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ESPN’s Shelley Smith is a teacher, a reporter and so much more

“I teach this class because I love students and I’ve always enjoyed helping people get better and become more confident, whether it’s in my classroom or at ESPN."

Shelley Smith (back row, center) takes her USC students on the road with her. In this instance, they’re at Staples Center for an LA Clippers game. (Shelley Smith/ESPN)

Emmy Award-winning reporter Shelley Smith is a jack of all trades. She does feature reporting for E:60, general reporting for SportsCenter and this week, she returned from a two-month hiatus to report on Monday Night Football in Denver on Oct. 1.

After taking time off this summer following her mother Luanne’s passing and to recuperate after hip surgery, Smith says her work helped her through this tough stretch.

“Being back Monday night was emotional for me,” Smith said. “I grew up in Denver and used to go to Broncos games with my mom and dad. But everyone has been so supportive. I have received so many messages, cards, and voicemails. I have been overwhelmed with love and support from my colleagues and peers.”

ESPN’s Shelley Smith (standing) teaches at USC. (Katie Chin/USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism)

In addition to reporting for ESPN, Smith also teaches a sports media course at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in Los Angeles.

“I teach this class because I love students and I’ve always enjoyed helping people get better and become more confident, whether it’s in my classroom or at ESPN,” Smith said.

How she finds the time to be everywhere she needs to be while teaching a class is certainly impressive.

“I am often grading papers on the plane or in the press box. In fact, my class is on Mondays, so I was teaching from the Broncos press box last week,” Smith said. “I’ve also Skyped from the car on the way back from a Dodgers game (only in LA traffic, of course).”

Smith said what’s great about teaching the class while being out in the field is that she can give her students real-life examples in real-time, literally.

“On Monday night, I was working on a feature on [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback] Patrick Mahomes, while I was teaching. They think it’s fascinating to look up and see me reporting on TV; they like discussing current stories. I’m able to share what I’m practicing at the time whether it’s the questions I’m asking, how to listen better, or telling the audience about something they can’t see on TV,” Smith said.

“Mahomes had these great red velvet shoes on when I was speaking to him. You didn’t see the shoes on TV, but I was able to give my class and the fans that context. It’s those kinds of details only the reporter who is there can tell you.”

Not only do the students hear about these experiences, but they also get practical, hands-on experience. They shoot, edit, write and record voiceovers for their videos. The school has a state-of-the-art studio fully equipped with the latest professional tools.

This week, Smith’s students attended the espnW summit in Newport Beach, Calif., to see Smith take part in a panel discussion titled, “Catalysts for Change in Media and Communication.”

Her students, she’ll proudly tell you, are some of those catalysts.

“My students drove two hours on their own time because they were interested in learning more and it certainly paid off,” Smith said. “[ESPN President] Jimmy Pitaro, [Executive Vice President, Content] Connor Schell and Annenberg’s Dean, Willow Bay, all spent time speaking to the students. When you take the opportunity to be proactive, that’s what makes the difference.”

It’s a lesson well taught by one of the industry’s most caring and connected journalists.


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