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Media In the Mix

Media in the Mix podcast is a space where we explore topics in communication at the intersection of social justice, tech + innovation, and popular culture. Media in the Mix is a production of American University School of Communication.

Production Team

Hosted & Produced by: Grace Ibrahim & The School of Communication


Latest Episode

Sports Events Are the Memories Business


This week, Media in the Mix podcast host Grace Ibrahim is joined by American University's (AU ) sports communication professor, Matt Winkler. Winkler worked as AU’s Athletic Communications and Sports Information Director and launched the first online M.S. in Sports Analytics & Management at AU as well. He is the founder and executive director of an annual sports career conference, and also served as an on-site game-day media operations consultant for numerous nationwide athletic leagues. 

Ibrahim and Winkler discuss their experience involved in AU athletics as well as their time in the media and communications field. Winkler details his views on sports economics, media and communication in sports, and business through athletics. They talk about differences in media and sports today versus the mid to late nineties. Winkler emphasizes finding the value in athletics through business, management, media, and communications.  


[00:00:06] Grace Ibrahim: Welcome to media in the mix, the only podcast produced and hosted by the School of Communication at American University. Join us as we create a safe space to explore topics and communication at the intersection of social justice, tech, innovation, and pop culture. Today, we welcome a special professor from OGPs Professor Matt Winkler for the first time. As we combine the worlds of communication, athletics and business. [00:00:34]


[00:00:35] Grace Ibrahim: So just to give you a little background on our guest Professor today, Professor Matt Winkler has blended more than 20 years of experience in the NCAA, NHL, WNBA MLS, the Olympics and the World Cup and activation on five continents into innovative industry strategy for the sports events and higher education industries. He launched the first online MS in sports analytics and management, right here at American University. [00:01:02]


[00:01:03] Grace Ibrahim: He also worked as Director of Athletic communications and sports information at American University. Professor Winkler is also the founder and executive director of a premier annual sports career conference known as the sports event marketing experience, and previously launched another entrepreneurial consulting project MW marketing/communications. [00:01:24] 


[00:01:25] Grace Ibrahim: Professor Winkler often served as an onsite Game Day media operations consultant for US Soccer Federation and DC United in Major League Soccer, as well as the NCAA and their championships for men's basketball and men's soccer. Other impressive events include five FIFA World Cups, two Olympic Games, and the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia. [00:01:47]


[00:01:48] Grace Ibrahim: So Professor Winkler, thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast. [00:01:54]


[00:01:55] Matt Winkler: Well, thanks so much for having me. [00:01:56]


[00:01:57] Grace Ibrahim: It's pretty cool that we get to have a sports field episode today. I was actually an AU swimmer myself. So I went through the NCAA world and doing athletics and all of that. So I'm excited that we get to talk about some sports today. I also grew up in the MENA region. So kind of cool that we're combining both worlds. [00:02:14] 


[00:02:15] Grace Ibrahim: But I want to start with this. So you know, media and sports, and it's important. So it was the summer of 2000, was when you started teaching sports communications, comm 537 for any students wondering, so when you say, data analytics in sports, what exactly is that data? And what are you talking about? [00:02:31]


[00:02:32] Matt Winkler: Sure, well. Certainly, there's so much more data that's out there that's ever been available. It's not just more in depth, but also quicker, faster. And so data driven decision making has certainly matured and is maturing, to make the decisions that once were, based on just some knowledge, some reading. Here, you can cut through some of the clutter, and some of the noise, and get right to an area that can tell you what to do without just guessing or coming up with some groupthink and things like that. [00:03:11] 


[00:03:12] Matt Winkler: So it really cuts through clutter and makes decisions a little more accurately, also faster, and also has a larger variety of things. [00:03:23]


[00:03:24] Grace Ibrahim:  Is there a certain thing like statistics, for example, any of them that you're like, we need to get these numbers there? These are super important, or others could be more of like a discovery or good to know or I guess trial and error for some things? [00:03:36]


[00:03:37] Matt Winkler: Sure. Well, I received quantitative and qualitative data in statistics that is critical in this space. Also in the sports space there's sort of two areas. There is on the field and performance related analytics and then there's also the business side of it, which is in the front office, Business Affairs involving marketing, sponsorship, events, facility management, all these elements that go into running a business and let's face it, these sports businesses are worth billions of dollars now. [00:04:12] 


[00:04:13] Matt Winkler: And even NCAA sports, as you mentioned, are worth millions of dollars. And the key is that it includes such a large audience now. The consumers that have access to the sports space, we call them fans and fandom. But they're consumers. So consumer engagement and revenue generation is such a critical area. [00:04:33]


[00:04:34] Matt Winkler: In this era of business, that's become a key focus of our program. And in regards to our program, the online masters that we run, we sort of have four pillars in that area. One is obviously data driven decision making, but also the others are technology enterprises, global strategy, and innovation. So those might sound like a whole lot of hard words but in business have space and things you see on the internet and social media. But it is so true. [00:05:04] 


[00:05:05] Matt Winkler: We are really in this third generation of the sports industry. And those are sort of the four pillars. For them. What we're doing is, thanks to everyone in the audience, every person being one click away from sports content, that now, so much of it isn't just fandom, but also sports betting, and fantasy sports. [00:05:29] 


[00:05:30] Matt Winkler: The value of the data in those spaces never moves out valuable. Every night in America, and even overseas, there seems to be multiple games. Well, those games have betting lines on them, and not just win or lose. But point spreads proposition betting during the game. And then these fantasy leagues that are out there.[00:05:49] 


[00:05:50] Matt Winkler: So the key thing is, is content because become so ubiquitous, but yet so valuable, that everyone working in the space really needs to have a knowledge of these areas, to not only understand the value of them, but obviously, to work with them, work with people that know these areas in the front office space, and also to make career decisions as they move through and move up into the sports world.[00:06:17]


[00:06:18] Grace Ibrahim: Interesting to hear about the four pillars and kind of how we're in this third generation. I think you also answered my follow up question was, what do you think communication and media even has to do with sports, and I think it's to connect the sport itself, the players, the teams, to the fans and the fandom because I mean, that really does carry it through a lot of the time in a lot of these sports, especially like soccer and football. [00:06:41]


[00:06:42] Grace Ibrahim: When you began in this industry, so let's say early 2000s. And now, all of the technology we have, like you said, everything's one click away. How do you feel like it’s communication and media has changed since you started versus now. Do you still think that there's anything missing that there's anything more that we can do to be innovative, and with that technology? [00:07:00]


[00:07:01] Matt Winkler: In the mid 90s or sometime late 90s, when I was in the beginning of my career, and also a master's student here at AU. When I started my career, it was more analog compared to what's going on now. But in that area, we were doing desktop publishing that hadn't been done before. We were doing more live stats, and so forth. But in this new third wave that we're in now, everything is just so immediate. [00:07:26] 


[00:07:27] Matt Winkler: And thanks to streaming, you can see everything live. And that really is such a game changer. And not just the game live, but also all the results live. And I don't mean to get into the bedding aspect of things. But it's even made the college sports space more valuable. Because of the bedding information and numbers that are out there. Even though the NCAA doesn't support it right now, they are available. And it sort of changed how we consume football, and basketball for sure. [00:07:55]


[00:07:56] Matt Winkler: But now, gosh. We are streaming, everything is so instant, everything is so available. It's really amazing. I mean, the thought that every AU home sports event is live streamed. It's something I never could have imagined when I was the 25 year old Director of Sports communications here in the mid to late 90s. It's just a totally different world. [00:08:21]


[00:08:22] Matt Winkler: And what's neat is that I also get to see it from my kids who are both teenagers. And I get to see how they're digesting and how much my son is on the phone, not only following scores, and, and so forth, but hopefully not micro betting on others betting apps that are on any teenager in the world, and as on their phone. So that's a different experience. That's a different wave to be at. So gosh, just get I said consumer engagement, revenue generation, man, it's all just one click away. And everybody is your audience instead of just hardcore fans. And that's really changed a lot. [00:08:54]


[00:08:55] Grace Ibrahim: Interesting. So you think you tend to reach people, even if they aren't soccer fans, let's say, do you think you tend to reach them with promotion for like somebody like the World Cup, let's say [00:09:03]


[00:09:04] Matt Winkler: So I'd mentioned streaming earlier. So they have put together some of those amazing reality shows around sports, most of them on Netflix. It's really something. One example is Formula One. In America, we went into Formula One around the world. It's one of the top sports. And so Formula One made a partnership with Netflix creating a form that one show called Drive to survive. And that has made a dramatic impact on its audience in the United States. It's really something to watch. [00:09:35]


[00:09:36] Matt Winkler: So there, you had this content that is directed to this huge global entity that maybe hadn't gotten traction in America. But now you let in the US audience and understand not only more about Formula One and racing and it as a competitive sport, but really the personality driven athletes that are in it, and those folks that have global audiences because of what the reason but also let's not forget their sponsors. [00:10:04]


[00:10:05] Matt Winkler: So sponsors get a bump out of this. Now you're raising the value of this entire property. And so wouldn't you know next year there are three races in America. And literally you can really point to that Netflix show as turning around a global unity around the world, but also making and packaging it so Americans love it.[00:10:26]  


[00:10:27] Matt Winkler: I'll give another example: the rec soccer team Wrexham “Welcome to Wrexham” and that's developed by the actors, Rob McElhaney and Ryan Reynolds, who basically just go behind the scenes. Again, it's personality driven. But also how do you run like a fourth team league? So these are minor minor leagues in England, and often in some of those towns. That's all they have. [00:10:56] 


[00:10:57] Matt Winkler: But what's cool about a lot of Europe, but I always love it, is that they're like centuries old. And because these towns are centuries old. Soccer is almost 100 years old. And so sort of only baseball comes close to that. And in the United States, so it only opens up to something, yes, there's celebrities that are running the show and founded it. But it's just, it's on mainstream cable, it's on FX. So it's on the main cable, you don't even need to stream it. [00:11:25] 


[00:11:26] Matt Winkler: People find a personal relationship with the team and with the players that go behind the scenes on yours are not wealthy players. They have families, they're young. And there's all these older elements of a small town in England. It sort of reminds me a little of our minor league baseball space here. My baseball has been for many years in small towns in America. Well, if you looked at the 2016 election in a small town, love those small towns feel left out. [00:11:55]


