A shortened version of this article was recently published in The Ithacan. Check out the full version below.
Since graduating from Ithaca College, Tom Eschen ’11 has held many different positions in broadcasting. Recently, he accepted a job with CBS6-WRGB. (Photo via Brian Purcell)
Ithaca College has alumni that have succeeded in many different careers, and since attending the college, Tom Eschen ’11 has gone on to work in the sports broadcasting field.
Eschen recently accepted a new position as a news anchor and reporter at CBS6-WRGB in Albany, all while he continues to expand upon his broad array of experience in broadcast media since graduating from the Park School.
Before CBS6, Eschen spent the last 11 years of his career showcasing his versatility working at several broadcast networks, including Lax Sports Network (LSN)/For the Fans (FTF). Before joining CBS6, he served as a sports anchor, sports director, host and has also done play-by-play for a wide variety of sports. Eschen’s website says he has done work in all parts of the broadcasting world, including anchoring, reporting, shooting and editing.
I spoke with Eschen about his career path and advice for students looking to make it in the sports broadcasting world.
Andrew Roberts: What are some of the things you always do before going on the air?
Tom Eschen: It depends on what I’m doing. For a play by play broadcast, I just do a thorough review of my notes. I make sure I understand some of the more important parts of what’s going on for the players: streaks, slumps, things of that nature, … if I’m actually there and not doing it remotely, I get a sense of where everything is on the field, where my sight lines are, and what my noise levels are. I also make sure I know my promotional material. If I’m doing something in the studio, it’s kind of the same. Over the course of the day no matter what studio show you’re doing, you’re reading through script and making sure you look nice. I also try to make sure I’m not too serious, kind of relaxed.
AR: Tell me about a typical day. If there aren’t any, describe a few typical days.
TE: I think that’s the beauty of the business, that there is no typical day. I’m at a career crossroads. Tomorrow is my last day at the Lax Sports Network and For the Fans. I am moving on to becoming the weekend anchor in Albany, New York [at WRGB CBS 6]. Typical days are very different depending on where you are. Right now, if I was to go and do a studio show or a baseball game, it’s different considering it’s a different network. I go in, review my notes, do play-by-play for a baseball game, and then I turn around, review [the] scripts for a lacrosse show later that day. At the news station in Albany, I’ll get in, check in with everyone and determine what our big story is that day for our 6:00 and 11:00 news. I’ll be talking through that as a team and figure out what some of the other stories are, things to follow-up on or things that are going to be happening in the next couple days. That’s how you kind of fill out the newscast. Studio work kind of mirrors itself no matter what you’re doing. You work together and figure out how you’re going to put your show together and see what’s going on around the world to help dictate that.
AR: How much do you travel for your job on average?
TE: In this next job, I’ll be able to get out of the studio a lot more. Right now, I’m doing a lot of things remotely. In the next job there is more like what I did at the beginning of my career working in news and sports in Syracuse and Michigan. You’re going out, you’re talking to people on a daily basis, finding their stories, giving them a voice and meeting with them to do that. I tried to find different ways to do that, like Zoom interviews and Skype. But going out and actually being able to go to different places in the viewing area allows me to travel from town to town. In my job in Michigan, I would go to playoff games, so that would be the furthest travel I’ve done but on a micro scale you’re getting in the studio and leaving to see what’s going on within the region.
AR: What do sports broadcasters do?
TE: I think the best sports broadcasters succeed in opening up the world of sports to people who don’t necessarily love sports. They try to transcend that gap between sports experts and casual sports fans. I think that’s what the best sports broadcasters do in any role. They could tell the backstory of a player who came from nothing, and now here he is succeeding at the highest level; they tell a story that can relate to a lot of people. I think the sportscasters that are the best are themselves and don’t try to go over the top, or be someone they’re not. That’s the most effective, entertaining, and meaningful way of being able to communicate.
AR: What qualities must you possess to be a successful sports broadcaster?
