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Mentorship Breakfast at NABJ helps ESPN build relationships and identify prospective hires

ESPN commentator Cari Champion (at podium) moderates the NABJ Sports Mentorship Breakfast Powered By ESPN. (Seated L-R) Featured speaker and ESPN commentator Jemele Hill; VP Talent & Production Al Jaffe; ESPNNY.com's Shemar Woods and Ohm Youngmisuk; NABJ Sports Journalism Task Force Chair Marc Spears. (Photo courtesy of Jason Miccolo Johnson/NABJ)
ESPN commentator Cari Champion (at podium) moderates the NABJ Sports Mentorship Breakfast Powered By ESPN. (Seated L-R) Featured speaker and ESPN commentator Jemele Hill; VP Talent & Production Al Jaffe; ESPNNY.com’s Shemar Woods and Ohm Youngmisuk; NABJ Sports Journalism Task Force Chair Marc Spears. (Photo courtesy of Jason Miccolo Johnson/NABJ)

ORLANDO — On the surface, the Sports Task Force Mentorship Breakfast Powered By ESPN seems merely a chance for job-seeking sports journalists to dine with the likes of Stuart Scott, Jemele Hill and Jay Harris.

But the staple of the National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair, convening here for the 38th year Thursday through Sunday, can become much more.

For the job seekers, “it’s invaluable networking. They leave here with [contacts] that would [otherwise] take them a year or two to assemble,” said ESPN College Football Editor for Remote Production Sandy Rosenbush.

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She and ESPN’s Vice President and Executive Editor of ESPNNY.com, Leon Carter, have helped cultivate some ESPN journalists by recruiting at conventions and mentoring through The Sports Journalism Institute (SJI), a group they co-founded in 1993 that offers an annual training and internship program for a select group of college journalists.

At NABJ, ESPN helped underwrite a seminar and post-event reception celebrating the 20th anniversary of SJI’s creation. Among the SJI grads present were two ESPNNY.com journalists, New York Giants beat reporter Ohm Youngmisuk (1994) and associate editor Shemar Woods (2010).

“To see someone like Ohm — who I have known since he was in college at Michigan State — to see him develop over the years and see him working on my staff is a great feeling,” said Carter, who hired Youngmusik at the New York Daily News before they both moved on to ESPN. “It’s really what mentorship is all about.”

“I’ve known Leon since 1994 and worked for him since 1997 [as an NBA reporter],” said Youngmisuk. Without Carter’s influence, “I probably would not be in New York, I don’t know if I would have covered the NBA as fast, and probably wouldn’t be covering the New York Giants today.”

“Whenever I’ve ever had a question to ask, he’s been there to answer the question,” said Woods, a former New York Daily News online editor whom Carter hired after the 2012 NABJ convention. “He’s really shown me the ropes within the industry.”

At the breakfast, Youngmusik and Woods were part of an ESPN panel that also included moderator and First Take host Cari Champion; featured speaker Hill, an ESPN.com columnist and Numbers Never Lie co-host; and VP of Talent & Production Recruitment Al Jaffe.

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