[00:11:56] Matt Winkler: And then wouldn't you know it, music baseball, cut down, cut 40 of the smallest teams down. So they're down to about 100 teams, 140 teams makes baseball. But those told stories, told some really wonderful stories about the small towns. And right now, because of all that there's a really hot story out there. And that's the savannah bananas. So they are summer league. And they just broke the mold on sports, their owners on this amazing job of developing the savannah bananas, also into A into an event performance. [00:12:34]


[00:12:35] Matt Winkler: So the players on the team, not only are the games, yes, they're all nine innings and so forth. And they're all official minor league baseball, they have them doing certain homerun tryouts, they have them even acting out in the outfield. And then they even call people from the field down on our people in the stands. In an interactive engagement, I don't know where else they do that. And so Savannah, bananas have been low minor leagues, but it's a special game day experience. And I'll get to that later in our talk. But it's also become a sort of cultural phenomenon that people are trying to copy. [00:13:10] 


[00:13:11] Grace Ibrahim: That makes a lot of sense. And actually, like what you mentioned about just athletes nowadays, kind of, I mean, I don't want to speak for them, but maybe just feeling like they have a little bit more responsibility to fulfill because of all this media, because they're on social media now. And it's just different avenues for them to kind of connect with their fans separate from being on the field and doing what they do best. I think it's really interesting just as technology has grown.[00:13:35] 


[00:13:36] Matt Winkler: As everybody dealt with, we had this global pandemic, it affected people in different ways. But if you look at the global sports industry, obviously, you're dealing with fans dealing with players, and you're dealing with billions of dollars. So there was a dramatic effect on the sports industry. And I was fortunate enough to team with some people to do a podcast during it called the entrepreneurial toolkit for the sports industry. [00:14:01]


[00:14:02] Matt Winkler: And what that looked at was just how are we going to come out of the pandemic and all the changes and permanent changes that were made to our industry, and trying to not only get back to where you were, but be better than ever. And one of those areas was live sports. So live sports took a huge hit in person and on TV. Obviously, because the seasons are truncated the games change. They weren't allowed fans. So I'm really worried now that sports content is so ubiquitous on phones and streaming, that people will stop going to the games. [00:14:36]  


[00:14:37] Matt Winkler: Sometimes we forget that that's the space where the magic happens. Sports events are the memory business like a friend of mine used to say. So if we stop going to them, especially young people, they won't get that interactive experience that makes it so special. And obviously we get how easy it is to consume. We totally get it. Going to sports events is more expensive than ever. And so that's a challenge especially with the economic uncertainty that we have in the world today. [00:15:04]


[00:15:05] Matt Winkler: When I first started the business, they said it was sort of recession proof. We will see that. And I think the first hit will probably be attendance games. Now fortunately the sports events industry has made the event experience a better game than ever. I mean just the interactivity, the huge interactive screens, the graphics that are all playing out in this entertainment venue, is really amazing. We have a great example here at Capital One arena, we monumental sports and entertainment. They've made millions of dollars of commitment to improving that in game experience. And it really is amazing. [00:15:43] 


[00:15:44] Grace Ibrahim: That's very true, because the jumbotron has become its own cultural experience of people proposing on there and when they're calling out people in the I mean, the whole year, right, that whole thing really is you go there more for the experience itself as a whole than you do for okay, I'm just gonna go watch the game. Although that's very important. I think it's become more about well, there's so much else to experience when you’re there. [00:16:04]


[00:16:05] Matt Winkler: The game presentation teams have gotten better out than ever. Everything that goes on during a game in between the two whistles that stop and start play is scripted. It has the visual component, the sound component, and now with promotions, right shooting him into your seats, with the t-shirt cannon and all that other stuff. It's live and they're dropping it as I saw. I always go to the season openers for the wizards and the capitals as well as the Nats. [00:16:32]


[00:16:33] Matt Winkler: And so right they drop them right in your lap too. So that in game experience is all scripted by communications people. That's the space, it's never been more important as people understand game presentation. And that's a new whole industry. Because its production, right event production are a lot of the most amazing event production people. And most of them have combat communications backgrounds, and event management brought backgrounds. And so that space has never been more important to make sure that entertainment value of coming to a game lives up to the price of admission. [00:17:04]


[00:17:05] Grace Ibrahim: When you talk about a video producer at a live event versus a video producer on a set. It's just a completely different environment because a video producer on a live event is moving. I mean, there is no room. Exactly. There's no room for error. There's although I'm sure it happens, of course, we're all human, but there's just no room for that you're you're on the go. As long as the event is going on, basically. [00:17:27]


[00:17:28] Grace Ibrahim: And on a set, obviously you have more flexibility to create your own schedule and say, Okay, I'm gonna give myself 30 minutes to set up this next shot. But sometimes they have that same title. And it's like, oh, producer event, video producer. But yeah, there are such different environments to each. So that's pretty interesting. [00:17:40]


[00:17:41] Matt Winkler: It all requires a lot of rehearsals, a lot of practice. [00:17:45]


[00:17:46] Grace Ibrahim: It's a performance, like you said, it's a performance, which I think is very cool. Let's move into our AU students in sports and media because I love to always be talking SOC. We love talking about experiential learning and all the programs that our students get to really get a taste of the real world while they're also learning in the classroom, which I think is amazing. I read recently that SOC McKinley theater hosted “CBS’s we need to talk” one of their episodes, which is a very groundbreaking show, we need to talk as an all female talk show. [00:18:12]


[00:18:13] Grace Ibrahim: So the fact that SOC was able to host one of these episodes is amazing. But can you just give us some background first on how our OGPS, even our Kogod Students and SOC, how are we all putting our minds together to connect all of our worlds and make this sports communication world happen? [00:18:31]


[00:18:32] Matt Winkler: Sure. Well, that show this summer was a special opportunity. And I think it was delivered as best as possible. It was great to see my area or graduate Social Studies Office, as well as associate Kogod being involved in that. And it was hosted by an AU alum, associate alum, Jamie hurdle, who was at CBS Sports, and is now at the NFL, hosting major shows for their network. So it was really a special time to get together. [00:19:02]


[00:19:03] Matt Winkler: Our main focus for the show is on the Title IX at 50, which also dives into some of AU’s pillars, right diversity, quality, and so forth. So we had the opportunity to bring on former and current major athletes to talk about how Title Nine affected their getting involved in precipitation, where we are now and also where we're going. So the audience was about three different generations that were there. [00:19:33]


[00:19:34] Matt Winkler: It's critical to get a 360 degree viewpoint of this and not get political about it. Let's face it. So the event went off great. The studio SOC ended up being perfect for CBS and CBS has high production value, to say the least. So it worked out with that. We had to construct a certain digital line out of the university. The CBS person that was the show runner is a grad, Billy stone. He's a very supportive grad as well. [00:20:03] 


[00:20:04] Matt Winkler: We had student athletes there from AU as well as other teams. I had some of my students there as well as high school students from Wilson, or Jackson Reed, as it's called now, was also there. So you had all these generations of different sectors coming at it from different points of view. And it was really a special day. [00:20:22]


[00:20:23] Grace Ibrahim: That's awesome. That's amazing. Shout out to SOC and all the students and alumni and everyone that helped put that together. That's so impressive. And I just, I'm happy that we can make that happen. [00:20:31]

[00:20:32] Matt Winkler: SOC Dean Fulwood was new here. Hit the ground, running with it. [00:20:37]


[00:20:38] Grace Ibrahim: Great. Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit about the AU sports association that these students run? Are they a big part of it? Can you tell us a little bit more about that, please? [00:20:48]


[00:20:49] Matt Winkler: Sure. We have this national conference that we host in the spring here. This year. It's March 24, and 25th. It's down at Spring Valley and part of it is we go to visit apple one arena and go to a National Basketball Association NBA game. So it's between 10 and 15 students, even some graduate students, but they're mostly from Kogod, and SOC, but a few student athletes as well. And so yeah, we started this group at about mid fall. We work on the process of building up to hosting that huge national conference event called the Sports Events Market Experience. [00:21:26]


[00:21:27] Matt Winkler: We call it SEME, because it's easy to do that. So we have the 19th annual SEME conference in 2023. Last year’s was our first in person after two years being out due to a pandemic. And it just went great. We had a great group. And those groups that graduated last year; three seniors and one graduate student. All our big time jobs in sports really need- one at the Jets, one at Fox Sports, one at a bedding company who are all literally hit the ground running after it and started their jobs this summer, which is really special. [00:22:02]


[00:22:03] Matt Winkler: And we do have eight of the students coming back next year. While the pressure is on them to get these nice, big time jobs, they're also a little bit younger. So they'll be able to work on this event, kind of two or three years. When you're a student, that's a key experience you can get. After being able to experience it, the next time you do even better and the next time doing better, and then figure it out how it works in the world. [00:22:27] 


[00:22:28] Grace Ibrahim: In our last podcast episode, we touched on the fact that sometimes just being around the environment, and being able to just be around what you want to do is helpful enough. Just observing, networking, so the fact that these students get those opportunities is amazing. [00:22:44]


[00:22:45] Matt Winkler: Yes. 20 years ago or so when we launched the sports communication class. In the last class, I used to do a career speech called Don't waste your early 20s. And it was mostly seniors, some juniors and some grad students in the class. Yeah. So 20 or so years later, I give that presentation. And as the last session at the SEME conference, but now it's called building your personal brand. [00:23:13]


[00:23:14] Matt Winkler: So the last session on day two, usually mid afternoon, we're all exhausted. I give that presentation presented. It's called “building a personal brand”. But it all has connections back to those classes I taught here in the early 2000s, which is really neat. And I hear back from some of those students through the years on that presentation. And as a professor as a career advisor that's the best thing you can hear. [00:23:42]


[00:23:43] Matt Winkler: People remembering that and having it sort of them carrying it through. So that's really neat. But in the two day conference: we have panels, we have keynote sessions, fireside chats, and have two interactive lunches, where you get to meet with current sports execs at a table, and also work on your elevator pitch. That's kind of a neat thing. [00:24:07]


[00:24:08] Matt Winkler: One of our partners is TeamWork Online, the number one sports job database in the world is called TeamWork Online, Buffy Phillip pal founded it. And so she helps us put on this elevator pitch challenge that you get to do as well. And not only are these the best experiences you can get in the real world when you're looking straight at your competition, right at the fellow attendees, but also you get to practice this with people that make the job decision on it and get feedback from them moving forward. [00:24:38]


