So long tourism; Hello athletics!

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Wednesday October 7, 2009.

I’ve said this about a million times since I graduated from the Reynolds School of Journalism in the Summer of 2007: “If you’d have told me I’d be working in marketing, I’d have punched you in the face.” And it’s true. While I spent a year in graduate school, I dedicated a lot of time to the pure qualities I thought journalism offered. I wasn’t under any impression that it was my mission to remain unbiased or anything absurd like that. In fact, I knew it was impossible, but I also knew that journalism was in trouble and there had to be a way to keep it going. Since that time (beginning a little more than three years ago—a long time in this world, indeed) I have seen that journalism isn’t in trouble at all. What’s in trouble is an industry that relies on delivering journalism in a specific way via an outdated business model. So my fears, ultimately, have been alleviated. How on Earth did I digress so far in the first paragraph?

With that said, after finishing my degree, or probably well before finishing, I realized that my limitations weren’t going to allow me to find a job doing what I felt like I was meant to do. I had to look elsewhere. And I did. What I found, amazingly, was that I could do what I was meant to do, but I had to do it under an umbrella that I was previously offended by: marketing. See, while I would like to say that news organizations were behind grabbing up people skilled in what I was skilled in (Multimedia and the newish world of social media), I’m not entirely sure of that anymore. Again I digress. Anyway, I was definitely sure that marketers were very much in tune with that world. They showed it by actually hiring people who knew how to navigate it: particularly, the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT), led by Tim Maland, the former director, and JoLyn Laney, Deputy Director of Marketing. In July of 2007, I was the guy they chose to do this.

In the two-plus years I was a part of NCOT, I was able to apply the skills I learned as a journalism student in a way that showed off what Nevada had to offer tourists. It was marketing, for sure, but I also viewed it as the best use of my skills it could be. I was able to travel the state shooting video and photos meant to tell the state’s story. It wasn’t a bunch of advertising photography—it was real stuff from the perspective of a traveler experiencing a lot of this for the first time. I stayed in the places the locals thought I should stay in. I ate at the places the locals thought I should eat in. I visited the places the locals thought I should visit. Basically, I was a travel writer doing it the way I wanted to do it. We then used the new tools available—YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, and our blog—to show off the work we were doing. And it was a success. I started receiving invitations from places in Nevada I hadn’t been to come talk about how we were marketing them, or to experience their town myself so I would write about it and show it off. I loved doing what I was doing.

As the cuts in the state budget became a reality, the job changed a bit. New duties were assigned to make up for shifts in personnel, and money was moved around, resulting in less travel possibilities for the new year. At the same time, I heard about a new position in Athletics at the University of Nevada. The position is the Director of Electronic Media. It involves working on game day video operations (live feed of of football and basketball games to the scoreboard and the online feed sold to watchers worldwide), website maintenance and management, and any future endeavors involving the web and video. As it happens, I already was involved with the video operations, know a little bit about websites, and have ideas for how to improve the marketing of athletic programs through the use of the web and video. I went after it.

One thing is for sure: university’s search process moves slowly. I suppose that’s the case for many jobs of this caliber. They have to be sure they get the right guy. About two months from hearing about it, I got the call that they had chosen me. I was, and am, thrilled. Not only will I get to continue doing some things I have really enjoyed the past two years along with a lot of new things, I get to do them for the school I love. It should be a good ride.

So with that, I bid farewell to the tourism industry. Thursday is my last day at NCOT. Friday I work at the Nevada-Louisiana Tech game. Monday I report to the office and start on this new venture. There are some good bonuses with the new job. I don’t have a commute to Carson City anymore. I never minded the commute, but when I realized I wouldn’t have to do it anymore I realized how much more time I’d have each day. It’s at least 90 minutes. Not bad. Also, I love being on campus. I didn’t realize that until I was back in school. Even the five years prior when I had been with Channel 5, which is located on the edge of the campus, I didn’t care much. Now I think I’ll enjoy it much more. It’s a good atmosphere.

One thing that I think will come out of this position is that in a few years, and this is in no way the official position of the athletic department, I see college sports and the news generated by the teams operating similarly to how I see professional sports operating—that is, they’ll be covering themselves. So in a way, I think this will become a journalism job. Say what you will about the state of journalism if that’s the case, but it is how I see it. Coverage seems to get adversarial at times when it needn’t be, and teams will use the power of the available tools to shape coverage how they want it shaped. I won’t argue with that at all. It’s their prerogative to do so and our job as the people following them to determine what’s credible. So, yeah, I like where this job might go. A lot. And if it doesn’t go there, I already like what I will be doing.

That about covers what I set out to say today, with a few asides along the way. Some things will change for me day-to-day, but most will remain the same. That’s great. One thing that won’t change is that I’ll still be rooting for my team—and in a way that I haven’t before. I’ll see a more tempered side of college athletics. It’s a side most fans will never get to see, and one that actually has an effect on the lives of the people involved. It hasn’t been that way for me before, and it’s a challenge as I see it. Needless to say, I love that.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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