Dr. Chris Bacon is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Murray State University, a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas.
Prior to MTSU, Dr. Bacon worked as the Executive Producer for KUJH-TV at the University of Kansas. Under his leadership, the station won numerous awards, including the Signature Station Award from the Broadcast Education Association, Best TV Newscast from the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, and a Pinnacle Award for Best Special Events Program from the College Media Association. He also helped create a sports communications concentration at the university’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
He spent more than a decade working in TV news and public relations.
He spoke to Beverly Keel about adapting his teaching during the pandemic, launching the sports media concentration and starting The Sports Gig Podcast.
How have you adapted your teaching methods during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has obviously been devastating for people around the world. I’ve used this time to focus on what’s really important with my family and my work at MTSU. One thing that I’ve learned is there’s no “one size fits all” teaching method with students, especially now. As a professor, I’ve tried to look more at the “end goal” of what I want students to get out of classes. I try to be as flexible as possible to make sure students have the means to get what they need out of courses. I focus less on students adapting to my own teaching style and focus more on what they need to learn. Simply put, I want them to be more knowledgeable at the end of the semester than they were at the beginning. If they do quality work and learn the material, then I’d call that a success...no matter what format the class was given.
What made you want to start the Sports Media concentration?
The sports media industry continues to grow and evolve in our society. There is more content on the air and online than ever before. Industry leaders value people coming out of college who have experience in the industry, whether it’s in journalism, public relations, broadcasting, etc. That desire is what makes specialized education in the sports media field so valuable to students who want to pursue these careers.
Middle Tennessee News is a faculty-led “teaching hospital” approach to student media. How have you been involved with it?
I helped lead a “teaching hospital” approach during my time at the University of Kansas, so I know the hurdles and struggles it takes for a marriage between classes and a student media product. The chance for students to work alongside instructors who have decades of experience out in the field is invaluable, so I’ve always supported these types of experiential learning opportunities. On the sports side, I integrated my “Advanced Reporting” class to be essentially a sports department for Middle Tennessee News. Their classwork can be used for the video newscasts and the online stories. I use a hands-on approach to work with each student from story pitch to production. It’s similar to them working with an editor or news/sports director in the real world. My job is to offer constant constructive feedback with all steps of that process. In the end, their class assignments amount to approximately 10 published pieces that can be used for their resume portfolio.
You recently helped set up an internship opportunity with Music City Baseball, LLC, an organization that is looking to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Nashville. What made you pursue that opportunity for our students?
This was an opportunity to get on the ground floor of a fantastic effort to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to the area. I remember seeing stories about their vision and thought to myself, “that would be a cool thing to be a part of...we’ve got to find a way to get involved.” Our students need experience with all types of sports organizations, and I figured they could potentially use the help to gain community support. MCB welcomed the partnership and we just had our first intern start this semester. Their effort to bring a franchise to Nashville will take years, so it’s a relationship that could continue to grow. I also plan on helping them personally with video and/or other communications projects down the road as well.
You helped start an MTSU chapter of the National Sports Media Association. How has that been received by students?
I had confidence that the Sports Media concentration would be a success. I also wanted students in the program to have an organization of their own to network with professionals, but also have their own way to come together and meet other students with similar interests. The National Sports Media Association was a great way for that to happen. The organization is highly respected in the industry and connects our students with industry leaders throughout the country. The pandemic has obviously slowed students from physically networking and meeting in-person, but they’ve been using this time to Zoom with professionals to network and learn more about what they do.
You recently started The Sports Gig Podcast that focuses on the sports media industry. What is your goal for the podcast?
I wanted to create something that captured a pulse for what’s going on in the sports media industry. I had never done a podcast before. Most of my professional career was in television and public relations, so this was an opportunity to try a new platform and add another tool for my toolbelt. To be honest, I’ve had an absolute blast doing it. I’ve been able to interview people from all walks of the industry and highlight job openings as well. I hope it can be a resource for students and professionals who are interested in sports media. It also keeps me in tune to what employers are looking for and what jobs are out there. That’s vital as our students pursue their education here at MTSU and often ask me about job opportunities.
You’ve been active with the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts competition in recent years. What is your role with the organization?
For the last two years, I have served as the Senior Chair of the student and faculty competitions in the Sports Division. I lead a team of two co-chairs for the student competition and a chair for the faculty competition. Basically, we recruit judges to evaluate all of the entries and make sure the competition runs smoothly. The 2020 competition had a record of over 250 combined entries between the student and faculty categories. Our job is to make sure each entry has three judges, which meant we had to make sure almost 750 judging sheets were completed and submitted by the deadline. It takes a great deal of time and energy, but I love working with BEA. Plus, I can see what students from other schools are producing. I actually use the winners to help motivate our own students so they can see who their competition is going to be for jobs once they graduate. It also helps give them ideas on shows or stories they could produce right here at MTSU.