Former ESPN reporter to teach at Canisius

You won’t see his name on your computer as registration for spring classes opens this weekend – the instructor spot still reads “TBA” – but you may be familiar with one of Canisius’ newest adjunct professors: it’s former ESPN reporter and current Buffalo News employee Tim Graham.

Graham's Twitter picture.

Most famous in these parts for his work covering the Buffalo Bills and the rest of the AFC East for ESPN, Graham will be instructing students in his area of expertise, sports reporting.

He has given lectures and spoken to students before, but the JRN 336 “Sports Journalism” class (MWF 11 a.m. to 11:50) will be first one Professor Graham has ever officially taught.

The class will be structured to prepare students for what it’s like to be a sports reporter; it won’t be a sports class where you can just show up and get an A.

“Every time I go in to speak at the classes I’ve spoken to,” Graham said over the phone, “there always seems to be a handful of students who just signed up for the class because they thought it’d be easy and they don’t pay attention and they’re not really into it. They don’t want to do it as a profession, they just saw it as a sports class that sounded fun or easy. So I hope I don’t get too many of those types of students, because if we get people who are really into it and want to do it, I think the discussions will be a lot better and the time will fly.

“If this (sports journalism) is what you want to do, I think you’ll find it interesting and we’ll be able to talk about things that really matter. If you want to make a career of it or if you think you might want to make a career out of it but aren’t sure, it’ll be a good place to let you know.”

With two decades of sports reporting under his belt, Graham is currently in his second go-around with the Buffalo News. The Baldwin-Wallace grad worked at papers in Ohio, Boston and Las Vegas before coming to the Buffalo News in 2000. In 2007, he left for a job at the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, and in 2008 he was hired by ESPN.

Graham moved back to Buffalo in 2009 and became an enterprise reporter for the News this summer, doing more magazine-style pieces instead of pumping out hard news stories.

“This is a chance to go from doing what was a grind to being a writer again,” he said. “It’s like the difference between fast food and a nice restaurant: you enjoy the meal as opposed to just consuming calories.”

Rob Kaiser, director of the journalism program, has had Graham speak to a number of his classes. When the department decided to offer a sports journalism elective, Kaiser said Graham was the first person who came to mind.

The class will take place in Lyons 312, a computer lab that seats 25 students. Demand is expected to heavily surpass the number of spaces in the room given Graham’s following — he has nearly 9,000 followers on Twitter — but a certain number of seats will be reserved solely for journalism majors, Kaiser said.

“If you don’t catch [the class] this time around, if you’re just starting in the journalism program, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to catch it again,” Kaiser said. “But for a junior or senior, I’d say not good odds… I’m guessing it’s going to fill up pretty fast.”

Graham is most looking forward to the interaction with his pupils. “Hopefully we get to a situation where [students] are contributing as much to the conversation as I am. Because I have a lot of real-world career experience to share, I don’t want it to be me standing in front of the class telling you what I think you might need to know. You’re going to be able to ask me the questions in a way that gives you what you need. I’m looking forward to it being a good back and forth with the students and not just me dictating.”

Registration opens at 9 a.m. this Saturday for students with at least 84.0 credit hours. Registration for students with 54-83 credits begins Saturday, Nov. 5; 24-53 credits starts Nov. 12 and 0-23 credits starts Nov. 19. Students can see how many credits they have completed by running a GriffAudit.

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