August 27, 2014

Q&A with Penn State's Tatum Coffey on ESPN Internship

by Megan Schneider | | Twitter

Penn State midfielder Tatum Coffey spent her summer in Bristol, Conn., home of ESPN's headquarters. She spoke with Lacrosse Magazine to share her experience interning with this media company in its creative services department.

How did you first hear about this opportunity to intern for ESPN?

Many students majoring in sportscasting have the dream of working for ESPN. I spoke about the idea of applying for an ESPN summer internship to my family and decided to take a risk and apply for The Worldwide Leader in Sports: ESPN.

You were one of 40 interns selected to intern in Bristol this summer. What was the application process like?

I applied for the internship online and received a phone call months later. I went through multiple phone interviews where an ESPN recruiter asked me questions about my skills, college classes and my personal background. After going through at least four phone interviews, I received a final phone call saying that I would be working at ESPN as a creative services intern at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

As one of 40 interns at ESPN this summer, Tatum Coffey was able to add to her sportscasting portfolio by working with the creative services department. (Photo courtesy of Tatum Coffey)

How excited were you once you heard you got the internship?

At Penn State, I got involved in PSN-TV, PSU ComRadio, and broadcasting classes, so interning for ESPN has always been a goal of mine ever since freshman year of college when I knew I wanted to be involved with sportscasting. Overall, I was extremely honored to receive an internship at such a respected and well-known company. It was great to hear that I would be spending the whole summer experiencing the ESPN culture.

Your title was creative services intern. What did that entail?

Creative services was the perfect team for me to be a part of at ESPN. It is a combination of ESPN's production and business. I am majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in business so I thoroughly enjoyed seeing and experiencing both aspects of ESPN.

What prompted you to change your major that ultimately led to this internship?

I was originally majoring in public relations at Penn State, but later came to the realization that I wanted to be involved in sportscasting. I quickly changed my major to broadcast journalism, which requires a minor. Penn State has a prestigious business college called Smeal College of Business, so I decided to minor in business.

What were some key takeaways from your internship that can be applied directly to your major?

This internship showed me that ESPN is not only a team, but a family. Working was not about the individuals themselves, but is about helping others out and working as one. I met tons of great people who gave me a lot of responsibilities throughout my internships, which made me even more confident about my future.

Describe a typical day at ESPN this summer.

I would usually start working around 8 a.m. and my schedule would depend on what project my manager Pam Neff would give me for the day. She would move me around different ESPN buildings so I could take on different projects. I sat in on meetings, saw some of ESPN's talent, help produced promos and created panels. Some days, I would even be able to go to ESPN's NYC campus to join the sales and marketing team. Around 5 p.m., I would end my work day and I would go back to our apartment of 40 interns, which was supplied by the ESPN internship program. I would do my Penn State lacrosse workout packet, cook dinner and then I would hang out with my eight other roommates until we all decided to get some sleep.

You helped produce topical promos for the brand. Can you share some examples?

I had the chance to help produce a promo for ESPNU about a premier basketball tournament called the Adidas Super 64. I also helped produced an internship recruiting promo with a fellow intern that can be found on ESPN's In The Know and I produced my personal final intern project promo. Producing for ESPN was an amazing opportunity, but it was a great feeling being able to produce my own final project. I filmed my own video with a Go-Pro and edited it on a video editing program called Quantel. The lead content editor, Steve Quadrato, oversaw my project and gave me great feedback when editing. The promo shows my summer at ESPN and the amazing people I met who made my internship worthwhile. 

Of all the software and databases you learned (VCS, Page Creator, Volicon, eSearch, Q-cut, etc.), what did you find most useful during your internship?

I found using eSearch and Volicon to be most useful in order to gather clips for the 2014 World Cup. The World Cup was during my first week of the internship so the editors and producers put me in charge of finding video clips of certain teams. I used VCS and Page Creator in order to build the graphics that are used to push fans to all of the events across all of ESPN's networks. 

