC and at ESPN and then progressed into more in-depth questions about work integrity, the ins and outs of ESPN, and advice for students. The panelists then fielded questions from the audience, which consisted not only of students but also faculty, staff, and community members.

The panelists joked around a bit with each other and the students about how some of them had been friends at IC before going to ESPN and some didn’t even realize the others were IC graduates. Ravech warned students that they would be faced with many challenges when first trying to get into the television business, but if they were persistent, they would be able to make it.

“I have rejection letters as thick as the Yellow Pages,” said Ravech. “But all anyone in this room needs is one person to say ‘yes.’”

Throughout the discussion, the guests talked about social media, 3-D networking, and the future of ESPN, among other topics.

“You may not think [the changes in technology] are going to impact you,” Ravech said. “[ESPN] is no longer just a TV station. We service websites, tomorrow’s news, magazine, radio — that’s where technology has an effect on our day-to-day lives.”

Michael Lake ’00 said he spent a lot of time on ICTV and learned that life was not just a single path through one career.

“Internships helped me figure out what I didn’t want to do as much as they helped me figure out what I did want to do,” he said. “You will follow a zigzag career path, and you continue to learn.”

Ravech counseled students that whatever jobs they end up taking will shape their career in ways they never expected. He advised them to let their experiences take them where they will and to look at every experience as an opportunity to learn more.

“You’re not always going to love what you are doing on your way up,” he said. “But just know that every day is a stepping stone to your future.”