UNCP broadcasting personnel tour ESPN headquarters


Representatives from the broadcasting track of UNC Pembroke’s Mass Communications Department visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., in October for a tour and meetings with human resources executives. They also met with University alumni working at “the worldwide leader in sports.”


At ESPN with UNCP grads – From left: UNCP broadcasting program contingent, George Johnson, Dr. Jamie Litty and Sallyann Clark meet with Rollie Boone ‘06, Jackie Bower ’06 at ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn.

Department Chair Dr. Jamie Litty has cultivated a recruiting relationship with the production side of ESPN for nearly three years and was invited by Tony Valentino, manager of technical recruitment, and his boss, Fred Brown. The two men, former broadcasters themselves, have visited UNCP twice to conduct one-on-one interviews with broadcasting and journalism majors and to speak in classes.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to have a lengthy meeting with the company’s college recruiting staff, internship supervisors, and department heads,” said Dr. Litty. “They described the corporate culture at ESPN, the skills they absolutely must see in our students, the work ethic and lifestyle demanded by a multinational, multimedia sports entertainment conglomerate that never sleeps.”

Dr. Litty traveled with George Johnson, assistant director of broadcasting and an adjunct faculty member teaching computer animation and media integration courses for the department. Also making the trip was Sallyann Clark, producer/director for WNCP-TV, the department’s cable operation that functions as a laboratory for the broadcasting curriculum.


Melina Savage, right, talks with Dr. Jamie Litty. Savage is a 2006 UNCP graduate, mass communications major and one of three recent grads working at ESPN.

They met with former students Melina Savage, Rollie Boone and Jackie Bower, who all landed jobs with ESPN within a year of interviewing in Pembroke.

“The ESPN campus and facilities are almost mind-boggling,” said Johnson. “On their campus are a million miles of fiber optic cable, studio cameras operated by people in another building, and master control of dozens of program signals around the world. They say they take in as many as 40,000 feeds of sports video a day. And they have never stopped construction in Bristol since their first broadcast in 1979.”

Clark noted, “They have an entire department dedicated to several versions of the ‘ESPN Bottom Line’ (the sports ‘ticker’ that crawls across the bottom of the TV screen on half a dozen ESPN channels). They have a vast news room and sports research department and innovations in video displays throughout the facility.  And numerous Emmy’s and Cable Ace Awards everywhere, of course.”

Clark praised ESPN’s investment in employee welfare that was visible everywhere — from the fitness center, to the outdoor basketball court for intramurals, the restaurant-style cafeteria, numerous lounge areas, a room for new mothers and plans for a daycare center.


NASCAR studio -- Tour guides included Tony Valentino (center), manager of technical recruitment who was a part of the original production staff who took a leap of faith to start up ESPN back in 1979.

The former UNCP students have widely different jobs and work schedules. Video editor Boone, a former Braves’ basketball player, works four days a week. He came in on his day off to meet the Pembroke contingent and to keep his appointment for a free massage! 

Bower, a former Braves’ soccer player, is on the producers’ track and only recently made the switch to a 9-to-5 routine. She looks forward to visiting the soccer team later this month on her first vacation since February.

Savage completed training on studio cameras this summer and has since “cleared” the training for video playback. Her work day starts at 5 p.m., and in 12 hours, she caught a flight for her first trip back to North Carolina since starting at ESPN in April. Savage played basketball at UNCP.

“They love our diversity,” said Dr. Litty of ESPN’s interest in UNCP, “because it’s combined with the hands-on media experiences and required internship. We’re not a huge department; we’re not in a major media market; so we know our students personally. 

“And that sort of personal relationship goes a long way, especially now that we’ve held this dialogue on how to continue the relationship,” she said.

“They’re sympathetic to the limited resources of academia, and we’re aware that we need to continue to make smart decisions to work within that reality,” Dr. Litty explained. “Fred Brown, as director of production recruitment and talent negotiations, is also very big on the liberal arts, so it’s a good match all around.”

Dr. Litty, Johnson, and Clark enjoyed “talking shop” with people in various departments on the tour and sat in on three live productions, including NFL Live.

“And we knew we needed a photo from the Sports Center set,” said Clark. “For many of our students today, this is where they get their news. And you can’t deny that sports information is now a huge part of the economy.”

In spring semester, the Mass Communication Department expects to host Brown, Valentino, and Joe Franco, manager of production operations, who will also be coordinating internships this year.

For information about Mass Communications programs at UNCP, please call 910.521.6654 or email masscomm@uncp.edu.