Tuesday, March 26, 2013

More than Just a Sports Journalist

Ricky Recchia (CAS '09) is a New York Emmy Award winning sports journalist deeply influenced by his pre-NYU life in poverty. His stories are an attempt to humanize the athletes he interviews. And in his own words, he wishes to "give a voice to the ‘voiceless’" and reshape the way news is delivered. 

Alumni Relations: Can you talk about your NYU experience? What specific memories do you have of your years at NYU. Were there any professors who had an influence on you?

Ricky: Even though I grew up in Manhattan, coming down to NYU was a huge culture shock for me.  Moving from a public housing complex, where I lived in poverty and was surrounded by a lack of positivity, to having the opportunity to live on campus in the midst of affluence and a general aura of hope is an experience I am so grateful to have experienced.

I was fortunate enough to meet people in this ultra-competitive environment who embraced me and my desire to achieve.  Faculty such as Valerie Cabral, who changed my life when she gave me housing.  Professor Craig Wolff motivated me to strive for greatness and to look at, and appreciate, all of the angles in a given situation.  And then there’s Dean Kalb, who, at times, wanted me to succeed more than I did and it was so empowering to connect with a person who took that type of interest in me.

Each day there’s a moment, or two, or 10, when I’m reminded of this culture that has left an indelible mark on my life and the lasting relationships that I formed at NYU.  I can go on forever about my NYU experience because it left such an impact on my life that, to this day, it continues to be an evolving experience. 

How did you break into the field after graduating from NYU?

I accepted an internship at WNBC-TV in their sports department in the Spring of 2007, midway through my Junior year.  I was given an opportunity at WNBC and I ran with it.  By day I was in a lecture hall learning the foundations of Journalism and by night I was at Yankee Stadium interviewing Derek Jeter. 

At the conclusion of the internship I asked for a job and an opportunity presented itself that September.  I found myself working full-time at WNBC while managing a full course load at NYU.  In addition, I had just started up an Explorations Community.  I’m still not sure how I was able to manage my time but it was such an unbelievable experience that gave me a leg up upon graduation and taught me countless lessons on time management. 

What are your responsibilities as Associate Producer at SportsNet New York?

Since 2010, I have covered the New York Jets at SNY.  In my capacity as Associate Producer I am responsible for studio production of over 300 hours of shows each year.  I travel to each Jets game throughout the season to serve as Field Producer for Jets Postgame Live and am the department writer.

As a sports journalist what's the most exciting part of your job?

What excites and motivates me has evolved over this time.  In the beginning I was definitely awestruck by the athletes that I grew up admiring who were now answering my questions.  Today I’m more interested in putting together meaningful stories and having the opportunity to do a profile on a particular athlete that helps to humanize them. 

There are so many avenues for thrills if you’re a sports journalist.  Some of us are glorified fans who enjoy the chance to cover the team we grew up rooting for.  Others like being able to ‘watch sports’ for a living.  In my opinion, those sentiments dissipate over the years and I don’t encourage aspiring sports journalists to get into the field if those are the main motivators. 

I’m always fascinated by the way athletes and the games they participate in are covered.  Imagine coming into work each day, speaking to reporters before you start your work, having commentators deliver the play by play of your performance throughout the day while people love and bash you on Twitter and then having to explain why you performed in that manner at the end of the day.  This is the life of an athlete and what excites me the most about sports journalism is that I’ve been able to take these observations and become a more well-rounded adult who’s very aware.    

What has been the most meaningful story you have worked on?

Surprisingly, the most meaningful stories I’ve worked on predate my time in sports. 

Two in particular stand out: 

Gay City News didn’t have a sports section and I wanted to know why.  Homosexuality in sports is like oil and water, unfortunately, and I’m surprised that we still haven’t had an active professional athlete, in one of the major sports, ‘come out’ so to speak.  My purpose in profiling Gay City News and their lack of a sports section was to show the disconnect that had been cultivated; it was almost like two friends avoiding one another. 

The other story focused on a Manhattan sidewalk that had cleaner pavement as you travelled down the street from a housing project to a luxury building.  I thought this disparity shouldn’t exist, that it was too “in your face” and that if the residents of the housing project couldn’t live by the same financial means as their neighbors, they could at the very least have a decent sidewalk.  I’m happy to say that the sidewalk was repaved following my story and it holds extra significance to me because the housing project building is the one I grew up in.

These two stories really embody my ethos as a man, and then a journalist.  There are situations that I think deserve a voice and maybe even a change, and this is the best way that I can facilitate that change.  I also remind myself that I need to give a voice to the ‘voiceless.’  There are so many people and subject matters that go unnoticed and I really want to do my part to create a forum that sheds light.

Have you noticed much of a change in broadcast sports journalism since you started working in the field? Is technology having as much an effect on sports watching as it is having in other areas of entertainment?

I wanted to be a writer and that goal had to change when the industry evolved.  I think sports journalism has benefited more than it has been bothered by changes over the last decade.  The good thing about sports is that there’s always another game to cover and that means someone has to be there to cover them.  I see the last decade as a feeling out period and the industry leaders now have an idea of what works and what doesn’t and sports and the journalists that cover it are in a good position to succeed, even if there are fewer positions out there. 

One change that does concern me in sports journalism is the desire to break instead of make.  You’re more likely to see beat writers tweet out the same piece of information in a matter of seconds in an effort to be first than a profile on a player trying to make a team.  Doing things like this is bad for the industry because its limiting our purpose; if the next 10 people can send out the same information, why do we need you?  It’s also tough for the athletes because there’s such a constant need for new information from them and I’m sure it’s difficult for them to enjoy the moment. 

Anything else you'd like to mention about upcoming projects or otherwise?

I am up for another NY Emmy Award on April 14th.  For the second straight year I’m nominated for Best Writer: Sports.  I’m very grateful to SNY for giving me the forum to write and for having enough belief in me to submit my work that goes up against on-air talent.  The submission consists of show teases I wrote for our Jets programming and while it’s an honor to be nominated, I don’t like losing at anything more than once so I’m hoping for a win!.

I’m also happy to announce that I will attend Columbia’s J-School starting in May.  I think it’s a good opportunity for me to transition from just delivering the news to being a part of the group that shapes the way we deliver the news.

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