[00:24:39] Matt Winkler: Sometimes we forget that also sometimes you want to experience things to know what you don't want to do. Yeah, I'll give an example of that when I was in college. First year I did the radio station I knew I didn't want to host a radio show or do play by play. Second year I got the opportunity to practice at our cable station on campus in the cable production class. Because I wanted to be this longtime I want to be an anchor for ESPN. I wanted to be a sports center anchor. Like a lot of us did. [00:25:12]


[00:25:13] Matt Winkler: So I got a chance to do it. In this class, I was terrible at it. I also found out a little bit of a learning disability and auditory comprehension, which is kind of important when your producer is putting everything into your game. So I immediately got into another other space, sports journalism for the newspaper. And then senior year I worked in the sports PR office. That's what got to me. [00:25:35]


[00:25:36] Matt Winkler: So that's how sometimes that's great. Trial and error. Trial often is an all around opportunity. But you have to go out and get it. [00:25:46] 

[00:25:47] Grace Ibrahim: Exactly. Not being afraid to take that opportunity and then failing [00:25:49]


[00:25:50] Matt Winkler: As a college student, high school student, you're allowed to fail. So go fail as much as possible. [00:25:54]


[00:25:55] Grace Ibrahim: Like you said, that's when you learn, okay, you know what, maybe I can't really see myself doing this, or this is exactly what I want to do. And now I'm going to pursue it, which is great. But also to your point on elevator pitches, we always like to give little pieces of advice for our students, but that just reminds me of one which always have an elevator pitch ready. [00:26:10] 


[00:26:11] Grace Ibrahim: People in SOC, assume elevator pitch means Oh, you have a movie idea? What is it? It's not elevator pitch. It is basically, one to two sentences on yourself, what can you do? What do you want to do? I always say, I remember when I was a student, and we would hear people say- oh, I just got lucky. And I just got lucky. And I just got lucky. And that would frustrate me so much, because I wasn't getting lucky. [00:26:29]


[00:26:30] Grace Ibrahim: But what I learned as I've gotten older is that luck is basically opportunity plus being prepared. So when someone approaches you and you're not ready with your elevator pitch, there goes the opportunity. So it's just, it's not luck, it's really just being prepared and going after what you want. Because when someone approaches you with that, I would say 49 out of 50, people don't have an elevator pitch ready. So when you're the one out of the 50 that have it ready, you're going to skip a few of the building blocks, I guarantee you that. [00:26:55]


[00:26:56] Matt Winkler: It's more important than ever now because of how the pandemic affected us. So we were sort of out of it for a year, a year or two. And so a lot of those skill sets atrophied. So one of the one of the biggest challenges or the pandemic was really teenagers and 20 Somethings, and their interpersonal skill sets atrophy, because they weren't out there. They weren't interacting, they weren't engaging, they weren't putting themselves in between a group of people, or they weren't one on one with a lot of people. [00:27:29]


[00:27:30] Matt Winkler: Those are key skill sets for teenagers and 20 Somethings. Gosh, it involves jobs, they're even more important. So here we are dealing with a situation where our cognitive frontal lobe atrophied in many cases. And we also really got late, lazy and sedentary, right. It was so easy to use our thumbs to either swipe, or type or audio or just video, and it wasn't as professional. Yeah, now we have to get more professional again. [00:28:01]

[00:28:02] Matt Winkler: And so the skill sets that are around a person who presents themselves professionally, it's almost like rehab. And while we're getting traction, and we're getting close to normal, there are still a lot of people that are left behind. One more interesting thing is males. This affected males at a critical time and male development, when they should be trying and failing and getting out there, they lost a lot of development at a critical time for them. [00:28:29]


[00:28:30] Grace Ibrahim: I think we do go through these changes. For example, the pandemic was one where things did work well- working from home and all of the, like you said, less interaction, things did become more casual. But I mean, you're right, I'm in a way in in conclusion, I think professionalism is going to stay universal, and there is a part of it, that's always going to stay there is always going to be a professional aspect when it comes to these jobs and, and kind of that space and surely going around that. [00:28:55]


[00:28:56]Matt Winkler: If you look at it like I think I talk a lot about consumer engagement, revenue generation, that's the sports and event business, as well. So you look at technology, right? That's really in a way making us less interpersonal. If you look, when we order food from a takeout place, right, we do it on an app. When we do a lot of things, it's on an app, or where you're not interfacing with a person. So that even can affect our day to day personal life. [00:29:24] 


[00:29:25] Matt Winkler: In a sense not to get into it, but look at dating and all that stuff. All it's less personal than it ever used to be, and we're relying on it more. So there can be some downsides to that. And also if you have to look at not to get into this, working from home, that's not good for people in their 20s it just isn't. That's where you develop these interpersonal skills with a variety of people, with diversity, with gender, getting away from some of that stuff. And then social media, you know, is more divisive than ever. Let's face it right? Some social media platforms have become feedback loops for disengagement and crisis. So anyway, we're running short in time. [00:30:01]


[00:30:02] Grace Ibrahim: I didn’t even think about that. Actually the whole working from home aspect, I was able to adapt because I developed those skills. I was working in a corporate world prior to the pandemic hit. But you’re right. If those things aren’t learnt beforehand and you’re all of a sudden having to not even adapt but you could form this new world. [00:30:18]


[00:30:19] Matt Winkler: You saw this in summer brain drain, right? So you go to school, get your learning on, and in the summer, you just sort of lose it. So feeling a 20 Somethings now, they sort of had to deal with some brain drain. So coming out of the pandemic, I hope everyone works a little harder on the things that made us a society and the things that bind us. And that's also intrapersonal. [00:30:40]  


[00:30:41] Grace Ibrahim: Last question I want to get into, so just growing up in the MENA region myself, you helped develop Sports Management Institute's in the MENA region. You train their professionals to basically run these events. I could imagine that there was a time when just justifying why it's important to have that was a conversation. Can you speak a little bit to that? [00:31:00]


[00:31:01] Matt Winkler: So about 15 years ago, I launched a sports management program called Sports Industry Management at Georgetown, where I was also the associate dean. So at Georgetown, they also have a campus in Doha, Qatar. And so when Qatar was surprisingly announced in 2010, as the choice for the 2022 World Cup, obviously the country and sort of organizations that were working with Qatar had built a massive proposal, right, there was this huge document and interactive piece that showed why they could pull it off in 12 years, right. [00:31:40]


[00:31:41] Matt Winkler: 12 years later, the World Cup for FIFA has never been in the MENA region, and just recently has been in new places like South Africa, Brazil, and Russia. So they're trying to kowtow as the FIFA head says new land. So they got the opportunity of a lifetime. I was in a position where I was working at Georgetown. And so I worked with the people at Georgetown University here but also the people in Doha to help work with the folks of the Qatar government, the Qatar Foundation, and their smaller sports league to put something together as a component to help run the World Cup. [00:32:19] 


[00:32:20] Matt Winkler: So it's called the Ja-zore Institute. And it launched about 10 years ago. And I was involved in the committee and group that helped develop the concept for it when it was launched about 10 years ago. So I was fortunate to be in this development group also with Deloitte and with IMG. And never forget the experience spending three days in a conference room at IMGs headquarters outside London, right near the airport. So we spent three days kind of hammering out the concept with a lot of other people. That was a really, really cool experience. [00:32:54]


[00:32:55] Matt Winkler: I haven't worked on it yet. But since then, I am going to the World Cup in Qatar, which starts November 20. So I will be added, and it will be quite an experience. And to be honest with you, like with a lot of national sports events. I was fortunate to work in a lot of places all over the world. And I've been fortunate to take students to China, Africa, South America, Qatar, before England, and Mexico. [00:33:24]


[00:33:25]Matt Winkler: I know how a lot of these events are to work and develop them, but also from the spectator side of my students and other people like that. So we've had a fortunate to have this circle experience. So Qatar 2022 is only a couple of weeks away. Yeah, all international events, the size of the World Cup and Olympics are always stressful. Six months out, three months out. Six weeks out, like we are now in less than that. But they all have everybody stressed out and the media is always worried that they're not going to play when it takes place. [00:34:00]


[00:34:01] Matt Winkler: The key thing is that the game and the stadium and the TV will always take place. And so people will be watching the games on time on schedule in those stadiums. Almost no matter what. Now, for the people going into the game, the fans and the spectators as it's called. For spectators, where they're staying could be an issue, transportation to the stadiums could be an issue. Getting into the stadiums could be an issue. Being at the stadiums could be an issue. Those are definitely still concerns. [00:34:33] 


[00:34:34] Matt Winkler: They've had test events, practice on these. It's the most stadium in the smallest area ever for a World Cup. They're not a place for people to stay. People are worried there's gonna be enough food to go around. They have some I won't get into politics, but they have hardcore issues on alcohol, on the role of females in society. For it's going to be an interesting melting pot. [00:34:54] 


[00:34:55] Matt Winkler: If you think about the audience being there are pretty hardcore soccer fans and throw in nationalism to that they're there their countries, and they're gonna see something they've never seen before and experience it after. And have to manage it. [00:35:09]


[00:35:10] Grace Ibrahim: And it's crazy, because like you said, the MENA region might be filled with the biggest soccer fans I think I've ever seen in my life. I mean soccer is huge over there. But yet, you look at these events. And like you said, it's a performance, they're rehearsing like, it is a performance, you know, all you when you really look at it, it's just culturally different. That's really all it is. It's just a cultural difference. So I think it's so fascinating, when you're looking at all these other aspects to these events that people may not really think about. Because all they're thinking about is we're just throwing a bunch of soccer games. [00:35:42]


[00:35:43] Grace Ibrahim: It's not really that when you think about the World Cup, it's a whole, like you said, experience, it's a lot that goes into it. So I think it's just very interesting that once you start to bring up these things that are mostly universal, like sports, soccer, everyone knows what it is, but you start bringing in, location, and culture and all these things that are different. It's just, it's fascinating, because it does change things. [00:36:05]


[00:36:06] Matt Winkler: Yeah, that’s a wonderful thing about sports. So many different people know what you're talking about. And then you throw in people with fandoms, and teams they root for and then you can get kind of a spicy dialogue. And also, it can be a debate between people. And that's a good thing. That's a good thing. Obviously, I've been able to see soccer the last 30 plus years, I played it as a youth player. But that's, but that's the soccer club, where we traveled around the world to play. We weren't even that good. But we had this opportunity. So I saw it. [00:36:34] 


