C/J Students Tackle Bills Training Camp as Independent Study
Robin Lalisse and Billy Bonneau, Communication/Journalism (C/J) majors, have gone to every practice of this year’s Buffalo Bills Training Camp. But, they didn’t just go as sports fans, they went to work.
The seniors tackled camp wearing reporter helmets, covering each practice in real-time using social media, including Twitter and a blog, “St. John Fisher on Bills.”
According to Bonneau, they decided they’d like to jump on the independent study opportunity after speaking with Dr. Todd Sodano of the C/J Department and Dr. Todd Harrison of the Sport Management Department.
“I nearly jumped at the opportunity because I was so excited to gain more experience working in an NFL environment,” said Bonneau.
Last summer, Bonneau covered the New York Giants Training Camp at the University of Albany as a member of the press, where he said he worked with no guidance but quickly learned the process the media follow in order to secure interviews with players.
At the beginning of the Bills Camp, the students, along with Sodano, met with Scott Berchtold, Senior Vice President of Communications for the Buffalo Bills, along with Dominick Rinelli, Bills Assistant Director of Media Relations, and Kevin Kearns, Bills Media Relations Assistant. They reviewed the structure of camp and the procedures they expected Bonneau and Lalisse to follow, but also offered to help throughout the duration of the independent study.
The reporting team had access to all of the post-practice press conferences as well as the opportunity to get one-on-one interviews with some of the players, including Keith Pough, Drew Smith, Da'Rick Rogers, Chris Hogan, Nickell Robey, Robert Woods, and Wide Receivers’ Coach Ike Hilliard. They produced content including blog articles and video after each practice.
“It was a phenomenal experience to learn some of the intricacies of covering professional sports, and to also create multimedia content through a blog,” said Lalisse.
He also said that the experience taught them both so much – not only about journalism, but working hard.
“One of the lessons learned was to keep moving and have our eyes move to different places, even if we happened to be filming at that time because we wanted to know when everything was happening. We also learned to always have a back-up plan in case certain things don’t go as planned,” he said. “And the biggest takeaway for me was to give the project my all, because if you do that, you can forgive yourself for some rookie mistakes at times.”
During the school year, both students work as reporters at the Cardinal Courier. After graduation, both hope to pursue careers in sports — Lalisse as a reporter and Bonneau as a scout for a professional football team.
“I think any experience is a good one, and I could not be happier with how this opportunity turned out. I hope this is the start of something great between future C/J majors and Buffalo Bills Training Camp,” said Bonneau.
Billy Bonneau interviewing Bills Fullback Drew Smith.