SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Newhouse grad Jamie Seh entered the sports broadcasting striving to be better and know more than the men who surrounded her.
Her advice to aspiring female sports journalists: be yourself and know your stuff.
Seh started in news reporting, but said news didn't fit her personality. She made the switch to sports and fulfilled her goal of becoming a sportscaster. As a 16-year-old, Seh chose sports because she loved it, and she thought going to games and talking about them would be a fun career.
"I graduated from high school in 1994, and I pretty much made my decision to be a sportscaster in '92 or '93 - and at the time there weren't very many female sportscasters on TV, especially in the local markets," said Seh.
She wanted to prove that she could do everything her male coworkers did: shoot and edit video, carry camera equipment, and know and learn everything about sports. When Seh covered sports she was less familiar with, such as NASCAR and golf, she studied and learned everything she could to prepare. Seh said hard work helped her rise up in the industry. At almost every news station she worked promoted her to sports director. During her time at WSYR in Syracuse she was not promoted, but she continued to work hard until another job opened. Her competitive spirit and dedication to learning has made her a successful sportscaster, always eager for growth.
"You know, I've been doing this for 20 years, and I still feel like I have so much more room to grow, and that excites me."
Although her path to sports broadcasting was not a straight shot, Seh continues to be a successful woman in the sports industry.
Below is the transcript of my interview with Jamie. If you would like to hear the audio as well, click here.
Q&A with Jamie Seh
Peyton Zeigler: You obviously were a Syracuse grad. Did you go here for undergrad or graduate school?
Jamie Seh: I went for undergrad.
PZ: And did you go to graduate school at all or did you go right into the field?
JS: No, I went right into the field. It took me six months after I graduated to find a full time job in television, but yeah, I graduated in May and then started my career in December of 1998.
PZ: How did you go about finding a job?
JS: Well, it was hard. My professors at Syracuse prepared us, I felt, for what to expect when we graduated. They told us, I remember – at least one of them did – that it would take about six months to find your first job. So what I did after I graduated I sent out a lot of resume tapes and stuff to openings that I would find on websites and everything. It might have been as far away as Montana or California. I had one interview in Utica [NY] and I didn’t get anything. And basically I was doing some freelance in Syracuse, doing some freelance play-by-play and also dating a guy who was a master’s student at Syracuse who graduated, and he got a job in television up in Watertown, NY at the ABC station. I didn’t have anything, so I moved up to Watertown, because it was close enough to Syracuse that I could continue my freelancing and hang around with my boyfriend. So eventually the TV station that he was working at needed a nighttime news reporter, and since I was there and had a degree from Syracuse and some experience on-air, they hired me for that. I kinda lucked into it, I was just at the right place at the right time. That’s how I got my first job. I didn’t knock anybody over with my resume reel or anything like that. I mean I just kind of got lucky. I worked as a news reporter for about ten months, and then a sports position opened up at the station and I moved right into that. Then pretty much the rest is history, because I always wanted to do sports, but couldn’t find anything so I needed to get my foot in the door somewhere. I took a news-reporting job. That’s how it happened; I didn’t blow anybody away with my reel or anything like that. I mean, I just got lucky plus the recommendation from my boyfriend at the time. And he’s still in the business; he lives in Rochester.
PZ: How did you get to where you are now?
JS: I’m currently the sports director in Orlando. At Watertown, like I said, the first ten months were spent as a news reporter, and then I became a sports reporter and then eventually the sports director there. I spent I think four or five years in Watertown, and then I moved to WSYR in Syracuse and spent two years there as a sports reporter, fill-in anchor, and shooter. And I worked really hard. I worked really, really hard in Syracuse, because I was kind of the number three person in the sports department. The number one person is the sports director, and the number two person is the weekend person, and the number three person is kind of the fill-in guy – fill-in girl. I was the number three person. I worked really hard in Syracuse and then a position opened up in Albany, NY, which is my hometown – the weekend position. I moved over there. I lucked out and got a job there. I spent four to five years in Albany and I started out as the weekend person and was eventually promoted to sports director. At that station it was a great experience living at home, and again I worked really hard. Then a mutual friend – a friend of mine, who I worked with in Albany and who also worked with this guy in Orlando, said there was an opening in Orlando and I applied for it. I got the weekend job down here in Orlando back in 2011, and I’ve been here ever since. I was recently promoted to sports director. So that’s kind of how it happened; I just kind of went from place to place. Some of it was luck and some of it was hard work, and some of it was just the skill to be able to do it. That’s how it happened. I think most of the things were hard work and just kind of believing this is what I wanted to do, and not giving up on the career that I kind of set out to do when I first got to Syracuse as a student.
PZ: What made you choose sports?
JS: I just always really liked sports. Especially in my teenage years, there’s pressure when you’re 16-years-old when you’re going into your junior year of high school, college is coming so fast and you don’t want to waste your time there and you feel like, “oh my gosh I have to set up the rest of my life what do I want to do when I’m an adult?” I figured when I was around 16-years-old that it would be so much fun to be able to go to games and talk about them. I would watch a lot of sports on television and I was like, “that would be perfect if I could be a sports commentator in any way.” That’s how it was, I was just a big sports fan. And at the time – I graduated from high school in 1994, and I pretty much made my decision to be a sportscaster in ’92 or ’93 – and at the time there weren’t very many female sportscasters on TV, especially in the local markets. There were a couple nationally on ESPN and CBS and NBC, but not many. And I thought, “maybe that’s a niche I could be part of.” Things are going to be changing in broadcasting, there are going to be more opportunities for women in sports and I broke into the field at the right time. I just always really liked sports, I did not like being a news reporter. At all. It didn’t fit my personality, but really enjoyed sports.
PZ: What advice do you have for women coming into this industry that you have learned throughout your time in journalism [in sports casting]?
JS: Number one: work hard. My thing, especially when I was young and there weren’t many female sportscasters, was I didn’t want any guy to out-work me. I wanted to show that I belonged. That I could do all the same things he could do. I could shoot video, I could carry the camera equipment, and I knew every sports fact that that person did, or more. So I made sure that I really dedicated myself to learning as much as I could about sports; what I didn’t know I needed to know. I wasn’t a NASCAR fan growing up, but I became proficient in NASCAR. Golf: same thing. I feel like one of my strengths, as a sports reporter, was my knowledge of sports. You’ve got people who are specialists on cable news, political analysts and stuff like that. I feel like I really know sports. That’s number one: work hard and know your sports so nobody can question your credentials and say, “she doesn’t know sports and she doesn’t belong on TV talking about them.” Be credible. Number two: even though I wanted to be just like the guys in terms of things that I was doing, from working hard to carrying a camera to shooting video and editing – be yourself. Be a female, don’t try and be a guy. Don’t try to be anyone you’re not. Be yourself on TV. And another thing is: take advantage of every opportunity that’s before you to get on TV. Just embrace it, embrace this awesome job and this awesome opportunity that you may have, because it’s so much fun. Work is work and it can bog you down and there are tough times, but just always remember why you got into it: because you love sports and then you have this awesome job. Really appreciate it and keep getting better for any broadcaster. Don’t allow yourself to plateau. Try and get better every day even though – you know I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I still feel like I have so much more room to grow, and that excites me. To figure out how good can I be, how much better can I be at my job. Those are the pieces of advice. And for a female, don’t let anybody get in your ear. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t let anyone put any doubt in your own head. Don’t listen to negative people, because sometimes when you’re writing about sports or talking about sports or on the air or in the newspaper, people are going to criticize. Whether it’s on social media or whatever, don’t listen to them. Don’t listen to negative. And always believe in yourself. That’s the advice I would give.