Media Musings: Meet WRAL sports anchor Kacy Hintz

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written by R.L. Bynum

From Alaska to the Triangle, hockey has always been a big lure for WRAL’s Kacy Hintz

Saying that Kacy Hintz paid her dues during her first full-time television job after college would be as much of an understatement as saying that it’s a little cold and remote in Alaska.

She started at WRAL late last month as its weekend sports anchor and a sports reporter after working in a similar position at WPDE in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for more than two years.

Before that, Hintz was sports director for KTBY and KYUR in Anchorage for more than two years. There were only four or five newsroom employees, with no producers and no news director. Everybody was an anchor and a news reporter, with roles rotating.

“When you hear other people say, ‘you know, I’ve had to do this or I’ve had to do that,’ I’m like, ‘listen, you have no idea,’ ” said Hintz, who grew up in Spokane, Wash., and Calgary, Alberta, but lived in Spokane when she graduated from high school.  

She was excited to get her first full-time job after graduating in 2015 from Columbia College Chicago with a sports broadcasting degree but had no idea what was waiting for her.

“We set up our own anchor shot every single night with the camera that we would take out to go shoot games or stories and we had lights hanging from the ceiling,” Hintz said. “We didn’t have a studio. We were right up next to our sports office on a desk. Our lights would be dangling and sometimes we’d have somebody standing up on a chair with our lights. It was bad.”

The cold weather wasn’t a problem for her since she dealt with it growing up in the Pacific Northwest and loves cold weather. The remote aspect and the setup of her station were a different story. She and a partner in sports for her first 18 months there worked seven days a week and covered games all over the state. 

She rode in bush planes to assignments because roads many times weren’t an option. Most trips took an hour and one that took nearly three hours. The below photo was taken on the Iditarod trail.

“I think everyone should visit there,” Hintz said. “Living there was hard. It’s a four-hour plane ride to get down to Seattle. I’m still 3,000 miles away from home, but for some reason in Alaska, you felt like you were 10,000 miles away from home because it was just so far. It’s a little outdated. I feel like you’re maybe back in time. It’s just a different way of life.”

There were a lot of adjustments when she started working in Myrtle Beach, including the sort of heat she had never previously endured. Hintz suffered from heatstroke at her station’s high school football media day in her first year there. The good adjustments were being able to work with a larger newsroom staff and a structure that didn’t exist at the Alaska station.

“We were the baby station in Alaska,” she said. “You were the station that no one cared about. And we made them care about our sports. Getting to Myrtle Beach, we had a news director, we had people that actually cared about your well-being and making it better. What was so great about Myrtle Beach is having a station that wants you to grow and helps you learn the things you probably should have learned in your first job.”

In addition to covering a lot of high school sports, she reported on South Carolina, Clemson and Coastal Carolina. She covered all of the Tigers’ 2018 regular-season games but not the title game in that championship season. She was in New Orleans for Clemson’s CFP championship-game loss to LSU earlier this year.

The one big perk from her perspective of that Alaska job is similar to the huge perk of working at WRAL: covering hockey. 

She enjoys covering many sports and grew up following college sports. (She is part of a Gonzaga-loving family and says that she is not over the 2017 NCAA final loss to UNC.) But hockey is, by far, her favorite. 

In Alaska, she covered the ECHL’s Alaska Aces, Alaska Anchorage of the WCHA, and lots of competitive high school hockey. Taking a job in an NHL market was as important to her as going from the No. 151 market in Anchorage to the No. 97 market in Myrtle Beach-Florence to the No. 27 market.

“When I say going to an NHL market was the selling point, that was the selling point,” Hintz said of the appeal of being able to cover hockey. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted. I eat, sleep, live, breathe it. My goal is to work with a hockey team eventually, especially up in Canada.

“That was a long two years living in Myrtle Beach with no hockey,” Hintz said .

She drove to Charleston to see South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL) games and to Raleigh to see the Carolina Hurricanes when they faced the Calgary Flames and the Chicago Blackhawks, the latter being her favorite team. Her first NHL game as a little kid was a Flames-Hawks game.

“I also went to school in Chicago because I love the Blackhawks. I literally went to school there just because of the Blackhawks,” Hintz said, who had internships in New York City and Los Angeles.

While an intern at Comcast SportsNet Chicago and then WLS in Chicago, Hintz covered pro sports, including Blackhawks games, and worked some Stanley Cup playoff games. 

Covering January’s LSU-Clemson game was a thrill. But, to her, it didn’t compare to working broadcasts of the world juniors tournament in Finland for the International Ice Hockey Federation in December 2015 and January 2016. (The below photo was taken outside of a Finland arena.)

“It was, hands down, the most incredible experience of my entire life. The entire world of hockey is at the world juniors, from scouts to coaches,” said Hintz, who was one of two people given cameras and told to go out and shoot interviews and edit them. “We shot some post-practice interviews of all the countries, which was incredible. Talking to the Russians and having them do it in Russian was just amazing. We cut it and gave it to them. And it turned out we had a gig there for the rest of the tournament doing that. So, we did social media for every country.” 