[00:36:35] Matt Winkler: In competition, I played against people who looked just like me or didn't look just like me or were my same age and all these countries around the world as countries were Ireland, England, Germany, Brazil, and Italy. So I had a chance of a lifetime to see it. So I knew the value of all. This was very early on, I dreamed of taking groups of students today to games. [00:36:55] 


[00:36:56] Matt Winkler: Obviously, we're out in Qatar at one where it's gonna be tough to bring students to games. There's a lot of not restrictions, but there are just too many challenges, right. Domestically not all universities are really supportive of what goes on in that country and so forth. So we have to deal with all that and we should deal with it, right so I get all that for sure. [00:37:17]


[00:37:18] Grace Ibrahim: But it's very cool that you said you traveled when you were younger and that you saw the value of that, because it really just summed up the whole episode of what's the value in it. Well, I experienced that when I was younger, I felt the value. And now it's my turn to give back. And I think that's awesome. [00:37:32]


[00:37:33] Matt Winkler: Yeah, that was a great experience in careers and looking at sports. It really looks sexy, doesn't it? The athletes are more famous than ever, they have some of the largest twitter feeds. In the United States alone, they're the ones that have this big sports management marketplace, right. But our sports management industry here is unlike any other it really is. If you look at all the sports, all of our teams, it's really amazing. [00:37:57]


[00:37:58] Matt Winkler: So with fresh eyes, sports management, education will teach people to come here to learn, and then go back to where they're from. And so that's a little bit of the bizarre component, sort of English, England, America are involved and putting on these huge events, and then helping other people put those on. I look at the sports measurement we launched here. The sports management program, the online sports management degree, is helping do that. [00:38:21]

[00:38:22] Matt Winkler: People that want to get in it, look at as gotta be cool to work for my hometown team. Totally understandable. Number two, I could maybe be best friends with some of the athletes. And number three, it's just really cool that I would maybe want to work that hard. And so those are sort of three tenants of that work in the sports industry. [00:38:41] 


[00:38:42] Matt Winkler: One of the events, evenings and weekends, that's after you work, nine to six, or whatever. So that's number one. Number two, I will say the dichotomy of wins and losses, only a few teams that can win their last game and win the championship, everybody else lost pretty much. And that's how it's looked at by the teams. And so when you're on a losing team, that's a whole other world than having a winning team. But you can't really affect it or change it, but you do have to live with it. [00:39:07]


[00:39:08] Matt Winkler: Then the last one is, yeah, you're probably going to be best friends with your athletes. The last 30 years has changed a lot just with cable television and all the other growth in space. They become bigger celebrities than ever. And we talked about how huge their Instagram followers are, how many millions now tiktok, and so forth. So they have global connections to millions and millions of people. So they're richer and more famous than we ever manage them. [00:39:34] 


[00:39:35] Matt Winkler: And so I know a lot of people in the athlete, representation space agents, right. And it's really changed a lot because you're managing a global icon almost. This isn't just the major athletes. This is sort of everybody again, everyone's one click away. [00:39:49]


[00:39:50] Grace Ibrahim: This was an awesome episode. Thank you so much, Professor Matt Winkler, for joining us today for a very sportsfield theme episode. [00:39:58]


[00:39:59] Matt Winkler: Thank you so much for having me. You know, these kinds of outlets are really important, not just for the students, but also for the schools on campus, and for alumni. And it can feel I'm an alumni, also American University. So we feel a lot of pride when these kinds of vehicles are out there to learn more about what's going on on campus, and also getting more alumni involved. [00:40:24] 


[00:40:25] Grace Ibrahim: Absolutely. And just really just keep up with each other as well. We'd love to hear what everyone's up to and working on. And if you'd like to hear more episodes with more of our guests, check out our bi weekly episodes dropping on Wednesdays on Anchor Spotify and Apple podcasts. And if you'd like to support this podcast and the School of Communication, go to to donate now. And that's a wrap. [00:40:48] 

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Our Time to Give Back


This week Grace Ibrahim is joined by SOC Alum, Derek McGinty. McGinty is a journalist, commentator and award-winning interviewer. He got his start at WHUR radio in Washington D.C. and since then has gone on to work for various programs on CBS, HBO, and ABC. He then returned to Washington D.C. to work with WUSA. 

Ibrahim and McGinty are both mentors for SOC’s Alumni Mentorship Program where current students are matched with alums in their perspective fields. Both spoke highly of the program and McGinty said that, at this stage, mentorship was the most fulfilling part of his career. To him, there is nothing more powerful than passing on knowledge and helping the younger generation navigate their own journeys.


[00:00:06] Grace Ibrahim: Welcome to Media in the Mix, the only podcast produced and hosted by the School of Communication at American University. Join us as we create a safe space to explore topics and communication at the intersection of social justice, tech, innovation and pop culture. Today we have the absolute pleasure of speaking with Derek McGinty, who is also an SOC alum. [00:00:28] 

[00:00:29] Grace Ibrahim: Just to give you a little background. Derek McGinty is a journalist, award-winning interviewer and a commentator. He got his first job on the air back in 1984 at WHQR Radio in Washington, DC. From there he went to WAMU FM, where he launched a nationally syndicated daytime talk show on NPR. By the end of this century he had been a correspondent on the CBS broadcast public eye with Bryant Gumbel, and HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. [00:00:57] 

[00:00:58] Grace Ibrahim: After two years in New York as anchor of ABC's World News now and World News this morning, it was back to his hometown of Washington, DC to anchor W USA fledgling 7:00 PM local newscast. Derek, thank you so much for being here and joining us on the podcast today. [00:01:15] 

[00:01:16] Derek McGinty: It's great to be with you. 

[00:01:16] Grace Ibrahim: Thank you, so let's get right into it. So one of the things you're involved in at SOC is the alumni mentorship program and being a mentor, this is something that we've had going on for a while and it's where our SOC alum come together as mentors for our SOC students who are mentees. Then it's just a time where we can build Relationships help each other out. Number one, what do you think the benefit of giving back as an alumni is and what motivates you to do that? [00:01:45] 

[00:01:46] Derek McGinty: I found it to be the most fulfilling part of my career at this point. You work so hard, you're ambitious, you want to succeed, you wanna be promoted, you want to become bigger and more famous I guess. Then there comes a time when you realize that it is not about you anymore, right? It's about the younger people that are coming along behind you. To me the most valuable thing you can do is pass on your knowledge and hopefully your experience is the lessons that you've learned that could perhaps make somebody else’s journey a little easier. [00:02:20] 

[00:02:21] Grace Ibrahim: That makes a lot of sense. What do you think makes for a good mentor first and foremost? [00:02:25] 

[00:02:26] Derek McGinty: First and foremost is just the availability and willingness to do it. I got an email from a young person saying I am your new mentee, when can we talk. I said here's my number, call me anytime you know and sometimes we will get together, but don't know, many times we won't have phone calls or you know we'll have lunch or something at some point, but getting together is not the most important thing. [00:02:49] 

[00:02:50] Derek McGinty: The most important thing is again, the passing on of the knowledge. I know these students are very busy, right? So you gotta kind of work around their schedule you have and be available to them. That's the most important. [00:03:02] 

[00:03:03] Grace Ibrahim: Definitely, and like you said, I think it is a two way street. Whether you're wanting to be a mentor or mentee, I think the willingness to do it and want to do it has to be there otherwise, like it cannot be just a one way Street. Adding on to that just for any of our students or mentors listening to this, do you have any tips? Things maybe to do or things not to do? That's an important one as well. [00:03:25]  

[00:03:24] Derek McGinty: I don't do things not to do. Don't waste my time. I had an experience once with a young lady who was sent to me. Well, I wasn't part of the program. Hey when you talk to my friend who wants to get into business and I always say yes. But she wouldn’t call her back and she wouldn't return calls. After three or four times with this behavior, now I can’t work with you anymore, right? [00:03:47] 

[00:03:48] Derek McGinty: So don't waste my time. That's the most important thing. As a mentee you're gonna make mistakes and we all understand that. Well, don't waste my time, don't not show up. Don't you know these are the things that to me say, first of all, you're not gonna be good in the business, if that's how you're gonna continue to behave. Things aren't gonna go your way. Secondly, I don’t wanna say it like it but the mentors are doing you a favor, right. You're coming, somebody may or may not still be working but they probably got a lot on their plate, and they're doing you a favor. So it’s like it. [00:04:23] 

[00:04:24] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, absolutely absolutely. That's something that one of my first mentors in the industry was actually my professor, who I was a graduate assistant to at SOC, which was Russell Williams. He told me that everything starts from even just reaching out and sending that email. Everything, the way you write the email and how you respond, when you respond and if you respond, I mean he's outlined that you know all of those things start right when you make that connection. Can you speak any truth to that? [00:04:57] 

[00:04:58] Derek McGinty: No certainly.[00:04:58] 

[00:04:59] Grace Ibrahim: I mean when people reach out to you, do you take notice of those things? [00:05:00] 

[00:05:01] Derek McGinty: Of course, well when you want to see if someone's business is there. The way they present themselves or do they seem at least look like they are young people, right? They're still learning. I don't expect you to be like you're 35. But you know, I do expect you to have some idea of what it takes to be a professional and present yourself in a professional way and that's all. I'm asking. Certainly if you ask me, I'll tell you [00:05:22] 

[00:05:23] Grace Ibrahim: That actually leads us into a good topic of networking. I've had a lot of conversations regarding networking with students, even just my own peers in the industry. I think sometimes it can be a very daunting topic, so a lot of people think networking has to be very official and you have to be in a pantsuit and you have to give out your resume and your business card at a fancy event. [00:05:44] 

[00:05:45] Grace Ibrahim: Although those are very beneficial and I think if you see those and they pertain to what you want to do in this industry, go to them and meet as many people as you can. But at the same time, I think networking can be just creating relationships and just listening to people. My best advice for people is to always to memorize one fact about somebody you know, if they mentioned that they love dolphins and they recently went swimming with the dolphins the next time I see them, I'm going to make sure to ask how was swimming with the dolphins and when are you going to go do that again? [00:06:11] 

[00:06:12] Grace Ibrahim: Because I think people really respond to that well. you listened. It wasn't just about what can I do for you and what can you do for me. [00:06:18] 

[00:06:19] Derek McGinty: You know Grace, I am going to use that advice you just gave about memorizing 1 fact about a person. I'm going to use that and you just mentored me. [00:06:28] 

[00:06:28] Grace Ibrahim: Thank you wow, that's so that means a lot. Thank you, but no, it's important because I don't know if you agree, but I feel like sometimes it is just about establishing a relationship and you don't want to make your mentor or mentee feel like it is just an exchange. Well like that is a tip for tat.[00:06:44] 

