Excellence in Sports Coverage: ASU’s Broadcast Journalism School names ESPN anchor to hall of fame

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Laura Latzko    College Times

Many graduates of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication go on to make their mark in broadcast journalism.

Alumni Matt Barrie has done this as an anchor and host for top sports news channel ESPN.

Barrie recently became the newest member to the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame.

He is the 50th person to be inducted into the Cronkite Hall of Fame and joins Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Julie Cart, Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall and CNN International anchor Becky Anderson.

The Cronkite School will host an induction ceremony later in the spring.

Barrie says being inducted into the Cronkite Hall of Fame is a great honor for him because of the value he places on his education. 

“It has more meaning than you know to be recognized by my alma mater amongst the greats who have come out of that school,” Barrie says.

“To be in the same hall of fame as them is really something I never expected at this stage in my career. It means a lot because I hold the university in high regard. The fact that it is reciprocated is something that is special to me.”

A graduate of Saguaro High School, Barrie continues to have great pride in his alma mater and strives to uphold the values impressed up on him as a student.

“I’m very proud to be from Arizona, very proud to have graduated from Arizona State University and very proud to have graduated from a school like Cronkite because of the reputation that it has in the industry and also the name that’s attached to it,” Barrie says. 

Barrie, who works as an a.m. anchor and college football studio host for ESPN, graduated from ASU in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism.   

He was an athlete himself, playing football and baseball in his youth, and his love of sports inspired him to work in the industry.

“I stopped growing in high school. I wasn’t going to be one of those huge athletes, but I knew I loved being around sports. I watched the Phoenix local news growing up. I said, ‘That’s a cool job being able to cover local news and local teams and sports.’ So, I always wanted to do that,” Barrie says.

Working at ESPN often involves long days, but Barrie loves what he does.

A typical day for him, when he’s on “SportsCenter: AM,” starts around 3:15 a.m. During college football season, he often works from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. the following day, on Saturdays.

For ESPN, he covers different sports but specializes in college football and golf.

Focusing on two sports allows him to get more in depth in stories, especially for a niche sport like golf. He also gets to know the athletes and coaches on a deeper level.

He tries to take a more personalized approach to covering sports.

“I like to view them as people first, professional athletes second. I think you get a better understanding of who they are as individuals and separate them from their career a little bit when you get to know them,” Barrie says.

At ESPN, he takes on different roles—hosting in the studio for college football coverage, calling college football games, serving as an anchor for “SportsCenter: AM,” hosting “SportsCenter on the Road” and cohosting the golf podcast “Matty and The Caddie.”

He has won 11 Emmy Awards and three Edward R. Murrow Journalism Awards.

He joined ESPN in March 2013 after working as an anchor and reporter in Dallas; Columbia, South Carolina; Wausau, Wisconsin; and Lawton, Oklahoma. 

Throughout his career, he has covered college and professional football teams and attended major sports events such as the Big 12 Championship Game, BCS National Championship and Independence and Liberty bowls.

Barrie also covers major golf events such as the Masters Tournament for ESPN.

Most recently, he covered the College Football Playoff National Championship between the LSU Tigers and Clemson Tigers.

He says covering major college football games has given him a chance to see just how much these victories mean, not just for the teams but for whole cities and states.

“You understand how passionate people are about the sport and what a particular team means to a community and what a particular team means to a state. What LSU just did and what that meant to the state of Louisiana, you’d be amazed. It’s a football team, but a football team brings an entire state together,” Barrie says.

Planting a seed

ASU helped to give Barrie a foundation. He gained valuable experience while at ASU, as an intern covering local teams such as the Phoenix Suns.

“It taught you what it’s like to be in a locker room after a game and you are trying to get a postgame story and postgame interview. You got to see the hustle and bustle of covering a pro sports team,” Barrie says.

He says this hands-on experience helped to prepare him for a career in broadcast journalism.

“I felt leaving Arizona State that I was ready to start a career based on the opportunities I was given in college. When I was given that first job, it didn’t feel too overwhelming to me,” Barrie says.

With ESPN, he has traveled to Arizona a few times, for bowl games and baseball’s Spring Training.

He returned to give a keynote speech at Cronkite School’s convocation ceremony and to take part in the school’s Must-See Mondays guest-speaker series.   

Brett Kurland, ASU’s director of sports programs and Cronkite News-Phoenix Sports Bureau, has become acquainted with Barrie.

An Emmy Award-winning sports producer, Kurland says Barrie is a strong role model for ASU students because of his accomplishments.

When he visited ASU for Must-See Mondays, Barrie spent several days at the Cronkite school, visiting classes and working with students.

“He is really committed to helping to mentor folks and sharing whatever wisdom he can. He’s just really engaged and is an incredible role model for our students. He really sets an example for them and helps to show our students what is possible,” Kurland says.

Barrie has also mentored ASU students who have interned at ESPN, teaching them the importance of being professional and prepared and having a strong work ethic.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it. There’s a lot of research that goes into it, and there’s a lot of work that goes into it,” Barrie says.

At the Cronkite school, Barrie learned to be accountable for his work, be a responsible reporter, gain strong contacts and maintain a good reputation.

Kurland says like Barrie, other students at the school are taught to be skilled journalists. They gain valuable skills such as how to write well, conduct good interviews, identify the right sources and write compelling stories.

“You’ve got to be able to engage your audience, come up with interesting story ideas and not just do the same story that everyone else is doing,” Kurland says.

Barrie is a testament to how the school’s hands-on learning approach sets graduates for success in their chosen fields, Kurland says. He says it also takes hard work, dedication to the craft and a joy in one’s work, something he sees in Barrie.

“We are very proud of what we do at the Cronkite School, and we’re so proud of Matt, to see what he’s accomplished,” Kurland says. “It’s such a thrill for us to welcome somebody like Matt into the Hall of Fame.”  CT

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