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Students get career advice from Wings

by Zack Crawford / Detroit Red Wings
(Photo by Steve Galli)
DETROIT – With the Red Wings achieving a record-setting 21 home wins on Tuesday night, the media has been especially prevalent at Joe Louis Arena this week.

But Thursday morning saw an influx of journalists at The Joe for a different reason, as the Wings hosted High School Journalist Day, an annual event that gives students an opportunity to experience the realities of sports journalism through direct interactions with coaches, players, personnel and established journalists.

Students from throughout Michigan attended the event, which began with a Q&A session with four members of the media who frequently cover the Red Wings. Kevin Allen of USA Today, Shannon Hogan of Fox Sports Detroit, Jeff Riger of  97.1 The Ticket and Michael Caples of Michigan Hockey answered an array of questions on topics ranging from how to break into journalism, how to succeed in the business and how to manage in field where electronic outlets are constantly evolving.

While the students’ questions were hardly juvenile, a constant stream of well-prepared, tough questions kept the four panelists busy, more than a few times surprising them with the professional quality of the inquiries.

(Photo by Steve Galli)
Caples, has a unique history with the Wings’ organization that makes him a prime candidate for advising young people interested in sports journalism.

Before ending up in his current position as editor of Michigan Hockey, Caples spent 3 ½ seasons in the Wings’ new media and publishing department. And before that, as a student at Michigan State University, he did just what the panelists preached to the students: stay informed, make yourself available to as many opportunities as possible and be willing to grind through tough jobs at the beginning of your career.

“At 19-years-old I was covering the Red Wings on an almost daily basis for and the game day magazine, so it was a dream come true and an overwhelming experience at such a young age but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Caples said. “Purely from that experience and that opportunity I knew that I could make a career in sports journalism and I never looked back.”

Knowing that he wanted to stay within sports after an injury ended his high school hockey career, Caples began writing for his high school newspaper. At MSU, he worked towards a journalism degree while covering Michigan State football, basketball and hockey for the athletic communications department. 

(Photo by Steve Galli)
As if picking up a part-time gig with the Wings during his sophomore year wasn’t enough, the “jack of all trades” also helped manage a blog on the fan section of, did freelance work for and wrote for Michigan Golf Magazine at the same time.

“What I wanted the kids today to take out of it was that you have to do that much to get a job and you either have to be ready to do it while you’re in school or be ready to do it when you get out,” he said. “Either way, you have to have that crunch time experience where you’re working 80 hours a week and sometimes doing jobs you don’t want to do just to better yourself, better your resume.”

After touring the JLA press box and watching the Wings practice, the students participated in mock-press conferences with general manager Ken Holland, coach Mike Babcock and forwards Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary and Valtteri Filppula.

Although most of his time in front of the microphone was spent in typical press-conference fashion answering questions about the team, even Babcock offered some advice for the students before leaving the stage.

“Your job is to find something you love to do,” he advised. “Find what you love and then go try to get an internship doing it to find out if you really like it or if you just like the name and the title.

“And there’s no rush. You’re not supposed to know what you want to do at 18; you’re not supposed to know what you want to do at 22. I’m 48 and I still haven’t figured it out. I wish you luck.”

For Hunter Foote, a senior at Forest Hills Eastern High School in Grand Rapids, the tone of Babcock’s advice was the most encouraging thing she heard at the event.

“The theme basically throughout the day was ‘find something that you love to do and experiment in it,’ and I think that was probably the best piece of advice,” Foote said.

Editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, Foote traces her interest in journalism to a young age and hopes to pursue either print or broadcast journalism at a to-be-determined college.

“Most people discourage students from going into print journalism or journalism of any kind simply because you hear that it’s a dying art,” Foote said. “But here today you were in an atmosphere that’s building up journalism, and it’s really cool to be in a different atmosphere that’s encouraging me to do what I want to do.”

Each of the students who attended High School Journalist Day was invited to write an article or produce a broadcast feature on the event and submit it in a contest judged by the public relations department. Three winners will be chosen with the grand prize winner  getting to spend a 2012-13 practice, lunch and home game shadowing USA Today’s Allen.

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