[00:06:45] Grace Ibrahim: If I'm going to do this, you're going to do that, or if I'm giving you this, you gotta give me that. I think sometimes it’s that relationship, it can sometimes be a friendship and I think it's more important for that long term. You don't want just a three or four month relationship and then say well, thank you for helping me. That's it. It should be a nice relationship.[00:07:03] 

[00:07:04] Derek McGinty: I totally agree with you. I have had a few mentees that actually have become friends. We communicated over a couple of years. Reality is we are not in the same place, so we are not gonna stay besties, but you know it's good to have that relationship where you continue to communicate to find out whether or not they advance in their careers and you become friends. [00:07:28] 

[00:07:29] Derek McGinty: One particular mentee I had. He's such a great guy. He and I became friends. He now works in the Washington post. He had me over for dinner at his house. He and his wife were very nice. So it was just that we have had a very good relationship, so I'm saying that to say that yes, you do become friends with these young people and that and that's and that's a wonderful thing. [00:07:50] 

[00:07:50] Grace Ibrahim: I love that. That's great also for our students, current students and maybe even prospective students who are listening. So we do have a lot of experiential learning programs at SOC as well. But just to give you guys some background, we have New York intensive, LA intensive, where you're able to travel to these cities and meet networks like producers, directors, editors. I mean whoever and whatever you're looking to do in the industry, I guarantee you'll meet someone who's doing that. [00:08:20] 

[00:08:21] Grace Ibrahim: Also other things are right here on campus. For example, we have the SOC. Three which just launched, which is with Professor Pallavi and what these students do, which I think is so cool. I wish I had this. [00:08:32] 

[00.08.33] Grace Ibrahim: They basically while simultaneously learning in the classroom about PR or strategic communications. They are also simultaneously working with real organizations in DC. They are actually putting PR into practice, so I think that's awesome. These students are getting real world experience while they're still in the classroom. Just in your opinion, how important do you think these types of programs are in regards to our student success post graduation? [00:08:59] 

[00:09:00] Derek McGinty: Well, I think they could be critical. I think that you know one of the biggest problems you have when you first come out of school is you don't know anything, right? Haven't done much. I remember putting together a resume when I was 22 years old and had things like the student newspaper in the school radio station and these things. People who actually worked in the business don't care about that. [00:09:18] 

[00:09:19] Derek McGinty: To them, that's just very much of maybe some kind of experience that doesn't help you much in the real world. The fact that you can come in with experience where you actually did stuff at an organization at a news organization that helps a lot. [00:09:34] 

[00:09:35] Derek McGinty: Quite frankly, internships are great. I definitely got my first job because I had an internship, but it wasn't because of the stuff I was doing at the internship. It was because I was just in proximity. I think a lot of internships, at least they used to be when I was coming up didn't get to necessarily do much, that was significant. So experiential learning as you describe is a whole different step up from that, so I think it's great. I think it's perfect. I think employers will be very happy to see somebody coming who actually knows something about what they do. [00:10:06]  

[00:10:07] Grace Ibrahim: Follow up on that we had a podcast episode last week with one of our SOC alum who had just moved out to LA so fresh grad. He had nine internships under his belt, and the only position he was able to get while moving out to LA was another internship. That was that he replied to full time jobs, full time, job filled and the only position he got and granted it was paid. It basically was like a full time job, only it was named internship. [00:10:33] 

[00:10:34] Grace Ibrahim: He said that he is so grateful that he got all those internships under his belt. He said on top of experiential learning and on top of extracurricular activities, firms wanted to see that you had that real world experience, that you were just around that environment. So can you speak to this idea that you know internships are still hold value? [00:10:55] 

[00:10:55] Derek McGinty: You know it's been more than 40 years since my last internship. I gotta say, the world is a lot different now than it was then. First of all, a lot of them pay now, which is my day they did not. They almost universally did not pay. You didn't necessarily get to do much. Especially if you were in a big city and in a big newsroom, you were getting coffee for everybody. [00:11:19] 

[00:11:20] Derek McGinty: Just glad to be there and you had to be really aggressive to try to get something more out of it. You had to know what you wanted, go after it and talk to people. You had to do all these things. The internship wasn't set up for you. I think these days the internships are set up to be a lot more beneficial. So that's a good thing. You should still be aggressive. You should still be networking and talking to everybody you can, but at least if you go in there, you can be confident you're not gonna learn how to get balance everybody’s order from the bagel place. [00:11:48]  

[00:11:49] Grace Ibrahim: Right, and that's so true. I think it's cool just to although I know some people today are still getting coffee and like that for film as a PA like that's that's where you start. Sometimes they just gotta get coffee, you gotta get lunch, you gotta drive to go get batteries. Those are the responsibilities that you have. It's very cool because as long as you're around it you don't know what you'll get to do or who you'll get to experience? [00:12:12] 

[00:12:13] Grace Ibrahim: I remember I was on one set and they had the tripods that they use here at SOC. They are very complicated tripods. I didn't have any experience with them other than being a student and they asked, “Anybody knows how to use these tripods?”. The little PA raised her hand and said yes I do, that just that day made a huge difference. I think the way people viewed me as a PA. You never know what question you'll be able to answer, you never know who you're gonna meet, you never know again, like those conversations, those friendships you never know who you're gonna have a conversation with. [00:12:50] 

[00:12:51] Derek McGinty: I think that's a great story. I think that everybody's experience is different. Everybody has a different set of skills. Everybody internships like you said, just never know.[00:13:01] 

[00:13:02] Grace Ibrahim: Let's talk about this idea of everyone has a beginning, middle, and end, but it's not always in that order. In the pandemic a lot of content creators had this overnight success that everyone is looking to thinking oh, it's got to be that. If I don't have overnight success, I didn't make it. Thinking back to your own, I made it moments between your success now and and that moment. How much time has passed, what's changed? Can you speak to this idea of beginning, middle and end? [00:13:30] 

[00:13:31] Derek McGinty: Oh my goodness, well I would say “my I made it moment”, as you described, it was my first on air job. Up until then I wasn't sure that it was ever gonna happen. I had been working and I worked at WTOP for a couple of years as a news writer, which I think is a job they don't even have anymore and certainly don't have those manual typewriters anymore.[00:13:53] 

[00:13:54] Derek McGinty: I was working at the United Press International wire service, which no longer exists. I just didn't know if it was ever going to get on the air. When I got the job at WHQR and I actually had my first on air that was a big deal. So that would be sort of my maybe this gonna workout kind of moment. So that's what I would say in terms of that. [00:14:24] 

[00:14:25] Grace Ibrahim: Was there ever a moment like an internship you had or what was the 1st moment you kind of stepped into this industry, thinking like, oh, this is what I wanna do because I remember I had a quick summer job at WHQT Howard University television station and yeah, and it was really fun for three months. I worked honestly as a PA role. [00:14:46] 

[00:14:47] Grace Ibrahim: I was doing a lot of random things but I just wanted to be around it 'cause I was like if I can be around it I could see whether I like this or not, just the environment, the pace and then when I saw them that first live show that they did and producers were in that room and the control room and there's just the energy in there. Do you remember a moment like that? [00:15:03] 

[00:15:04] Derek McGinty: It's interesting. I decided I wanted to be in the news when I was 16 years old. The great late Jim Vance, who used to be longtime anchor here in Washington at NBC4. Great man. He came to my high school. He had an assembly in the auditorium. He talked about the news business and how good it was. My light went on and I said that's what I want to do. [00:15:32] 

[00:15:33] Derek McGinty: I never wavered now. I did think I was going to be a newspaper reporter for a while. I did that my first three years at AU and then changed my major to broadcast last year. But I never wavered in terms of wanting to be in the news. I thought about storytelling and writing with things that I really wanted to be a part of. [00:15:59] 

[00:16:00] Grace Ibrahim: That's awesome. So your advice, let's say someone who says, oh, I know I want to be in film. Well, film can mean a lot of different things. [00:16:07] 

[00:16:08] Derek McGinty: That's the problem. [00:16:09] 

[00:16:09] Grace Ibrahim: Do you recommend not necessarily pigeon holding yourself to one thing, getting that experience under your belt if you get those opportunities? [00:16:17] 

[00:16:18] Derek McGinty: Well, I would say yes and no. I mean, if you’re sure that this one area is what you want to focus on like you want to make movies right, you want to edit or you want to be a broadcast or whatever it is you're sure. If that’s your thing then focus on it as soon as you can. [00:16:35] 

[00:16:36] Derek McGinty: One of the big mistakes that people make is getting sidetracked on something else and then they're doing that, and then they begin to get promoted and doing better at that. If it’s not really what they wanted and it's hard to go back down at the beginning to go back up again. So, if you know what you want, go after it now. Don't be diverted into other things because that can mess you up. [00:16:57] 

[00:16:58] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, Russell used to say if they could talk you out of what you're doing, then you weren't meant to do it in the first place. [00:17:01] 

[00:17:02] Derek McGinty: Wow, I like that. That's good.[00:17:02] 

[00:17:03] Grace Ibrahim: So I try to remember that too. Don't let people make you think that you can't do it or you should.[00.17.08] 

[00:17:08] Derek McGinty: Yeah, I always go back to the story about Katie Couric and she was at CNN, supposedly. Some broadcast executive told her you'll never make it in this business.[00:17:17] 

[00:17:18] Grace Ibrahim: I think she did. So the last thing here I want to talk about is, I read something on your website that I just thought would be very interesting to kind of dive into. So it says “Derek has believed that ideas matter more than ideology.” Can you just explain that a little bit more. [00:17:38] 

[00:17:39] Derek McGinty: I came to understand when I was a talk show host, where I was talking to all different kinds of people with varying points of view that ideas could bridge the gap right between people that we could talk about instead of talking about I'm a Republican or I'm a Democrat, or I'm a red state or blue state person. [00:17:58] 

[00:17:59] Derek McGinty: This is what I believe and these are the things that are important to me. This is How I first want to get there and then we can have a conversation about whether it's right or wrong or misguided or not. But when you have an ideology that locks you in right. So then if I'm a Republican and I see a Democrat then maybe I want to have an argument, but the ideas that we have may not be that different. So that's when we can always discuss ideas and ideology is more difficult. [00:18:28] 