She has skated since she was a little kid but never played hockey competitively. Now 5-foot-11, she was the rare tall gymnast. Hintz started competing when she was 3 years old and continued through high school. She also played fast-pitch softball for years. She tried to take advantage of her height by playing basketball but says she was too aggressive, fouled out all the time and never played past age 12.

As a kid, she thought about becoming a sports agent but didn’t want to be a lawyer. Once she read the book Cohn-Head: A No-Holds Barred Account of Breaking Into the Boys’ Club, by ESPN’s Linda Cohn and watched Christine Simpson on “Hockey Night in Canada,” Hintz decided, “I think that’s what I want to do.”

Her mentor is WLS weekend anchor Dionne Miller.

“She’s been amazing through my entire journey,” Hintz said of Miller, who she has often texted whenever she needed feedback or support. “She was right there to tell me basically, ‘yes, keep going; don’t give up.’ Because, obviously, especially in Alaska, there were a lot of times when I was like, ‘what in the world is this job and why am I even doing it?’ ”

She nearly went a different route because of her love of flying, traveling and a fascination with Dubai. While in college, she got fairly far in the application process to become a flight attendant for Emirates Airlines and even had an in-person interview in Chicago.

Her worried mother convinced her to end that pursuit. Because she was 19 at the time, her family had to sign some documents. Included was the line that if she died while in Dubai, they wouldn’t return the body.

“My mom was just losing her mind about me being in Dubai,” said Hintz, who is an only child.

When you watch Hintz anchor a weekend WRAL sportscast, she has the sort of smooth, conversational and energetic delivery that tells you that she’s full of potential in the industry. 

She admits she may take a different approach, such as when she opened her first WRAL sportscast a few days after the Hurricanes swept their qualifying series with the New York Rangers. She mentioned that the Canes had lost as she showed a tweet from a Charlotte TV station that erroneously reported that the Canes lost. She then quickly added that the tweet fortunately was wrong.

“What better way for the viewing audience to get to know me than to come on air and act like, oh, the Canes lost out and people are probably thinking, ‘Who is this girl and what is she talking about?’ You know, and then I pulled the tweet up,” Hintz said.

“I’m very conversational because I think you could turn the channel on and every man or woman — sometimes they all just sound the same,” she said. “They’re just delivering it to you how it is. I hopefully like to be a little bit more enthusiastic and hopefully entertaining.”

As with anybody starting a new job during the pandemic, there have been plenty of challenges.

“I love being out and about and obviously right now I have no idea what that even looks like because I haven’t had a chance to do any of that stuff here,” she said. “I’m excited for hopefully when things return back to normal soon. Without that human interaction, I think you lose a valuable part — getting to know people face to face.”

And, of course, she looks forward to covering hockey in Raleigh. No bush planes required.

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C.L. Brown to cover UNC for The N&O

Nearly seven years after C.L. Brown left the newspaper business, he returned this week as the UNC beat writer for The News & Observer. He joined the newspaper roughly seven weeks after Jonathan Alexander left the beat to cover the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer.

Brown is one of the most respected college basketball writers in the country, making this an excellent hire. This means that his work will again appear in The Charlotte Observer, where he worked in the late 1990s when Knight-Ridder still owned the newspaper.

McClatchy has filled three major sports beats for its North Carolina newspapers this summer with Black men: Alexander, Jonas Pope IV with N.C. State and now Brown with UNC.

Brown covered Indiana, then Louisville at the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he worked for nearly 14 years. He covered Carolina basketball, then college basketball more broadly for ESPN.com for nearly four years. After that, he covered college basketball for The Athletic for more than two years until October 2019. Since then, he had covered college basketball for clbrownhoops.com, a website he launched.

Although the Winston-Salem native is a 1994 UNC graduate, being impartial on the beat won’t be a problem. As he explained in this February Media Musings notebook, he’s never been a Carolina fan. He grew up a Maryland fan and cheered for Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA final against the Tar Heels.

This will be the first time he’s covered football extensively since leaving the Courier-Journal in 2013.

That leaves still open the high schools beat job Pope vacated. Todd Adams, The N&O’s sports editor, said that if that job is filled, it likely wouldn’t happen until high school sports return to North Carolina. In the meantime, the entire sports staff will pitch in on coverage of recruiting, which was another of Pope’s previous beats.

Recent UNC grad Upadhyaya gets Power 5 beat job

Anybody wondering if college internships at large newspapers matter should check out Parth Upadhyaya’s quick path to becoming a beat writer on a Power 5 college beat.

Upadhyaya graduated from UNC in broadcast journalism in the spring and, on Aug. 10, started a job as the Penn State beat writer for the Centre Daily News, a McClatchy Company newspaper in State College, Pa.

The job became a little different though when, on his second day on the beat, the Big Ten Conference  announced that there would be no more football for conference teams in 2020.

Upadhyaya had summer internships with the Houston Chronicle (2018) and The Denver Post (2019) — briefly working there with current N.C. McClatchy sports editor Matt Stephens — during which he covered major professional sports teams.

The Florida native who grew up in Raleigh is the rare sports reporter to write for both the Technician (the N.C. State student newspaper) and The Daily Tar Heel. He transferred from N.C. State after his sophomore year. Upadhyaya also wrote briefly for Brown’s website earlier this year.

