Six St. Bonaventure students spent the past week in Miami, working side-by-side with media professionals covering the buildup to today’s Super Bowl matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Joe Ceraulo and Stephen Wilt, who initiated the student reporting project along with Isaiah Blakely in 2018, shared their thoughts on the experience with the Jandoli Institute.
Jandoli Institute: Kobe Bryant’s death shocked the sports world, actually the world at-large. Did the Kobe story become a bigger topic than the Super Bowl?
Ceraulo: Kobe’s death was obviously gut wrenching for everyone there, guests and media members alike. It definitely threw a wrench in our conventional coverage on Radio Row because Monday and Tuesday were way more heavily focused on Kobe than the game itself. On Wednesday, focus started to shift back to the game, but we would still ask certain guests about him depending on their tie-ins to Kobe or the City of Los Angeles.
Wilt: It was sad, but the event, as always takes precedence, and by Tuesday it was in full swing.
Jandoli Institute: How does your set-up on Radio Row differ from other stations?
Ceraulo: Our set-up really doesn’t differ much from most. Some stations have backdrops, lights, etc., but most were just like ours — headsets, standard equipment and a banner representing their station. Now, if you’re ESPN, Sirius XM, NFL Network, CBS Sports or Fox Sports, you get an entire gated-off stage area.
Wilt: Our set-up is well planned and methodical. Often times we are the station people point out as “having its act together.” It is mainly due to our people attending to detail and the way we conduct ourselves.
Jandoli Institute: How did the interviewees feel about being interviewed by college students?
Ceraulo: Truth be told, we do not tell every guest we are a college station. Some know, and most of those who do know love it and embrace us. However, some of the big-name guests we pull would be impossible to schedule as a college station. So, we simply say WSBU near Buffalo, or in some extreme cases, just that we are from New York. If they think of New York City, that’s on them; we’re just from the western part.
Wilt: The fact that we are a college radio station is never really brought up. It is more, “We’re WSBU from Buffalo booking guests.” It’s a trick you use no matter what station you are. When it is brought up, it’s overwhelmingly positive. It’s “This is amazing” or “What an accomplishment.” They love to hear our story.
Jandoli Institute: What were the reactions when you mentioned St. Bonaventure’s name?
Ceraulo: When we do tell people that we’re a university, and they ask where, they usually chuckle and reply “Oh, the Bonnies!” Then they make some remark about how incredible Bob Lanier was or how big his feet were.
Wilt: The Fox Business article that mentioned Bona’s helped, as did the strong connections that Joe, Isaiah and myself built. This brought the Bonaventure name more recognition. Ninety percent of the time Bob Lanier was brought up.
Jandoli Institute: You both have interviewed many people during your college years. How did this year’s Radio Row experience compare with past year’s? Or in Steve’s case, with the musicians you have interviewed?
Ceraulo: There were definitely some noticeable differences between my interviews in Miami compared to past ones. I feel that over the past year or so my interviewing skills have greatly improved — and the task of interviewing guests you may have booked 10 minutes prior who you don’t have time to prep for is much different than a planned spot.
Wilt: When it comes to interviews, music and sports are two separate worlds. I’ve found musicians to be willing to engage in longer conversations. With athletes, I understand why NFL has been known to stand for Not For Long.
Jandoli Institute: Which interviews stuck out to you as special?
Ceraulo: This is the first year I can truly say I didn’t speak to a guest I didn’t love. Last year, we had three guests who we frankly could not stand – and they were huge names in the sport. I will say three from this year stand out. One was Justin Tuck because I’m a diehard Giants fan and his jersey was the second I ever got. Another was Tiki Barber because he spent 20 minutes with us (a typical interview goes 10-12). He was so gracious, honest and had great stories. Lastly, Marshall Faulk really stood out. I was concerned about the interview beforehand because he didn’t seem to be the friendliest guy. Man, when he put that headset on, the light in his head must have switched and he belonged in Hollywood. The second the headset came off, he returned to his stern, dry self.
Wilt: Our interview with Dr. Oz stands out. It was so different. and what he said about the idea behind fear was incredible. You can hear more on that when it airs Monday.
Jandoli Institute: What type of reactions did your interviews receive on social media?
Ceraulo: We have obtained a lot of positive reactions on social media. A good amount of our guests and their agents have followed us and even reposted our content on their pages.
Wilt: Overall reactions were good, but you can’t win them all. If someone is not happy, it’s most always because the talents are pre booked, not because we are a college station.
Jandoli Institute: What helped to prepare you for working on Radio Row?
Ceraulo: I think our alumni network prepared me more than anything for doing this. Guys like ESPN’s Justin Craig and Chris LaPlaca have really helped improve my interviewing skills and my overall delivery on air. I also learned a ton regarding how to interview at Sirius XM over the summer, which is where I believe I found my on-air style.
Wilt: What St. Bonaventure has been able to prepare us for is how to conduct ourselves. Franciscan values go a long way. Not only have we been able to participate in Radio Row for three consecutive years; we have been able to create bonds and relationships with individuals around us. In talking with alumni we concluded that the Radio Row experience is not something a class or professor can prepare us for. It’s learning as you go. Being immersed and messing up are where the lessons are learned. It’s something that just cannot be taught in the classroom. Industry professionals will be and have been the first to give us that advice.
Jandoli Institute: You generated content for a variety of platforms – a radio station (WSBU-FM, The Buzz), a chain of hyperlocal news sites (TAPinto.net) and a new research center (the Jandoli Institute). How did you balance the workload?
Ceraulo: It’s no secret that the majority of the work we do is for The Buzz. It’s Radio Row. However, we all balanced the other work pretty well and split it fairly evenly. I’d say Steve, Sarah, Nic and Chandler did more for the other outlets because Isaiah and I were on air from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Wilt: It’s Radio Row. From 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., our time is spent interviewing and on the radio, but we always make time for other outlets. It’s what we’re here for.
Jandoli Institute: What did you do when you were not interviewing people?
Ceraulo: I can only speak for myself here, but when I’m not interviewing guests, I’m booking them. I book about 90% of our guests. If I don’t have someone sitting across from me, I’m out on the hunt for players’ agents, commentators, show hosts, analysts, anyone really worth getting on the air. We had a great head start with about 15 to 18 guests booked before we even arrived, but we got over 50 for the first time this year because if we weren’t interviewing, we were booking an interview.
Wilt: When we’re not interviewing, we’re finding who’s available; we’re editing; we’re producing; we’re making connections. All that leave us with a total five minutes free each day. It’s insane, but I love it.
Ceraulo and Wilt were interviewed by Michael Hogan, Erin Lanahan, Hannah Legacy and Jeff Uveino for a feature writing class in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University.