[00:18:29 Derek McGinty: I just never wanted to be locked in. I always said- say what you think and be prepared to defend it and be prepared to change your mind if someone comes up with something better. That to me is about ideas, not ideologies because if my idea is wrong, maybe I don't change my mind, no matter what the arguments. You know, I'm just saying if people get mad, so I don't care, you know what they're better off being courageous. [00:18:52] 

[00:18:53] Grace Ibrahim: Yes, and he's truthful sometimes. [00:18:53] 

[00:18:55] Derek McGinty: Especially if you can justify what you're saying. If someone comes and says, well this is why I said this and it made sense and now tell me why it doesn't. Okay. you're right, I'm wrong.[00:19:06] 

[00:19:06] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, that's so true. The best thing I heard recently, especially in this day and age, with everything going on, is that the best thing you could do is stick to the side, stick to what you believe, but be willing to listen and hear the completely opposite side. If you can do that and you could kind of be on that same page I think it'll bring and actually people might realize they have a lot more in common than they realized, you know. [00:19:32] 

[00:19:33] Derek McGinty: Certainly true. We have to reach a point where we can at least discuss things. I kind of despair about where we are right now with where there's like, no conversations, just shouting past each other. I don't think that's helpful, but I'm not in charge. [00:19:49] 

[00:19:50] Grace Ibrahim: Do you still encourage people to have those difficult conversations? because I know there's a fine line nowadays between “I'm too scared to say something or I'm too scared to speak on something” or maybe we you know what if someone especially coming from like a news, the news field. Where that's the basis of it is having difficult conversations and bringing up topics that maybe we don't usually want. [00:20:10] 

[00:20:11] Derek McGinty: You know it depends. In the real world, sometimes it's just not worth it. When you know there is gonna be a big fight I don’t care enough about this. [00:20:19] 

[00:20:20] Grace Ibrahim: That's so real, yes.[00:20:21] 

[00:20:21] Derek McGinty: Did you get into it? We are having a nice time and let's just keep peace, right? So that's the issue I think, I mean you have to be worth it to have the argument. I'm disappointed that you know there's no debate anymore. There's nobody saying “these are the reasons I think this”. But what are your reasons for disagreeing with me or I disagree with you, but you're not a bad person. [00:20:48]  

[00:20:48] Grace Ibrahim: Right or we can have a conversation on it. [00:20:51] 

[00:20:52] Derek McGinty: So we all try to think that if we're we're gracious person, you try to have grace for the people around you, understanding that you're going to need some grace too. [00:21:02] 

[00:21:03] Grace Ibrahim: Yes, 100% pun intended, have grace for yourself and for everyone. [00:21:08] 

[00:21:07] Derek McGinty: Oh yeah. I didn't even think about that, that's funny. [00:21:13] 

[00:21:14] Grace Ibrahim: Thank you so much Derek for being here. This is an awesome conversation. [00:21:16] 

[00:21:17] Derek McGinty: I appreciate you Grace. Thanks for having me. [00:21:19] 

[00:21:19] Grace Ibrahim: Thank you and everyone who is listening. You could check out our biweekly episodes, dropping on Wednesdays on anchor, Spotify and Apple Podcasts. If you'd like to support this podcast and the School of Communication, go to to donate now. That's a wrap. [00:21:36] 

I Made the L.A. Move...Should You?


This week host and AU alumna, Grace Ibrahim sat down with Zachary Gradishar, a recent SOC alum working to break into L.A.’s entertainment industry. Ibrahim and Gradishar discuss the challenges of post-grad life and the power of small plans.

Gradishar graduated with a BA in Public Relations and Strategic Communication in 2022 and has since then launch his own podcast, “Let’s Chat with Zach.” The podcast was originally created as a way for him to stay connected with his network of friends, but he quickly realized that the conversations were relevant to many young graduates starting out on their own.

Listen to hear how Gradishar navigates a new chapter in his life, and the small steps that he's been taking to help widen his networks and gain experience.


[00:00:06] Grace Ibrahim: Welcome to the Media in the Mix, the only podcast produced and hosted by the School of Communication at American University. Join us as we create a safe space to explore topics and communication at the intersection of social justice, tech, innovation and pop culture. Today we have the pleasure of speaking to Zachary Gradishar. [00:00:28] 

[00:00:29] Grace Ibrahim: Zachary Gradishar, a recent alumnus of American University Class of 2022, where he received his bachelor's in public relations and strategic communications and a minor in marketing. Zach was adopted from an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when he was just under a year old and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, before moving to Washington, DC for college. [00:00:51] 

[00:00:52] Grace Ibrahim: Following his graduation this past May, he moved to sunny Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. This past summer Zach completed a 16-week postgraduate internship, his ninth internship within the last four years with Searchlight Pictures film studio at the Walt Disney Company as a PR/Publicity intern, where he supported one of the national publicity teams. [00:01:16] 

[00:01:17] Grace Ibrahim: Before starting his internship with search light, Zach participated in American University's School of Communications L.A. Intensive Program as part of the summer 2022 cohort. The L.A. Intensive Program is one of our experiential learning programs here at American University. Zach also launched his very own podcast this summer called "Let's chat with Zach", where he chats with different guests each week about various topics, from navigating life post-graduation, to what it's like to work in the entertainment industry, and so much more. [00:01:48] 

[00:01:49] Grace Ibrahim: Zach, thank you so much for being here. What an accomplished resume already. [00:01:53] 

[00:01:54] Zachary Gradishar: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me on today's episode. I'm so grateful to be here. [00:01:54]

[00:01:55] Grace Ibrahim: I want to ask you so all the way from Ethiopia to Chicago, and then DC, and now you're living in LA? How's life been post-graduation? And be honest with us? Is it what you expected? [00:02:11]

[00:02:12] Zachary Gradishar: Life after graduation is definitely rough. I appreciate transparency, and I'm going to keep it 100 with you. It's definitely been rough. For me, I feel like it's been a big reality check as someone who's always planning ahead and wanting to know what's next? I'm at this point in my life where I don't necessarily know what's next. I'm not in school where, okay, I'm in the fall semester, I can think about what I'm going to intern in the spring, and then summer, and so forth. [00:02:46]

[00:02:47] Zachary Gradishar: First of all, I'm competing with everyone else who just graduated. It’s just like getting used to the fact that life is not as easy as I thought it was in college. I thought for selfish reasons, I was going to have an advantage. Just being someone who came out of college with not only a degree, but nine internships. I was a president of AUPRSSA. I was in a fraternity, I was doing community service meetings, I was in the Dean's List, like all these things that people have told me…Oh, Zack, you're going to be fine. [00:03:22]


[00:03:23]Zachary Gradishar: I always, no matter what my track record, is, like, I've always been very, like, I don't want to say worry, but maybe anxious about just the future in general. And I was like that back at AU, but people were constantly telling me that I was being dramatic or thinking too much like Zack, you're going to be fine. Like, you don't need to worry. Like, you've done all this stuff in college. Like you're so employable. yet. I'm getting rejections after rejections. [00:03:49]

[00:03:50] Zachary Gradishar: I'm currently unemployed in LA. So that's definitely been really hard to grasp. I think for me, it's really important to remember that I am not alone in this process. I think a lot of times I have talked to my parents, like so much since I've been out here and cried to my mom a lot. Just like everything post grad. And people have been telling me like, Zach, like, you're not alone. There are so many other kids my age that just graduated, they're experiencing the same things.[00:04:23]

[00:04:24] Zachary Gradishar: I think that kind of makes me feel a little bit better that I'm not alone in this process. But at the same time, I am physically alone. I live in North Hollywood, California, in a studio apartment by myself. I came out here by myself. I have one cousin out here, who's almost 40. She has her own life, own job. It's great to have her there for support. She's five minutes away from me so I can go over whenever I want to. But besides that, like I don't have any other family out here. I didn't come out here with any friends. [00:05:00] 

[00:05:01] Zachary Gradishar: I think that's also played a part in it as well, in addition to struggling to find a job. It is also just doing that alone and not having the comfort of my friends around me, which again was another reality check. Coming from a college environment, where I could just go on the quad and meet up with a friend, or I can just go down the hallway, in the dorms, or my apartment building, even if people didn't live in my apartment building, my apartment was like, 5–10-minute walk to campus. So inevitably, I was surrounded by people that I knew and my friends, and so I never really had to like, worry. [00:05:36]

[00:05:37] Zachary Gradishar: Coming out here has been a whole shift. And I think for me,  it's definitely been challenging. At this point, I'm just taking it day by day and trying to keep a positive mindset, just from my mental health. Because definitely you can get into a certain mindset that can lead you in a negative way, I feel like if you don't be consistent and persevere and just try to remind yourself that I came out here to LA by myself at 21, with an internship with Disney like that, in and of itself was an accomplishment, for sure. [00:06:13] 

[00:06:14] Zachary Gradishar: But I feel like it always takes a second for me to have that sense of sync. And for other people to tell me like Zack, like, you have to realize not everyone can do this and you have been out here now for five months. I have realized that getting out here to LA physically is like the biggest step in this whole process just to begin with. So many people take years to come out here, whether it be just financial reasons, or job reasons, or personal or professional goals that they have. [00:06:50] 

[00:06:51] Zachary Gradishar: So that gives me more comfort in realizing like, okay, I'm out here, like I'm physically out here. So, the big thing is done. And now just the daunting Ness of finding a job in this crazy competitive environment. I feel like the entertainment industry is and I learned this really quickly is not only is it a very competitive industry but everyone in LA, like, doesn't realize it. I didn't realize it because you know, I lived in Chicago, then living in DC, but live in LA where entertainment is like everywhere. It's so crazy to think that. [00:07:28] 

[00:07:29] Zachary Gradishar: I don't know, for some reason, I thought that, okay, it's everywhere. If I'm in LA, I should have an easier chance of finding a job. I can basically go to places and connect with people in the city. But I think that's also made it hard because what I've learned is to make it in this industry is it's all about who you know. And for me coming from, yes, I came out to LA but I'm still literally building my network. My parents are doctors, I have no family in the industry. So, I feel like, even though I tell myself, I have a leg up being out here, it's definitely the job is not done. [00:08:08] 

[00:08:09] Zachary Gradishar: So, with all that said, I am so grateful that I'm out here. And I realized that not everyone can necessarily do this right out of college. And I'm so thankful to have the support from my parents, my family and friends. I'm excited to see what the future holds for me out here. For sure. [00:08:25] 

[00:08:26] Grace Ibrahim: Absolutely. There's like a few things that I think are super important that you touched on. One of them being you already did the hard part, which is that move. That alone, a lot of people hesitate to do that. Now that you're there, you can finally focus on okay, what do I need to do to kind of grow here? But another thing you touched on, which I thought was very interesting, because I've gone through this as well, is that fine line between I need to have a complete plan and then also, no, don't worry, you'll be fine. [00:08:50]

[00:08:27] Grace Ibrahim: Entertainment industry is something else. It is an industry, unlike any other industry, to be honest. But I found that kind of creating small plans and just checking those off kind of building off of those are really helpful when you're going through an industry like this because it's like you said, By the way, my dad's a doctor as well. So, my brother's doctor. So there seems to be a little bit more of a streamlined path that you take. You know what you have got to do next to get to where you need to get. [00:09:18]

[00:09:19] Zachary Gradishar: Exactly. [00:09:19]

[00:09:20] Grace Ibrahim: With this industry, it's so just fickle. And like you honestly might one year end up doing one thing and then the next year you're like, Oh, well, instead of video I love sound or audio. It's just like your world can change depending on the opportunities you get. But I think that's the beauty of it. So that's why I started to learn that smaller plans can create bigger successes. You can start to learn what you like and what you don't like. I think you have a little bit more of a clear path. I think a lot of people go through that when they want to enter this industry. [00:09:50] 

[00:09:51] Grace Ibrahim: But I think that goes into our next question pretty well of what your advice is considering you had a lot of internships that I have no doubt. Got you a leg up in that resume career. It's tough for graduating classes of like, 2020 2021 2022, you guys graduated through a pandemic. So not only is the entertainment industry insanely competitive, but it is now at a higher level of competitiveness because the opportunities have slowly decreased. I don't want to say that it's drastic because the industry is picking back up and people are getting back into it. But for a while those opportunities were very rare. [00:10:30]

[00:10:31] Grace Ibrahim: What's your advice to those people who maybe think, do I have to start from the bottom? Like, what's the value there? Because we know there is. [00:10:36]

[00:10:37] Zachary Gradishar: Well, that's so funny that you say it, because I have that same mindset. So, I guess if we backtrack for a second. I graduated this past May. So, at the beginning of this year, January to, I want to say like mid-March, right until our spring break. So, in that, like two-and-a-half-month period, I've probably applied to like over 100 different positions within the entertainment industry. And in addition, in that time period, I have had 20 Plus informational interviews with people in industry that I made through an internship I did the summer prior with the Television Academy Foundation, which was a dream at ship in and of itself. And through that process, 99.9 of the positions I was applying to were entry-level, full-time positions, assistance, coordinator roles, whatever. [00:11:29]

[00:11:30] Zachary Gradishar: It wasn't until probably the end of February, March when I realized there was a stagnation in this process. I remember this one call with my dad, and I was just saying like, because at this point, I'd had eight internships, right. And I told myself that I didn't want another interest and that I deserved a full-time job. And I hope that doesn't make me sound selfish. But I just thought that I was done. [00:11:58]

[00:11:59] Zachary Gradishar: I told myself not everyone was doing it like me in a way and there wasn't a semester or summer during the last four years of college where I was not working. I use those internships as an alternate way to gain experience within the world of PR. But at that time, I told myself that I deserved a full-time job. And then my dad, it wasn't till the conversation I had with my dad, and he was like, Zack, you're in no position to be picky. [00:12:30]

[00:12:31] Zachary Gradishar: For example, like, I have no connections out there. He was essentially right. But it was a hard thing to take in. Just because I thought that I had a leg up and I thought I could use these eight experiences and equate them to world life experiences. Back to what you were saying, all my internships were jobs like full time jobs. I gained a paycheck. I can point to projects and things that I have done, and the connections I made and the skills that I've obtained. [00:13:02] 

[00:13:03] Zachary Gradishar: So, I thought it benefited me in that way. And so, after the call from my dad, I applied to, I think two or three, no more than three internships. One of them was with Disney or searchlight at Disney. And that's it. Like the rest were just full-time jobs. And then once spring break came around, like I was just completely burnt out. Because within all this, I had an internship that semester, I was leading the whole organization as chapter president, plus my fraternity where it's doing community service. So, I was leading up to graduation, right. So, I was already, like, crazy busy. I don't have the time. I don't know why I did all this. [00:13:42]

[00:13:43] Zachary Gradishar: I guess just to answer your question. Yes, like, take an internship, take an assistant position, take anything, because at the end of the day, if you can get an experience where you are learning, and you are making connections, like those are the two most important things that I feel like, can benefit you in the future.[00:14:00]

[00:14:01] Zachary Gradishar: For me, I just looked back at it, and I was like, at the end of the day, I just need something to get me out to LA. Because in all these informational interviews with people that didn't necessarily know each other, they were all basically saying the same sentiment of there's only so much you can do being in DC on the other side of the country and not being in LA. They were very honest with me, which I appreciate, like it's going to be harder when you're not in LA. And not only do you have that aspect, but it's you're just making it harder for yourself basically. [00:14:34]

[00:14:35] Zachary Gradishar: So, with that mindset, I was like, Okay, I just need something to get me to LA. And then I when I was applying to these internships, it made me feel better of getting something because I had internships before like, I felt like I was overqualified for an internship and by the grace of God, I got the interpret searchlight and that was the only and I am so grateful that I have that conversation with my dad and I listened to him because that was the only thing I heard back from. [00:15:01] 

[00:15:02] Zachary Gradishar: The process to get that internship was grueling for literally no reason. I had five interviews within 10 days, though, like while packing up my apartment and graduating, I got the offer three days before I walked the stage, like it was just like, absolutely insane. But that internship got me out of here. And so that was an exciting thing. And I felt like, okay, I can rest like it was paid. All my internships that I've done were paid, whether that be I want, I needed money to live in DC, or they were just paid. [00:15:35]  

[00:15:36] Zachary Gradishar: It was just like hitting the ground running because I graduated May 7, and then our LA intensive program started, like 10 days later. And before I flew out to LA for the LA intensive, I had to pack up my apartment, drive back home to Chicago, and do all that kind of stuff. And then I didn't even drive my car, I shipped my car, it was like a really busy time, it was like hitting the ground running. Then LA intensive happened. I had like 72 hours, and then my internship started. [00:16:07]  

[00:16:08] Zachary Gradishar: So, I had like, no time in between. But I just knew I had something out here. Even though it was a temporary thing. It was something that I knew I could make the most of it. So, I was very grateful. [00:16:21] 

[00:16:22] Grace Ibrahim: 100% And it's like I said small plans. Your kind of just like, tick those off and then you go from there. And also, I love that you said you had like five interviews because that also just goes to show how competitive the internships are. Everyone knows where they need to be starting. If it is like I just graduated, I moved to LA, by the way, I know people who are in their 30s that have moved to LA decided to start in the industry and they are PA or they're doing some type of internship. It really is just that starting point. You never know who you're going to meet. You never know who you're going to walk in through your office. [00:16:54]

[00:16:55] Grace Ibrahim: No matter where you are, whatever studio it is, whoever you're meeting with, like you just never know who you're going to run into who you're going to have that conversation with. I always say just like having those conversations, it doesn't need to be work related.  In fact I have learned that the ones that aren't work related are the ones people remember. So sometimes if you just strike up a conversation, just make friends. [00:17:15]

[00:17:16] Grace Ibrahim: You mentioned LA intensive a few times. So I definitely want to go into that. For everybody that doesn't know any students, prospective students are experiential learning programs at AU are basically in collaboration with the AU Career Center, and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. The School of Communications SOC connects current students and recent graduates with AU alumni, parents and professionals working in the field of communications. So they offer site visits, panel discussions, workshops, networking, events, interviews, meetings, productions, leading to meaningful relationships and successful careers.[00:17:48] 

[00:17:49] Grace Ibrahim: Basically, that is what Zack and I have both completed the LA intensive. We go to LA for a week and meet with studios, producers, directors, I mean anyone really, in the industry. We have a lot of AU alumni come by where we're staying, so we get to talk to them one on one, they give us advice, it's a lot of fun. And it really gives you an insight into what life there is going to be like, what people around you are going to be like. What is the pace of it, usually very fast pace, or slow pace when you're stuck in traffic for like two hours. [00:18:24]

[00:18:25] Grace Ibrahim: It has a different vibe to LA. Was it helpful to you just for anybody even thinking about doing the program? What did you gain from it? What did you learn? Basically, what would students be able to gain from participating in the LA intensive? [00:18:40]

[00:18:47] Zachary Gradishar: Yeah, so first thing, it's definitely helpful. Point blank. I feel like I am honored that I was able to be a part of the summer's cohort, just because I knew the value of the program. And I had applied previously for the summer 2020. So fall 2019 I applied, obviously, that didn't happen. COVID. So I'm so grateful that I was able to actually do it in my last possible time, I guess. But yeah, it was definitely so helpful for people that are interested, curious, or planning on pursuing careers within the entertainment industry. [00:19:20]

[00:19:21] Zachary Gradishar: I say that because Sarah Menke-Fish is in this experiential learning department in the program. They go out of their way to make sure that students in this program take as much weight as they can from it as possible. Every single day like we have, like an itinerary of who we were going to meet, what we were going to do and I think what was really important was the program was very diverse in terms of the opportunities that they allowed us to explore and in a pertain to different interests. [00:19:54]

[00:19:55] Zachary Gradishar: So for example, we met with people that were in development for those that have interest in developing scripts and feature films and that kind of stuff. We listen to people more on the business side. So we had someone from Apple TV come talk to us about the business of running a studio. We had people from agencies and people that went to like graphic design and did like movie posters, entertainment, PR people. So it was kind of getting the attention of everyone, like everyone in my cohort had different ideas of what they wanted to do within industry, which I feel like was so great. [00:20:29]

[00:20:30]  Zachary Gradishar: It made it even better, because for myself, I was able to learn about other people, my cohort, and what they wanted to do. A lot of them were recent grads from the AU MFA program. So they were either in the process of producing their short film, or they had just done that. So it was really cool to get them exposed to people in the industry that have gone through this process, and basically have done what they want to do. And likewise, for me and other people in the cohort. [00:21:00]

[00:21:01]  Zachary Gradishar: I think there were a lot of interactive opportunities too. We went on a lot of site visits and studio tours, which was very fun. But also just like, the exposure was so good. We were able to talk one on one to studio heads, which I feel like is not an easy thing to do. Not everyone can say that. And inevitably, all these people can become part of our network essentially. And so it was a week of just intense fun and an exposure. [00:21:32]

