Story by Wayne Epps Jr.
JMU alumna Lindsay Czarniak (’00) is one of the most recognizable faces in sports broadcasting. An anchor on the 6 p.m. weekday ESPN SportsCenter, Czarniak helps inform the nation on the day’s top sports storylines, night in and night out. But the Centreville, Virginia, native got her start in the School of Media Arts and Design, where she picked up her love for broadcast journalism.
When did you first take up an interest in going into television?
Probably when I was younger. Growing up, my dad was a sports journalist, that’s how he started, and so I sort of got an interest in that from him. But the television part … I think when I was in high school I just started to kind of go look at the real options for things that I could do. And, for some reason, that became something that I was interested in. But when I went to JMU … I wasn’t sure that it was broadcasting that I was going to do. But I can tell you the exact time when I knew that that’s exactly what I wanted to do, was the year of my practicum at JMU — and we did a TV show. And it was a whole class dedicated to that, and I just fell in love with it. And so, really, my love for what I do now was … cultivated there at JMU.
What are some of the other things that you did at JMU that helped prepare you to work in journalism and television professionally?
One of the classes that I remember was when we went out and were working as reporters … And it was terrific. And I remember you spend a lot of time working behind the camera, also working as an editor but then you also get the chance to be a reporter. And I did my first story, I remember, on meningitis vaccines on campus. And for some reason, just putting that piece together and listening to the teaching of just all the different pieces of it, I loved it … That’s when I started just feeling like, ‘OK, these are the kinds of things that I want to do.’
Coming out of college, what kind of goals did you have for your career?
When I came out, I really wanted to have that feeling that I had when I was doing the practicum. So when I came out of college, I started at CNN in Atlanta … I just knew that I wanted to be somewhere where I could do breaking news … I didn’t really see sports in my future until it hit me in the face really, when I was at a NASCAR race … I was working as a news reporter in Jacksonville, I tagged along with some guys that were in the sports department to a NASCAR race … I met this other group of people that were from Miami. And we just struck up a conversation, and they said, ‘The girl that is one of our sportscasters is leaving, and we’ve got to fill our position but would love it if you would send us your stuff and we can look at you as a possibility.’ And that’s exactly what happened.
What advice would you give current JMU students interested in going into sports journalism?
I would say, shoot for the moon. And don’t give up, be persistent and I really believe that if you do put your mind to it, that you can do anything you want to in this business. If someone had told me that I would be doing sports when I was back in JMU, I probably would’ve laughed at them. Just because that wasn’t my focus at the time … I would say, ask as many questions as you can. For the most part, I think people are there to help. And just don’t ever be afraid to put yourself out their and to talk about what it is that you think you want to do. So that means putting time in and maybe working odd hours or sticking around to get extra advice or to watch someone who has the job that you want. That kind of thing. I think that’s really valuable.