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My Day Shadowing Chicago Sportscaster Lou Canellis

On Wednesday, May 6, I was able to realize my dream Sports Illustrated Kids assignment: shadow a sportscaster.

I spent the day with Lou Canellis of Fox 32 Chicago. Canellis delivers the sportscast every night on Fox 32 News at Nine. He is also the host for all five of the TV shows that the Chicago Bears own. It’s a dream job considering he has been attending Bears games since he was 4 years old. 

Everyday at 2 p.m., all the Fox 32 anchors, reporters, directors, executives, assignment editors, and sportscasters meet to discuss what stories will be on the 9 p.m. news. After the meeting, Canellis introduced me to some of his coworkers in the sports department: Ken Dittelman and John Eskra.  Before working as a Sports Producer at Fox 32 Chicago, Dittelman had worked at the Golf Channel in Orlando and a sports documentary company in Chicago. John Eskra is the Executive Sports Producer and has been with Fox Sports since 1989.

Canellis and Dittelman showed me how to use the iNews software that they used to put together their broadcasts. The program is kind of like iMovie, but built specifically for news broadcasts. In iNews, sound bites, video, and scripts are formatted into segments that are aired during the broadcast.

Dittelman let me help him prepare an interview between Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long and sports reporter Evan Fitzgerald that was taken at a charity event earlier in the day. After the finished segment was loaded into iNews, I went upstairs to join Canellis in his office to work on some scripts for that night's broadcast. 

Once I got upstairs, I learned that I was going to be put on TV for being an intern for the day! This was going to be the second time that I was on Fox 32 Chicago. The first time was when I was a Scholastic Kid Reporter and I was being interviewed for being the youngest journalist in attendance at President Barack Obama’s 2012 election night rally. A cameraman then came up to film Canellis and I working together on the sportscast.

Canellis and I started watching the Chicago Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox games so we could pull highlights to play during the sportscast. We started editing the narrations that we created earlier so they would fit with the end results of each of the games. The clock then struck 8:58 p.m., which meant that we had about two minutes to be fully ready and downstairs at the main studio for the 9 o’clock news. 

The main studio at Fox Chicago was so cool! There were three robotic cameras, a green screen, a weather center, an anchor desk, a mini stage, TVs, and a group of talented weathermen, sportscasters, news anchors, and directors. 

Canellis gave his A block sportscast at the beginning of the show. Once that was finished, we went back up to his office to work on the 9:45 p.m. sportscast. Right as we finished at 9:38 p.m., we had to go racing downstairs for the 9:45 show where my segment played. Once the news concluded at 9:57, Canellis started to shoot his sports segment that would air the morning afterwards. 

I had a blast being a sportscaster for the day. And I picked up a lot of tips! Here are the five most important things I learned about sportscasting:

Write scripts the same way that you would talk. People enjoy it when they feel that the sportscasters are talking directly to them through their TVs, so they like words and phrases that are more conversational in the sportscasters scripts. 

Everything on the news runs on a computer system. The teleprompter plays when the anchor pushes a pedal with their foot. The commercials are also computerized, so they will play automatically at a set time regardless if the anchor is done talking or not. 

The news is designed for the attention span of people. In today’s day and age, people have shorter attention spans. So news segments are designed for people to fully grasp all of the information being presented. A mini athlete interview can usually last 20-30 seconds without losing attention, while highlights of a game can usually go for 15-20 seconds.

Sharing information or highlights from a game in progress during the first part of a newscast is a bad idea because people might change the channel to watch the game that is in progress instead of the news.

Basketball is the hardest sport to pull clips from because it is a very high scoring game and there is constant motion. Baseball and football are easy sports to pull clips from because there is a lot of stopping and people usually want to see home runs or touchdowns. 

The experience shadowing Lou Canellis was awesome. Seeing him at work made me look forward to a career in sports broadcasting more than I had before!

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