written by R.L. Bynum
Hamilton takes diverse media experience to Maven’s Panthers site
As the media landscape continues to evolve at a dizzying pace, many can get left behind if they aren’t flexible enough to reinvent their careers.
Few have done a better job of overcoming setbacks and finding new and different opportunities than Scott Hamilton. After studying at Eastern Kentucky University to be a history teacher, his career started in newspapers. But he has also worked in sales, radio, at a magazine and on television.
“It’s kind of like I’ve got a ringside seat, as these mediums reinvent themselves, and I’m trying to keep up,” Hamilton said.
In his latest script flip, this was his last week as the main anchor for the 6 o’clock news on WVVA, the NBC affiliate in Bluefield, W.Va. Starting next week, he’ll devote his efforts full time to being the publisher of PantherMaven, theMaven Inc.’s Carolina Panthers site. He took over the site from Isaiah Houde, who became an SEC Network production assistant in September.
Hamilton, 46, is the latest former newspaper sports writer to oversee a Maven site in North Carolina. Brant Wilkerson-New, Hamilton’s former Winston-Salem Journal colleague, left the News & Record of Greensboro last summer to run HeelsMaven. North State Journal sports writers Shawn Krest (DukeMaven) and Brett Friedlander (WolfpackMaven) also began to run sites for the Sports Illustrated company last summer.
Hamilton’s career in sports journalism hasn’t exactly played out the way he envisioned.
“I wanted to be Bob Costas,” said Hamilton, in the photo on the left with his WVVA co-anchor Melinda Zosh. “And here’s why: Because Bob Costas didn’t just do sports. He also had that late-night talk show ‘Later With Bob Costas.’ I wanted to be Bob Costas, man. And I went to school to be a teacher, a history teacher. I didn’t. I didn’t plan on any of this.”
In 2017, Hamilton learned the painful realities of the media business after losing two jobs he never wanted to leave — Winston-Salem Journal sports columnist and sports talk show host at WSJS in Winston-Salem. His nearly five years as the Journal’s sports columnist ended in April 2017, on the day UNC beat Gonzaga in the NCAA final, when he was one of many laid off that day by BH Media.
He was scheduled to cover The Masters that week. He went to Augusta, anyway, although he didn’t cover it.
“I would love to go back. But my job doesn’t exist anymore,” Hamilton said. “And it will never exist again as it was. So we have to be able to retrain our brain.”
That left North Carolina with only three full-time newspaper sports columnists — Ed Hardin of the News & Record of Greensboro, Luke DeCock of The News & Observer and Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer — and Hamilton to figure out what was next.
Cushioning the blow of that layoff was that he was still the host of “The Scott Hamilton Show” for Curtis Media’s WSJS. But his more than two-year run of as afternoon drive-time sports talk show host — on the first all-sports talk show in the market — ended five months after he lost his columnist job.
“They wanted to go in a different direction. And that’s about all I can say about it. I mean, I’m still on good terms with that company,” Hamilton said of his radio show ending. He still hopes to be a radio talk-show host again and was guest host Monday on “The David Glenn Show,” a syndicated statewide show.
He wistfully remembers his years as a columnist and host in Winston-Salem.
“I had the dream life,” Hamilton said. “I mean, I was writing columns for a paper that I loved in an area I love. And I had a daily radio show. Man, I was blessed more than I deserved. I really was. But all good things must come to an end.”
He found that doing the radio show helped him become a better columnist and helped the ideas come more quickly.
“I guess my brain went to a different place because of the radio,” Hamilton said. “And it’s kind of funny. There were a few columns I wrote after the shows because I had spoken about it during the show. And I would actually write down a few little notes, a few bullet points there and go, ‘man, there’s my column!’ And then, as soon as the show would end, I would just hammer it out in 20 minutes.”
Being without both creative outlets forced him to reassess his career path.
“These traditional journalism jobs aren’t out there and radio shows aren’t growing on trees,” Hamilton said. “So I said, ‘Well, maybe I need to reinvent myself.’ ”
He talked to a friend, Tim Guidera, who made the transition from a columnist at The Savannah (Ga.) Morning News to a TV job at WTOC, Savannah’s CBS affiliate.
“He said that my writing background was huge. And then the on-air stuff for radio really translates,” Hamilton said.
That led him to turn to a familiar area, his home state of West Virginia, but in a very unfamiliar medium. Hamilton, who grew up in Matewan, W.Va., had never previously worked full time in TV. He had appeared frequently on the SEC Network’s “The Paul Finebaum Show” and had appeared on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” and “NBA Inside Stuff” and other shows.