TE: Speaking from my own experience and from what I’ve seen, a big thing is really immersing yourself in whatever topic, place, sport, or team that you’re covering. To be successful, you have to be an expert at the end of the day. To be able immerse yourself in who people are and what they’re all about is really one of the only ways you can effectively tell their story. If you’re just doing it at an arm’s length, without really doing the work, research, and preparation, you’re not getting the full story and you might not tell the story the right way. I think a thing that I’ve always had success in and I’ve seen others succeed in is immersing themselves in whatever it could be. I had to do Austrian Bundesliga Soccer out of the blue. I hadn’t seen soccer, and wasn’t a huge fan at the time, but I tried to learn everything I possibly could about this sport and this country. The reviews are pretty good, people are pretty happy about it, and at the end of the day I knew more about it than I even thought I would and appreciated it more too. I think once you research [a sport], you start to think it is kind of cool at the end of the day. I think that also comes in the local news aspect, when you go to a city or a town, and have to tell everyone what’s going on in terms of sports there. You have to know where the best high schools are, what teams people like, and immerse yourself in that same way. You have to help yourself relate to them by doing that research. You have to really become a part of that culture.
AR: What kind of classes and extracurricular activities should one focus on if they want to be a sports broadcaster?
TE: I would say as many extracurriculars in communications as possible. They each give you opportunities to explore, be creative, and do your own thing over time. It’s just consistently doing those things. Some people would dip in and then do other things the rest of their college career. I think being really consistent until you know what you want to do is really important. You can really recognize the different facets of media and how stories are told in different ways and I think that makes you stronger at the end of the day.
AR: What would you recommend to someone who wants to be a sports broadcaster on air?
TE: First be yourself, don’t try to be someone that you’ve seen or think is successful. Also recognize that like anyone else, you’re part of a team. There’s a lot of people behind the scenes that help make that product work. If you really want to be successful you have to recognize what everyone brings to the table when it comes to putting something on the air. It makes the product better when you recognize the talent you have around you. You can’t just say you’re the face of this, and you’re the one to thank. The last thing I would say is that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, but it’s about how you move on and deal with that failure. You’re never going to know everything. There’s people that have done it longer and better than you but if you try and learn from them you’ll become better. There’s going to be things that you don’t do well and can improve upon.
AR: Is there a typical career path for sports broadcasters?
TE: Ideally, you go from a small market to a medium market to a big market, and then you’ll be set for life. But I don’t think it ever works out like that, at least from what I’ve seen. Some go from a small market straight into a big job like play-by-play for a pro team through their networking, connections, or talent. Then you have others in the business that do some different things, like going from sports to news. I don’t think there’s a typical or a right path to take. There’s a lot of people that I know that did it for 5-8 years then went to the PR side of things, because this is a lifestyle that isn’t exactly ideal. It’s not really a 9 to 5 job. I think people’s priorities change over time. The earlier you can recognize where your priorities lie, the better off you are. There’s always going to be a choice of what your path is going to be. You have to expect the unexpected.
AR: What do you most and least like about your job?
TE: I don’t believe in complaining about things personally, because I think that I’m pretty lucky to be where I am, so I don’t know if there’s a least. It is tougher with the hours at times to have a social life and find a good group of people and friends moving from place to place, so that’s probably the most challenging thing that comes with the job. But I think the fact that you get the opportunity to give people a platform, advocate for them, and help their voices be heard is really powerful. Those moments have meant the most to me, when you can see their appreciation for it. It’s a very unique connection you get that I don’t think many professions offer. I think that makes journalism pretty unique in that aspect.
My Take on spending time with Tom
I really appreciate that Tom took the time to meet with me and provide well thought out answers to help support students that are trying to follow similar career paths that Tom has taken after Ithaca. I may have never met Tom if he did not reach out to me when he decided to interview me to showcase my experiences, and help support my advocacy for the Flutie Foundation for Autism. You can view the story broadcast on the For-The-Fans (FTF) network here.
As seen by Eschen, being a sports broadcaster is not an easy job to get into or persevere at, but it can be a very rewarding one. You have to make sure to do your research and immerse yourself in the content you’re covering. You may have to work long hours and sacrifice your social life. However, you get the opportunity to show your true personality in published media, tell the stories of the people around you, and work in an entertaining industry.