What were you able to add to your portfolio?

I worked with an associate writer and producer to build about 100 panels a week so there was definitely a lot of work that I could save! Also, I put my promos on YouTube in order to save the projects I worked on.

How exciting was it to intern for ESPN during the World Cup? How were you involved with the production of the various soccer segments?

Being at ESPN during the World Cup was surreal. Like I said before, I got thrown into the excitement of the World Cup and it was thrilling. I observed the behind-the-scenes action and preparation of the World Cup. Gathering some of the video and clips used for a few World Cup promos was definitely an honor.

With the FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Denver right after the World Cup, did you get to help out with any of ESPN's coverage?

I knew of a lot the producers working on the FIL World Lacrosse Championship promos so it was great to talk to them about the games. It was cool to see the promos they worked on for the World Lacrosse Championships before they aired on ESPN.

With eSearch, Volicon, VCS and Page Creator, Coffey was able to assist with the production of the 2014 World Cup, with the above graphic as one example that was used to push fans to watch the game. (Graphic courtesy of Tatum Coffey)

As a lacrosse player, were you able to share some insight with your fellow interns and supervisors at ESPN about the FIL World Games?

My manager Pam Neff knew that I played lacrosse at Penn State and she knew I was a Team USA player, so she would always talk to me about lacrosse. Being a collegiate soccer player herself, she could really relate to me. Multiple people on the creative services team would ask me more about lacrosse in general and I was glad I could educate them about the world's fastest growing sport.

How would you describe the overall atmosphere working for ESPN?

ESPN's motto is "To serve sports fans. Anytime. Anywhere." Everyone truly lives up to it. They have a family and team mentality at ESPN and I felt like I was part of the team after the first day of my internship. Everyone is extremely driven, kind and is always willing to each other help out. I am proud to say I was a member of the ESPN team.

How would you describe the facilities at ESPN? Did you stay nearby?

Luckily, I was at the headquarters in Bristol, Conn., all summer and all of the interns were in an apartment two miles down the street. At the headquarters, I saw the old SportsCenter set, the new SportsCenter set, the Baseball Tonight set, "Mike & Mike" radio set, "The Herd" radio set, and there was even an ESPN gym on campus. The ESPN campus is absolutely beautiful here and I was very fortunate to work at such an amazing place for 10 weeks.

Did working for ESPN expose you to any new potential career opportunities that you would like to pursue?

I had the opportunity to experience the behind-the-scenes of ESPN. I really appreciated seeing what most people do not see; the hard, persistent challenges and the countless hours of working to make everything the best it could be. ESPN reassured me of my future of sportscasting and gave me the confidence to reach my goals.

What are your career goals?

I spoke to many different people throughout my internship from directors to managers to fellow interns, and they made me even more confident about my goal of becoming a sportscaster. I love the sport of lacrosse, and sports in general, and after college I would never want to stop being involved in the game. I played varsity soccer, varsity basketball and varsity men's ice hockey in high school, so I also have the goals of broadcasting multiple sports and becoming a sideline reporter.

As a rising senior, have you thought about jobs yet after you graduate?

Ideally, most rising seniors' plan is to get a job right after they graduate and although I don't necessarily have a concrete plan, I have my personal goals. Like I said before, I have the dreams of becoming a sportscaster and I will work hard to achieve that goal.

Having also worked with ComRadio and Penn State Network TV, would you say that this ESPN experience has been the most exciting opportunity you've had?

ComRadio and PSN-TV has helped prepare me for this internship at ESPN and this internship alone has taught me so much within 10 weeks that it is unbelievable. I have had so many opportunities these past two months and I am now willing to take more risks.

Would you like to return to ESPN one day as a full-time employee?

It would be an honor to be a full-time sportscaster at ESPN. I am hoping to report and gain experience from many different companies and then ultimately work my way up to report for ESPN.

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