The Penn State job is the same one Jourdan Rodrigue held before she left the Centre Daily News to cover the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. Rodrigue subsequently left the Observer for The Athletic and now covers the Los Angeles Rams for The Athletic.

UNC doesn’t extend James’ contract

It’s a tough time for athletics departments, including UNC. The athletics department has cut its sports budget by 10% because it estimates a loss of at least $15 million in ticket revenue and as much as $30 million with Kenan Stadium at 30% capacity for football games and the Smith Center at 50% capacity for men’s basketball games. If sports aren’t played during the fall semester or men’s basketball is shortened or canceled, that loss could be as high as $52 million.

Among the victims of the cuts was Pat James, who had been a goheels.com writer and an athletics communications assistant for more than three years. He announced earlier this month on Twitter that his contract wouldn’t be renewed. 

UNC hired him shortly after Turner Walston’s contract to write for UNC websites wasn’t renewed following the 2016–17 school year.

James, a 2016 UNC media and journalism graduate, was sports editor of The Daily Tar Heel for the 2015–16 school year. He started working at UNC after a nine-month stint at The Charlotte Observer as a correspondent, then as editor of the Golf Carolinas newsletter. He was also a summer intern at the Observer in 2015.

UNC grad S.L. Price leaves Sports Illustrated

After 26 years at Sport Illustrated, senior writer S.L. Price has left the magazine. He plans to write a book on American lacrosse and hopes to complete a long-form podcast project.

Price, a 1983 UNC graduate who covered Michael Jordan’s sophomore year with the Tar Heels, is an author of multiple books and has garnered numerous awards. After writing for The Daily Tar Heel, he became the youngest NBA beat writer in the country at 23, covering the Sacramento Kings for the Sacramento Bee.

Before joining SI in 1994, Price was a columnist and feature writer for The Miami Herald.

At SI, he wrote dozens of cover stories. Price has written for The New York Times, Time and The Oxford American. His work appeared in The Best American Sports Writing anthology (which started in 1991 and ended with this year’s edition) nine times. Linda Robertson, a sports writer at The Miami Herald and another UNC graduate, made that anthology six times. 

Duke alum Samman leaves The Ringer

After more than three years as first an editorial intern (for 10 months), then an editorial assistant, Shaker Samman, a Duke alum, has left The Ringer, a sports and pop culture website and podcast network.

While at Duke, Samman completed internships with The Times Herald of Port Huron, Mich., the Tampa Bay Times and MTV News and also wrote for Raleigh & Company, the former Capitol Broadcasting Company website.

At The Ringer, the Port Huron native wrote stories, appeared on podcasts and fact-checked thousands of stories.

On Aug. 20, his last day, he wrote a Twitter thread bemoaning the pay structure at The Ringer, among other complaints.

A new host for ACCN’s “The Huddle”

Season 2 of “The Huddle” will have a new host when its new season on ACC Network starts Sept. 5. Jac Collinsworth, the host for the first season, left ESPN for NBC to cover, among other topics, Notre Dame football.

Jordan Cornette, who played basketball at Notre Dame from 2001–05, is the new host as well as serving as an analyst for ACCN’s men’s basketball coverage.

The rest of the show’s crew remains the same with Eric Mac Lain, EJ Manuel and Mark Richt.

West Virginia grad joins Richmond County newspaper

Neel Madhavan joined the Richmond County Daily Journal last month as a sports writer and a general assignment reporter. Madhavan is a 2017 West Virginia University journalism graduate who earned a master’s in journalism in 2019 from Northwestern.

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North Carolina-related sports stories of note

In light of the announcements by The Daily Tar Heel and Sports Illustrated that they no longer will use the term “student-athlete” (although The DTH didn’t follow AP style of using a hyphen), John Feinstein wrote in The Washington Post about the hypocrisy of the term. He suggests “college players.” (A rhetorical side note in addition to what Feinstein wrote: why do we not call band members “student-musicians”? Probably because the NCAA and college administrators haven’t pushed the term for years and they don’t make a lot of money for colleges.) 

In one of the most compelling stories about an area athlete that you’ll read, Ryan S. Clark wrote in The Athletic about the adoption journey of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin and his wife Kylie. Welcoming a Black baby into their life shifted their reality. They’ve encountered racism and plan to go to great lengths to expose their daughter to the Black experience. 

In The Charlotte Observer, Scott Fowler wrote a fascinating story about UNC football legend Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, explaining that life wasn’t always smooth after his football career ended. It includes some revelations that were probably new to many readers. Among them: If not for being drafted into the Navy after high school, he would likely have played at Duke along with the rest of his high school team.

In The N&O, Luke DeCock wrote an interesting and detailed story about how hockey skates are sharpened and the science behind the preferences of some players.

In The Undefeated, Mark J. Spears Jr. wrote about how former UNC star Harrison Barnes and his wife Brittany are using his platform to help the community.

In The N&O, Pope wrote about how the leadership role of N.C. State linebacker Isaiah Moore has expanded off the field to include campus marches.