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A year in the life of a sports editor

 

Control what you can control. That’s the number-one thing I have learned and will take away from this past year as sports editor. And suffice it to say, there were a lot of things, both on the field and in the newsroom, that were beyond my control this past year. I learned more about life this past year than in all 16 years of school combined. Student journalism is an experience in duality. You bear the same responsibilities and are held to the same standards — or I at least hold myself and my staff to the same standards — as professionals, while also balancing the academic, fraternity and social life of most other college students. There have been a lot of stress-filled days and sleepless nights, but I am better journalist and person now than I was at this time last year.

Any given day, when you pick up the paper, look at the @dm_sports timeline or listen to my weekly radio show, “Daytime Fireworks,” on Rebel Sports Radio, you could say I hate Ole Miss or I love Ole Miss, but that’s the point. As a journalist, even a student journalist, you are charged with providing information and objectivity and letting the reader form his or her own conclusions, or that’s at least what I have strived to do for the past year and will strive to do for the rest of my college and, hopefully, professional career as a journalist. I give credit where credit is due, but at the same time, I hold administrators, coaches, players and fans accountable for their actions. For every “Embarrassed” headline on the front page of the paper, there was “Top-ranked Gators hit the Wahl,” and for every “Nutt: The bottom line is you have to win,” there was “Freeze’s first step forward.” The latter comparison, in my opinion, defined this past year in Ole Miss sports.

From back-to-back nine-win seasons and back-to-back Cotton Bowl appearances, the latter of which I experienced as a freshman working in Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations, which led to sports journalism and The Daily Mississippian in the first place, to back-to-back winless seasons in SEC play and arguably the worst football season in school history, I was in the center of it. Instead of running from the challenge, I embraced the opportunity. I was in Nashville for the Vanderbilt loss, after which former head coach Houston Nutt and former athletics director Pete Boone held a joint press conference. I was in Lexington for the Kentucky loss, after which I ominously penned the headline “Rebels collapse; Nutt’s seat reaches boiling point,” and later that day, Ole Miss pulled the plug on Nutt and Boone.

What followed was a whirlwind month, filled with rumor and speculation, refreshing Twitter, chasing down and following up on leads from “sources” and even interviewing a prospective head-coaching candidate in Mike Leach. The head-coach search reached its conclusion during finals week. Yes, finals week. I even had a final immediately before Hugh Freeze’s introduction as head coach. There was no print version, but with the help of a staff led by football beat writers Bennett Hipp and David Collier, photography editor Petre Thomas and my editor Cain Madden, among others, we put together an online-only coaching guide in one day’s time that has received more than 14,000 views, thanks to word of mouth and social media.

With all that said, I have enjoyed my time as sports editor, some days obviously more than others. I have met a lot of people and built and maintained respectful relationships with the administrators, coaches and players I have covered. And I would also like to give special thanks to Assistant Athletics Director for Media and Public Relations Kyle Campbell and his staff for their availability and accessibility this past year.

I’m soon off to ESPN in Bristol, Conn., for a summer internship and will be back in the fall as managing editor, both opportunities which would not have been possible without my experiences as sports editor. 

But for now, you can find me the next two weekends in the right-field student section against LSU and Tennessee as Mike Bianco looks to get to Omaha for the first time in his tenure. If I have learned anything, expect the unexpected because there is never a dull moment in Ole Miss sports.

 

Austin Miller is a junior journalism major from Grayson, Ga. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller.