Just hours after the Syracuse Orange vs Liberty football game was announced Friday night, SU alum and ESPN Sports Broadcaster Drew Carter are back at Newhouse for some words of wisdom. Carter gave a room full of students exclusive insight into how he came to success so quickly, in such a competitive industry, and credited ACC Network (ACCN) for providing a solid foundation for television.
“I grew up more of a character than I did as a broadcaster in the first two years of leaving school and I think you’ll probably find that too,” Carter said.
After graduating from SU, Carter accepted a position as a sports reporter for CBS 42 in Birmingham, AL. Carter covered college football for CBS 42 and warned students that as you enter the professional industry, the stakes are higher and there is more pressure to produce high-quality programming for the audience you serve.
“It’s hard when you get straight out of school and you get into a market like this and a lot of people are watching,” Carter said. “For us, we were a CBS affiliate in Birmingham, Al…we had a lot of eyeballs, so it took a while to get used to it, but I’ll say it was worth it.”
After spending nearly two years in Birmingham, Carter recently accepted the Play-by-Play anchor position for ESPN, last month. Working at CBS gave Carter the opportunity to cover more than 3 hours of sports every Saturday and boost his portfolio.
“I think some people were very skeptical about hiring me outside of school because they wanted someone with some real-world experience and I think they were proven right at first, but as we settled things got more normal,” Carter said.
Like most recent college graduates, developing the confidence in yourself to work alongside professional athletes and work to transcend your fears has been part of Carter’s journey toward growth as an individual and as a professional.
“Another milestone was when I asked Nick Saban my first question, which was the most tense I’ve ever had in my entire life, and I could literally see my heart beating, inside my chest and he muttered the question and he couldn’t hear!” Carter said. “I thought I was about to be a meme basically, I thought I was about to be a Twitter video that has millions and millions of views.”
Despite his fear that social media might foment something wrong, Carter said he learned a valuable lesson from the experience.
“Now that I look back, that was actually a milestone,” Carter said. “It’s like, I can ask Nick Saban a question and it’s okay, I’m a professional now.”
Carter debunked the common misconception that many students believe during their time at SU is that mistakes and malfunctions don’t happen at a professional level. But they do and it is up to individuals to accept accidents and improvement in the future.
“One of my mottos on the broadcast is ‘Sweat the little things, ’til you drive yourself crazy,” Carter said. “Anyone can go on TV and say, ‘Oh yeah, I think the Packers are going to win this week, but go deeper and pay attention to detail, these things. Really important.”
While many of SU’s broadcast and digital journalism students are busy trying to improve their on-air opportunities for pilot programs to pair with job applications, Carter encourages students to remember why all the content is on the air.
“It’s easy to get into that headspace, but the more I let it go and start thinking about what I can do to improve the audience experience today, the better it will be and of course, through osmosis, the spool will start to look better because people can say you’re Really interested in what you’re talking about, rather than making you look good.”
Thinking ahead about what the audience wants to hear is a fundamental question to keep in mind as a theater broadcaster. Listeners want to feel as if the person who advertises game after game is talking to them directly. The Voice of Orange and class of SU97 alumnus, Matt Park, helped guide Carter throughout his undergraduate career at SU and hosted Carter’s Conversation with Students Today.
“What sets Drew apart from the rest and why Drew is so far and so fast here and what sets our best students apart is their maturity, personality and comfort in front of the camera,” Park said.
Together, Carter and Park emphasized to audience members that finding your voice not only as a sports broadcaster, but as a television personality will help employers choose you over other talent.
“It’s about storytelling, control, presence and the people who have that, that’s the difference maker, and Drew has that, not everyone has that,” Park said.
When asked who Carter admires in the sports broadcasting industry, in addition to Park, Carter credits Jason Bennett, Ian Eagle and Mike Terrico for paving the way for sports broadcasters to provide opportunities to share their knowledge of the industry with viewers and fans around the world.
“If you think of your personality like a palette, you have colors from all your different guides and you need to be your own palette at the end of the day,” Carter said. “So, I’ve had a stroke here from Benetti, a stroke here from Ian and a stroke here from Terrico, but at the end of the day, the painting is in my name.”