[00:21:33]  Zachary Gradishar: And for me, for someone who knew, I wanted to move out to LA and I had been talking about that since I was like five or six years old. And so this was very exciting for me. I know that it's a very competitive program. They only select a few people for the cohort. And so I tried to make the most of it as possible. [00:21:54]

[00:21:55]  Zachary Gradishar: I knew I was gonna be part of the LA incentive program before I got my internship. There was like a month in between. So by the time I went through the program, I knew I had my internship. So it made me even more excited. Because once the LA intensive program ended, I was in this rush of excitement and wanted to go out and create a name for myself in the industry. [00:22:19]

[00:22:20]  Zachary Gradishar: I'm so happy that I was like already out here and jumped right into my internship as opposed to going back to DC if I wasn't a senior, a recent grad, and like going through another year of school or what not, then coming back out here. I feel like this is, going back to what you said, like everyone's plans are different, and their outcomes are different. And that's totally okay. But for me, in particular someone that's always been talking about it. [00:22:47] 

[00:22:48]  Zachary Gradishar: I'm so glad and fortunate that I did the program when I did it, as opposed to earlier, because I thought, or I feel like if I did it earlier, and like had two more years of college left, I would have felt that I wouldn't necessarily get as much out of the program as possible. Just because it's harder to stay in contact with people. When you're not out here. And you're not like doing it. [00:23:12]

[00:23:13]  Grace Ibrahim: I agree with that. I think it's like if you don't know, or you do know, either way, do it. Because it's just such a good learning experience. It's like, at the end of the day, it's not even so much about LA as it is like getting to know yourself in this industry and kind of what path you'd like to take. We saw so many people, we met so many people that had these very niche jobs that I was like, I did not even realize that was a thing. So that was the other cool part is if you got a dream, and you think there's no like that's a pipe dream, there's no way that's actually a thing. It could be in this industry, because it feels like they need a job for everybody. [00:23:48] 

[00:23:49]  Zachary Gradishar: One thing I wanted to just mention too. I didn't realize this, and I probably don't think I would have unless I went through the program. But I didn't realize how many people within the broader AU community are out here. And I feel so grateful that SOC has this program. And I feel like there should be another aspect to it because I was so shocked by how many people that are in LA, that went to AU, graduated from AU and like are doing it. [00:24:22]

[00:24:23]  Zachary Gradishar: I feel like people and I get it. DC is a very politically driven city and a lot of students there have a specific goal in terms of the world of politics and government and that kind of stuff, which makes sense. It's DC, but at the same time. I feel like it'd be so great for students. This cohort was like 11-12 of us. There's probably so many more kids that applied so I feel like it would be so beneficial to have some other affiliate of this program or some other way to draw students to this world outside of DC, because I was talking about this to another student in the cohort, because we were just like shocked that there's so many people from AU, they're out here. [00:25:14]

[00:25:15]  Zachary Gradishar: It just honestly blew my mind. It's funny because like, being out here, like a lot of studios, and they tell you, the a lot of students that they take in in terms of internship, entry level stuff, they're seeing students from USC, UCLA, LMU, which makes sense, it's LA. And they all said like, it was so refreshing to have students come from elsewhere. And so I don't know, I am 100% so glad that I did this program because I learned so much more about just the AU community out here and that there is one out here. So yeah, definitely, you should definitely do it. If you're interested. You won't regret it. [00:25:52]

[00:25:53]  Grace Ibrahim: I love that. There is going to be an informational session as well in October and November for anyone listening. So stay tuned for that we will be advertising that on our SOC social media so you can find all the information there. [00:26:06] 

[00:26:07] Grace Ibrahim: Zack, the last thing I want to talk to you about is the podcast. So let's chat with Zach. I love that my background is very much podcast production heavy. So I love that you started your own podcast. Why, what motivated you to go the podcast route? And also what are some rewarding aspects? And what are some challenging aspects of that if anyone's thinking of launching their own? [00:26:30]

[00:26:31]  Zachary Gradishar: Yeah. I've been wanting to do this for a while now. And I think for me, I always give myself excuses, whether that be I'm in school, I've internships, I have other responsibilities, I don't have time to do a podcast. And I also just thought it was like a daunting experience a little bit just to start a podcast from the ground up. Like, I don't have a huge amount of followers. I mean I don't have that huge following. And I like a lot of the podcasts because I'm a lover of podcasts and I like watching like the video podcasts as well, within the world of influencers. And all of them started when they started the podcast had like millions, or 1000s of followers. [00:27:15]

[00:27:16]  Zachary Gradishar: So I feel like that was also kind of intimidating, because I guess they kind of already had an audience to begin with. And I didn't. And then I also thought, like, I'm too young, like, I'm only a student, like all these things, just adding up, and eventually, made me not follow through with it. [00:27:30] 

[00:27:31]  Zachary Gradishar: And then it wasn't until this summer when I moved to LA, started my internship in my life out here. And I was just like, you know what, forget it. Let me just do it. I have nothing to lose. I've always been someone that's very creative and I feel like this project has been such an outlet for me in so many ways. In terms of just simplicity I started this podcast, as a way to not necessarily reconnect, but just catch up with friends and people within my network. Like I said, coming out to LA alone, 21 started an internship and my internship was full time and I was working 60 plus hours a week, it was just like, so crazy. [00:28:17]

[00:28:18]  Zachary Gradishar: So not to think, well, I don't know how I even had time to do this, but I did it and I'm so glad that I did. Because it's been one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. I did my due diligence as a consumer of podcasts, I already had, like a foundational concept of what a podcast is and the purpose of a podcast. But I really wanted to. I told myself that I was going to do this, I wanted to create a project that I could be proud of. [00:28:51] 

[00:28:52]  Zachary Gradishar: I did the research and, and looked into ways to start a podcast tips for beginners in terms of equipment, how much I want to invest into my podcast setup, so to speak. And I, as a recent graduate, don't have a lot of money in the bank. And so I just invested in a microphone that came with thank God for Amazon, it came with a stand and like a whole court setup or whatever. So thankful for that. And then from there, I just started brainstorming because the first thing I needed was a name like what am I going to call the podcast and what's going to be my purpose for the podcast? [00:29:33] 

[00:29:34]  Zachary Gradishar: I think for me, I really had to think and reflect because I think what is a topic I can talk about week after week and on a consistent basis for hopefully years to come without getting drained or burnt out or what have you. And so I had this whole document that I started making in June early July and I came up with let's chat with Zach. Just because I liked the way that it sounded, I thought it had a certain ring to it. And then it kind of encompassed what I wanted the podcast to be about. [00:30:14] 

[00:30:15]  Zachary Gradishar: Given this is a weekly podcast where I have guests on different guests each week, and we talk about a variety of different topics, and just the simplicity of chatting with me, Zack, and just building up from there. Thinking that moving forward, I can do weekly episodes, and not about anything and everything, and not stay tied down to specific topics and garner to specific audience. I felt like that would be very limiting for me. And as someone that's just starting this whole process, I didn't want to be put in the box already, I just wanted to let everything flow and flow naturally. [00:30:50]

[00:30:52]  Zachary Gradishar: I'm so grateful that I was able to do this, and I stuck with it. Because it's definitely been challenging. I try to do this while doing a full time job with my internship and working the overtime that I did. Because the entertainment industry, no matter what you're doing, it's grueling and long hours. Whether you're a PA assistant intern, or an exact like, it doesn't matter. Like it's just how the industry is. I learned that very quickly and very abruptly. And so every little free time I had, I would sit down, plan my podcast, curate the guest list and the topics I wanted to talk about. [00:31:31]

[00:31:32]  Zachary Gradishar: As I started this podcast, I was very intentional with who I wanted to bring on as guests. Like I said, I don't have a huge following. So, but at the same time, I felt like a lot of people I have in my network, both socially and professionally, I was surrounded by amazing people and inspiring people, and accomplished individuals. And I figured why not use this podcast as a platform to share their stories and learn more about their world and what they do. And I can create an entertaining podcast, but at the same time, like to educate myself on topics that I may not be as informed about as I would like. [00:32:10] 

[00:32:11]  Zachary Gradishar: With that I was very intentional with the guests and the topic, and how that lined up with each other. I have my fourth episode releasing this Sunday. I think another thing for me that was really important to realize his consistency. Consistency is key. I also think it's important to note that I didn't come into this project right away. I'm going to monetize everything like this is going to be another stream of revenue for me. I didn't come with that intention. [00:32:39]

[00:32:40]  Zachary Gradishar: I feel like that's very important. Because in this world of content creators and all that kind of stuff, I feel like the fun of everything in creating content doing what people actually love kind of gets stripped away when you wrap money, monetization and business, all of that. [00:32:56] 

[00:32:57] Grace Ibrahim: It just doesn't really feel like a passion project. [00:32:59]

[00:33:00]  Zachary Gradishar: Exactly. I told myself. No matter what happens, I want it and I'm excited to see how it flourishes, and grows. But in terms of just starting off, I just wanted to be really authentic, and just have a very upbeat, very conversational. I was not worried about that, as most of the guests are my friends or people within my network that I've talked to before and the things that we're talking about, we have talked about in real life. And so I thought that would ease the process a little bit. [00:33:26]

[00:33:28] Grace Ibrahim: It sounds amazing. I love that you said choosing something kind of having this long term goal of like, I won't get burnt out or it's something that I can talk more about the more experience I gain. If you like talking about industry, that's pretty cool. I always think of it like script writing, like you have to know your ending. You can't be like, I'm just gonna take an episode. Why? Because it's kind of like you have to know a little bit of where you're going. But that's amazing. [00:33:51]

[00:33:52]  Grace Ibrahim: I want to say like Zach said, every Sunday, these episodes drop, you can find them on Apple and Spotify podcast platforms. And Zach, thank you so much for being here. This was so fun. I'm glad we got to chat. I'm glad you've kind of gave everyone an idea of what's to come if anyone's thinking of moving out to LA thinking about taking the LA intensive or the New York intensive. We do have East Coast and West Coast options. But thank you so much for being here. It was such a pleasure. [00:34:18]

[00:34:19] Zachary Gradishar: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. [00:34:20]

[00:34:21]  Grace Ibrahim: Of course anytime. And for everyone listening you could check out our bi weekly episodes dropping on Wednesdays on Anchor, Spotify and Apple podcasts. If you'd like to support this podcast and the School of Communication go to to donate now. And that's a wrap.[00:34:39] 

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