Dave Goren, a former sports director at the Triad’s WXII, connected Hamilton with Ken White, a former WXII colleague. White was WVVA’s news director. The connection led Hamilton to eventually get the WVVA the anchor job.
“I’d gone with the intent of learning how to do that under Ken but, unfortunately, it didn’t play out,” Hamilton said.
What played out was like two sports analogies: a first-time manager with no coaching experience and a player who commits to a coach only to have the coach quickly leave once they get there.
A week after Hamilton started, White, who died last Friday, left because of a battle with cancer.
“I had the basic skills, it was a matter of getting repetitions and learning how to utilize those skills with a different medium,” Hamilton said. “And I gotta tell you, writing a TV script, I won’t say it’s easier than writing a newspaper column. It’s different. But if you can write a newspaper column, it’s a lot easier to adapt to writing a TV script than the other way around.”
After college, his desire to cover sports led him to set aside his original goal of being a history teacher. He first covered sports for about three months for the Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville, Ky., (which came out three times a week), then the Williamson (W.Va.) Daily News for three months. He then worked part time at the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch before he joined the Wilmington StarNews. He was in Wilmington for more than five years before spending 10 months in Charlotte at the Sports Business Journal and nearly three years at Golfweek.
He left journalism for two years, first working in sales for the Lexington (Ky.) Legends minor-league baseball team and then in client acquisitions for Shatterbox.
“Journalism and sales have two things in common,” Hamilton said. “You have to be able to communicate and you have to be able to build and develop relationships. And it’s the same with journalism, you obviously have to be able to communicate. But you also have to be able to go out and dig up stories to build relationships where people give you tips. And it’s like that with sales, all sales don’t fall in your lap, you have to be able to go out and dig up your leads and so on. And it’s incredible how close the two actually are skill-wise.”
Then, it was back to journalism. And with his return came a daunting task: Replace legendary columnist Lenox Rawlings, a 2015 inductee into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, at the Winston-Salem Journal.
“To be chosen to take over for him? It was intimidating and it was exciting at the same time,” Hamilton said. “Basically you’re handed a computer and they said, ‘Go write something. Make it good. And represent us well.’ And you always want a job like that. But when you actually get one … oh man, am I ready for this?”
He credited sports editor Phil Hrichak and managing editor Carol Hanner with helping to guide him and grow professionally. They who were at the Journal when he started but left before Hamilton got laid off.
“Phil Hrichak edited me like I never thought a person could be edited,” Hamilton said. “I’d be selling cars or insurance or something probably today. If it weren’t for them I’d have given up.”
Leaving WVVA was his choice, partly wanting to get back to North Carolina and partly for personal reasons. Maven management contacted him about potentially being a publisher on one of its sites.
Not only is he reinventing himself again, he said that he’s having to reprogram his brain for this new job.
“It’s a lot different than being a columnist, or even a traditional beat writer,” Hamilton said. “I mean, you have to think so differently as far as what kind of components do you need daily that are really attractive for digital and, by that, I mean a lot of video, a lot more audio and podcasts will be coming. I’m not gonna lie; it’s taken me a bit to retrain my brain. Twenty years of doing it one way and now you have to do it a different way. It’s a process.”
In addition to his reporting, his site will feature a weekly NFL picks column from former Charlotte Observer columnist Tom Sorensen and a fantasy football column with a Panthers slant from Jeff Thitoff, who is the host for a fantasy football radio show.
He’ll be the host for podcasts that will include game previews and discussions with other Maven writers that will eventually post twice a week.
While he dives into the next stage of his career next week, he’s still interested in doing TV and radio. Stay tuned!
More changes on WNCN sports staff
Just two months after Alyssa Rae joined WNCN and Jeff Jones left to become a sports anchor at KVUE in Austin, Texas, there were more changes for the Triangle’s CBS affiliate in September.
— Arran Andersen (@arranandersen) October 4, 2019
Arran Andersen left to join KUSA, the NBC affiliate in Denver, and award-winning sports reporter/anchor Chris Clark has filled that spot.
It was a return to Colorado for Andersen, who left Denver’s KMGH as a sports anchor in October 2016 after nearly five years because his contract wasn’t renewed. He joined WNCN in September 2017. His roots are in California after growing up in Napa and graduating from UC Davis.
Clark came to WNCN after being a consultant at C3 Media in Charlotte for nearly three years. There, he trained athletes to deal with the media. Before that, he was a pit road spotter and producer for NBCSN on NASCAR coverage for six months.
Clark was sports director at Charlotte’s NBC affiliate, WCNC, for more than 3 1/2 years until February 2016. After an ownership change, Clark’s contract wasn’t renewed despite winning a regional Emmy in his first year in Charlotte, two in his second year and four after he had already left the station.
