Renowned Sports Journalist Meets SCU Journalism Students
Bryant encourages students to ”bet on themselves”
By Julia MacIntyre ‘21
On October 10, Santa Clara University journalism students had the opportunity to interact with sports journalist Howard Bryant. A senior writer for ESPN, correspondent for NPR’s Weekend Edition, and author of several acclaimed books, Bryant used humor and candor to explore issues ranging from the relationship between race and sports in the United States to the importance of journalists embracing and writing to their own perspectives.
“Most times, when you do projects, the best ones come from something that feel[s] personal, that you take personally,” said Bryant. “Most of the projects you like the most are ones that force you to fuse your professional and personal life in such a way that interests you.”
Professor Lisa Davis (Communication) brought Bryant to her journalism course so her students could learn firsthand from a well-respected journalist. “I was eager for our students, particularly our journalism students, to hear from him about how he has overcome the challenges of reporting on top athletes and approached stories that add to the overall conversation about race, money and the First Amendment.”
In his conversation with the students, Howard admitted he still faces challenges as a practicing journalist. Despite a remarkable multi-decade career, Bryant says he still faces anxiety as he builds his stories. Nevertheless, he assured students of the rewarding nature of the journalism field. “You start out with a blank screen on your computer," he said, "and then there is something there and that something there belongs to you.”
Bryant attributed his success to his ability to build trust with athletes and sources; his demand to analyze the complex relationships between athletes, politics, and race; the “arrogance that comes with writing and reporting”; and the courage it takes to assume that “what I have to say is worth you listening to.”
Howard’s most recent book, The Heritage: Black Athletes, A Divided America and the Politics of Patriotism is a timely and comprehensive look at the history of black activism through sports, from Jackie Robinson to Colin Kaepernick, set against the backdrop of a changing American political climate.
Davis finds Bryant’s observations about journalism helped make the industry come alive for the students. “He addresses current, often controversial issues, in a way that helps illuminate the real-world implications of journalism principles we teach in the classroom.”
Bryant encouraged the students to remember that each of them brings something original to their stories and to journalism more broadly.
“What you bring to what you see is very unique — you may be seeing something that other people might not see. Everybody has to bet on themselves, believe in what you’re doing.”