Communications contingent ready for Croke Park Classic, hands-on opportunities

When it comes to non-traditional classrooms, not many top another country and not many come with the responsibility about to be shouldered by 10 Penn State students traveling to Ireland for next week’s Croke Park Classic -- the season-opening college football game between Penn State and the University of Central Florida on Aug. 30.

The engaged scholarship opportunity provides an unrivaled experience for students in the College of Communications whose work before, during and after the trip will be available to media outlets across Pennsylvania and the world.

Eight of the students represent the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. Through an agreement with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA), the Curley Center and its students will provide coverage of the game and stories related to the unusual setting, including pieces on Irish sport and culture, to PNA member organizations. In addition, highlights of the students’ coverage from the nine-day working trip that serves as the core of a for-credit course will be made available at the Curley Center site:

Students representing the Curley Center are:

-- Hannah Bressi, from York, Pennsylvania,

-- Bobby Chen, from Wayne, Pennsylvania,

-- Melissa Conrad, from Hamburg, New Jersey,

-- C.J. Doon, from West Sayville, New York,

-- Kelsie Netzer, from Bakersfield, California,

-- Greg Pickel, from Middletown, Pennsylvania,

-- Eric Shultz, from Shamokin, Pennsylvania; and,

-- Jake Somerville, from Philadelphia.

Two other Penn State students making the trip represent “Centre County Report” and ComRadio, the weekly newscast produced by communications students and the related Internet radio station for which students produce hundreds of hours of programming each semester. Those two students -- Mike Esse, of Grosse Point, Michigan, and Joe Garofolo, of Roxbury, New Jersey -- will file online reports and provide play-by-play coverage of the Aug. 30 football game.

They will also serve as the on-air broadcast team for a high school football game between two Pennsylvania schools (Cedar Crest and Penn Manor) in Ireland on Aug. 29. That coverage will be available on Aertv Sportslive. Their Penn State-specific work may be found at online.

Four faculty members will accompany students, three traveling with Curley Center students and one with the TV and radio pair. Those faculty members -- John Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and director of the Curley Center; John Beale, a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism and former chief photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Steve Kraycik, director of student television and online operations for the College of Communications; and Lori Shontz, a senior editor for The Penn Stater magazine as well as a Curley Center board member and an adjunct lecturer -- bring high standards to the endeavors.

Affleck, who coordinated numerous special assignments for The Associated Press during his two decades with that news organization before he joined Penn State last year, conceived the news bureau approach and has worked closely with PNA to develop a plan to provide complete and timely coverage of the game and activities that surround it.

“It’s an ambitious project for us, and we have partners who will rely on the content we produce. It’s an educational experience and a professional experience all in one. Most of all, it’s an experience that comes with high expectations,” Affleck said. “We’ve been organized from the start and the students are capable and committed to producing quality work that reflects well on them and on Penn State.”

The news bureau effort provides the latest example of the Curley Center’s student-centered commitment to sports journalism education. In the past, Curley Center students have covered the Summer Olympics in London, the Bowl Championship Series title game and the Final Four.

“Our students are going to be busy. It’s a wonderful experience that will give them a realistic look at the daily deadline pressure broadcast journalists deal with,” Kraycik said. “They need to make the most of the chance, and I know they will. Along with producing TV and online stories, the opportunity to do radio play-by-play for the Penn State game and the high school game will be fantastic additions to their professional resumes and portfolios.” 

Along with the 10 students and four faculty members focused on those two endeavors, another Penn State faculty member, Steve Manuel, a senior lecturer in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, will make the trip as a photographer for the Penn State Alumni Association. Manuel is an award-winning photographer who regularly provides photos for the Alumni Association and Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics. Manuel, a retired public affairs officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Marine Corps spokesman, also regularly travels as an official photographer for USO tours. He has never been to Ireland, though.

The Croke Park Classic will kick at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 30 in Dublin (8:30 a.m. ET) and will air on ESPN2, ComRadio and the Penn State Sports Network.

Last Updated August 28, 2014