Before joining WCNC, he was sports anchor at Atlanta Fox affiliate WAGA for more than two years and a sports reporter/producer at Tampa, Fla., Fox affiliate WTVT. He also has been a sports anchor at Savannah, Ga., CBS affiliate WTOC and sports director at Clarksburg, W.Va., ABC affiliate WBOY.
Prep sports website launches in Person County, but with a print element
The focus of the Sept. 4 edition of this notebook was the proliferation of free-standing websites reporting about high school sports and run by former newspaper sports writers. It highlighted one in the mountains (HobbsDailyReport.com, run by Chris Hobbs) and another in Wilmington (CoastalPreps.com, run by Tim Hower).
Days later, on Sept. 9, another launched much closer to the Triangle: Person County Sports Now. Its publisher is award-winning sports writer Kelly Snow, who left as sports editor of bi-weekly The Courier-Times of Roxboro on Sept. 6. He had been sports editor there for a total of 11 years in two stints. His second stint lasted nearly eight years.
Snow, who won four first-place N.C. Press Association awards in March for the 3,500–10,000 circulation category and two third-place awards, made the move because he didn’t like the direction of the paper.
“I wanted to cover sports in a fun, unique, modern way that would bring in all facets of media from social media, video, print, podcasting, etc. in a way that would excite Person County without the constraints that came with working at the C-T in its current management structure,” Snow said via email.
Snow explained that, since December 2018, design of the publication moved to Restoration Newsmedia’s pagination hub at The Wilson Times, and the printing was moved to The N&O’s printing facility in Garner. That meant the deadline for the Wednesday and Saturday newspapers moved from 11 p.m. to 4 p.m., eliminating the possibility of getting game stories in the print edition the next day.
Snow’s site doesn’t yet require subscriptions. He got $1,6000 at launch through GoFundMe and another $1,000 from readers in Person County and he also has ads on his site.
The difference between Snow’s site and the sites run by Hobbs and Hower is that he plans to start a print publication as well. It will be a tabloid format, print at the Gazette-Virginian in South Boston, Va., and initially be bi-monthly with 24–32 pages, depending on ad sales.
“I hear often from business people in the community that when I have a print product, they’ll work with me,” Snow said. “I’m planning on having my first print product out by November.”
A UNC Greensboro graduate, Snow has also worked at the Richmond (Ky.) Register, the Newberry (S.C.) Observer and the Elkin Tribune.
There are at least two other North Carolina sites run by former newspaper sports writers of note.
WJG Sports (We Journal Great Sports) is a site run by Kai Jones, who formerly was a sports writer at the Wilson Daily Times and, before that, at the Kinston Free Press. That site’s coverage area includes Wayne, Johnson and Greene counties.
Jeff Hamlin launched HillsboroughSports.com in August 2015. He has been broadcasting games in various sports for Orange and Cedar Ridge high schools. But, after leaving his job as sports editor of the News of Orange in May, he’s also writing more about Orange County prep sports on the site. Hamlin is a news anchor/producer for Curtis Media Group and the studio host for the East Carolina Pirates Sports Network.
North Carolina broadcaster again wins Carolina League award
Joe Wiel, the play-by-play announcer for the Winston-Salem Dash, is the Carolina League’s Broadcaster of the Year. It’s the second consecutive year a North Carolina broadcaster has won the award. Greg Young, the play-by-play announcer for the Carolina Mudcats, won the award in 2018. Darren Headrick won the award with the Mudcats in 2013 and Brian Boesch won the award with the Dash in 2014 and 2016.
North Carolina-related sports stories of note
In The Undefeated, David Hale explains that black kickers are rarer than black quarterbacks. He looks at the challenges of a few kickers, including N.C. A&T punter Mike Rivers Jr., who grew up in Wilmington.
In The N&O/Herald-Sun, DeCock looked behind the scenes at the long days and challenging jobs rules officials face on the PGA Tour Champions.
In The Athletic, Hugh Kellenberger took an in-depth look at Duke’s men’s basketball team, which lost three top-10 NBA draft picks but has brought in the country’s No. 3 recruiting class. He outlines how veterans will be important for the Blue Devils.
On CBSSports.com, Brad Botkin wrote about how former Duke star Zion Williamson has quickly developed chemistry with Lonzo Ball on the New Orleans Pelicans. There are also plenty of video examples mixed into the story.
In The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sarah K. Spencer wrote that the Atlanta Hawks’ Vince Carter won’t be seeking the spotlight during his NBA-record 22nd season.
In The New York Times, Victor Mather wrote about the website KnowRivalry.com, which uses research from surveys students and professors at Western Carolina and Northern Kentucky conducted to determine which sports rivalries are the most bitter. Some of the results are surprising.