Staying Active in Silent Times

  • May 1, 2020

By Ken Fermin

With no sports games to cover due to the unprecedented NCAA Spring season cancellation, I was put in a precarious position; finish the internship early or keep writing. I chose to keep writing. 

There is no denying the impact the COVID-19 virus had on everyone. Students were sent home to finish their classes online, with seniors graduating without a ceremony. My parents, whose occupations always put them at risk, faced even greater dangers working on the front line. I had to adjust from working in a newsroom every day to working on my laptop in my bedroom. 

I had a pleasant experience as a Long Island sports beat writer for Axcess Sports Media. The job highlighted the importance of improving local journalism reporting, building a brand on social media and always having a backup plan in case of emergency. 

The prior reporting experiences I had with The Statesman and Stony Brook Athletics helped me learn the steps I needed to take for producing a story. It taught me the importance of planning ahead, having a strong main idea to capture the reader and re-checking my work. I wrote 87 published articles for the student-newspaper on Stony Brook Athletics players and games, and worked with writers on just as many stories as an Assistant Sports Editor. 

I posted those articles on Twitter and LinkedIn and gained connections over 1000 followers between the two platforms. One connection was Vinny Messana, who added me on LinkedIn in December 2019. Messana thought I would be an important contributor based on my resume and prior sports writing experience. Soon enough, I was set to start with the website the next semester. 

Stony Brook Men’s Basketball was going to play against the defending NCAA National Champion Virginia Cavaliers later that week. Knowing the opportunity that comes with covering such a national champion game, I took a risk by asking Vinny– who I only had a couple conversations with at the time– if I could cover it. Messana said yes, and less than a month later that story helped me become the website’s Stony Brook Basketball beat writer. All before the spring semester even started. 

I covered the Men’s Basketball team’s upset-win over Vermont and the Women’s Basketball team’s nation-leading 22-game win streak and eventual conference championship win. I also highlighted the signing of Nairimar Reyes, a representative of the National Puerto Rican Women’s team. Representing Axcess Sports helped me get better access towards reporting on Stony Brook team’s compared to other publications on the Island. 

I wrote over 25 articles for the website and built on my social media following by sharing them. 

I was supposed to be calling my first-ever Championship game on Friday, March 13th. Stony Brook was hosting the reigning champion Maine Black Bears, and I was to provide play-by-play for WUSB Radio. 24 hours before tip-off, Stony Brook Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron alerted 

his team the game was off. Around the same time, SBU President Michael Bernstein emailed students and faculty setting classes online and sending us home for the remainder of the semester. 

I was devastated. The most important game I would ever cover up to that point, gone. Life on campus was over. 

I refused to go out like that. If I was leaving, it would be on my own terms. So, I got approval and continued writing for the website. I covered the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 cancelling the NCAA season. I highlighted athletes like Ally Kennedy and coach Joe Spallina demanding seniors be eligible for another year. And my article on Heilbron gave readers a look at him representing the America East at the NCAA Council, ultimately granting spring-sport athlete another season of eligibility. 

I gained experience reporting off-campus and travelling across Long Island for my stories. My work also expanded to covering other Long Island teams affected including Hofstra, Adelphi and high schools. 

By working one-on-one with Vinny, I expanded on my writing tools and storytelling.The experience gained made my future writing assignments in the journalism program easier to manage. I would suggest working for Axcess Sports Media if you want an edge for future employment opportunities. Working on the website was a great introduction to what it is like working in a newsroom today. 

I am looking forward to continuing my sports reporting on WUSB FM and America East TV. I am also proud to represent the Stony Brook School of Journalism and Stony Brook University as one of its best reporters through these internship opportunities.