Anchor George Smith delivers career, broadcast advice to students

Audrey Deiser • Nov. 20, 2017

George Smith, co-anchor of Fox 32’s Good Day Chicago, visited The Media School on Nov. 13 to give students career advice.

But then he cautioned them to take his — and everyone else’s — advice with a grain of salt.

“I had a mentor who told me to stay at The Oregonian, since I had only worked there nine months,” said Smith, who also spent 10 years at ESPN as a correspondent for SportsCenter and Outside the Lines.

The mentor thought it would hurt his resume to have such a quick turnaround. Smith ignored the advice, and took his first job in television. He said no one has ever asked him why he only spent nine months at the paper.

“You just never know what opportunities will come or where your career will take you,” he said. “If I can go from Oregon to New York in three months, so can you.”

Smith’s visit was sponsored by The Media School’s National Sports Journalism Center. He visited classes to speak and provide broadcast critiques.

Smith’s career path didn’t stay streamlined, and he had to navigate eight years of hiring and firing cycles before landing his dream job. Changes in management kept him bouncing from one place to another, hoping to find a steady gig.

“Eight years of heartache led me to the greatest sports operation in the country,” he said.

Smith regaled the class with tales of live interviews with Sammy Sosa, being recognized by Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers and covering three Olympic games.

“We called it hoops and Phelps,” he said. “Some women’s basketball, men’s basketball and a lot of Michael Phelps.”

Smith advised students to dive into social media, because some stations care more about social media trending than who’s watching on air.

“If I could do anything over, it’d be that,” he said. Smith said his time at ESPN was a great opportunity for growing a social media following, but he didn’t take it.

Social media isn’t the only missed opportunity Smith talked about. He recalled his first live interview, when he was one of the first reporters down to Wrigley Field during the Sammy Sosa corked bat scandal.

“I asked him, ‘Why did you have the bat? Was it for batting practice?’” he said. “I wish I had left it open-ended. I shouldn’t have given him an out.”

Although Smith has a few regrets, he said ESPN is still the most fun he’s had in his career.

“The people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had – I can’t image life without it.”

But after 10 years of covering sports giants and traveling around the world (and to 49 states), Smith left ESPN to spend more time with family. He has two young children.

“My wife started marking the days that I was gone on the calendar,” he said. “Sometimes I’d only be home a week out of the whole month.”

Smith now works in Chicago, where he said he’s started trying something new to differentiate his content from others.

“I’ll ask (interview subjects) personal questions, because it humanizes them and gives them personality,” he said.

Smith also advised students to “network like crazy” and be open to learning different skills. If he hadn’t been open to learning new things, he said, he never would have made the jump from print to television.