Connect with Mike Jakucionis on LinkedIn
Job: Weekend Sports Anchor/MMJ at WRDW News 12 NBC 26
Location: Augusta, Georgia
Mike and I both have the same alma mater, and despite the size of our school, we were actually connected post-grad through a professor we shared in our time there. Mike walks us through the early stages of his journey in the Sports Broadcasting world, which is applicable to many young professionals' journeys, whether they are in this industry or not. One of his biggest takeaways is that connections and experience will get you to where you want to go. Read on for more!
Give me a brief background of yourself.
I'm originally from a very small town in New Jersey. I knew I wanted to go to a small school in the south and Furman was the first college that I visited. After that, I knew it was where I wanted to go. While in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I tried out business and communications classes, and in the end, I knew the Communication Studies classes were the ones I felt most comfortable in. I ended up getting a degree in Communications and a minor in Film Studies and then went off to Alpena, Michigan where I landed my first job.
What did your first job look like?
That was an entry-level job where I was working as a weekend sports anchor. To give a little perspective, there are 211 total television markets across just the United States alone. Alpena, Michigan is number 208 of 211. So, we're talking quite literally one of the smallest markets that you could work in. It has its benefits but, as I’m sure you can imagine, with a viewing area that small, it also has a lot of downsides. It was the perfect place for me to start my broadcasting career. When I was applying for jobs, I was looking at the candidates who ended up getting hired for the jobs that I applied to, and one thing that they all had in common was that they had so much more experience than I did. I just couldn't compete with that, so I was lucky in that the job I had in Alpena was able to take a shot on me.
Since you’ve been in the work environment now for a little over a year, what’s a hardship for you and what have you learned from that?
One thing about this field is that there are odd hours and technology that never seems to agree with you when you need it to the most. One day you can work from 3:00 in the afternoon until midnight and then you have to be up at 6 am the next morning to make it to a college game. It can physically be draining to not have that kind of stability. And then having a lack of sleep too. You’re performing night in and night out. I think of anchoring and reporting as performances themselves. You have to really push yourself despite how tired and mentally drained you are. It all has to be done with a smile on your face. With these work hours, we find ourselves isolated from people outside of the office, and in the industry, and I think this is one of the most oxymoronic things about working in the media. It's your job to connect to people but at the same time, it can be so hard to make connections outside of your job, especially when the hours play a big role in that.
What would you tell someone interested in getting into this field?
It's a bit more competitive in the sports side of things, but from a general standpoint, people can enter this field really in any market. I've seen people with very little experience start where I did. Or I've seen people with three or four times as much experience as I did just start working as a general reporter in Plattsburgh, New York. So again, the experience is really the big thing, and then from there as a reporter, you kind of have to decide if you want to be a national correspondent, an anchor, or if you'd rather stay in a smaller town because you're passionate about the people.
For every five news jobs, there's only one sports job available because sports departments are so much smaller. Whereas in regular news, you can have 10 to 15 reporters, if not more, in addition to all of your anchors and however many photojournalists you can get. The sports field is incredibly competitive and that's why again, with experience being so important, you'll have so many people that start in these low markets as their entry-level job. From here, they can get their year or two of experience, put a reel together, and then try and end up in a higher market. Then again, once you get inside the market 75 and down, those are really the jobs that you want to hang on to for a little while longer.
What do you like about being a young professional?
The best part of being a young professional is that in this industry you can work with people who have done it successfully for so long. The Sports Director right now has been here for 14 years, so he has covered 14 years’ worth of Masters Tournaments. He has seen South Carolina basketball make a really deep run in the final four and he's been around Clemson and Georgia football as they have risen to power. That kind of knowledge is completely invaluable. They'll always have a way of sharing their knowledge and even advising you if you have a bit of a rough time with an interview or you don't necessarily get all the shots that you need. They’re there to help you out because they want you to succeed in the long run. I think for me that really gives me something to aspire to and a goal to gain that kind of trust both from my co-workers and from my viewers in the future. But as a young professional in the media, I also know that I still have plenty of time to grow and establish myself. I just hope to establish myself with people within the industry and gain the trust of my viewers in the long run as well. When you do good things in this industry, people take notice.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve broadcasted?
That has a lot of answers to it. I love being in a stadium that has just an incredible environment, and if we're going to talk about my favorite game that I've shot, it was the 2017 South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt game when I was still an intern. It was a 7PM game. My boss turned to me earlier in the day and asked “Hey, do you want to go to the South Carolina game?“ I thought I would be far up in the stands, but I actually had the chance to be down on the sidelines getting the primary highlights for the night.
Tell us about someone who has inspired you.
My number one source of inspiration was my internship mentor, Brad Freely. Brad was the sports director at WYFF in Greenville for the better part of the last eight years but he just left the on-air side of the industry so he could spend a little more time with his family. Brad was someone who took a shot on me and he believed in my potential. That's not easy to do, especially as an Emmy-winning Sports Director. He really took a shot on me and I will never forget that. He always challenged me to be the best shooter that I could be and I think that has helped me immensely just from shooting highlights and from a storytelling perspective. too because he taught me a lot about the dos and don'ts within the industry and ways to be respectful of the competition and not to get other people's way. The number one thing I think I respected about him was he was always great at giving people credit for their accomplishments.
Any last-minute words of advice?
Yeah definitely. Someone looking to get into this field must get involved. Anything that can help your level of experience, get involved in it. Get experience that you can put together both on a resume and on a demo reel. Also, starting in a small market as I did has its benefits. In a smaller audience, you're not talking to as many people and there's a lot less pressure to perform, but those small market jobs can be very stressful physically, emotionally, and mentally. Continue building connections. If you build up a strong enough connection with a certain person, chances are they're going to be a connection for you in the future and hopefully they can vouch for you. Try to land an internship next semester or whatever the case may be.
-Get any type of experience to help build up your resume, because anything that you have can help you when landing a job
-Continue building connections
-Understand that as a young professional these early years are a time to grow and establish yourself
Check it out: WRDW News 12 NBC 26, Furman University, USC vs Vanderbilt 2017