Auburn journalism students reflect on opportunity to cover March Madness

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As the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament shifts to New Orleans for the Final Four this weekend, a group of Auburn University journalism students reflected on the chance to experience March Madness firsthand.

Six journalism majors—Colin Beyersdorf, Zach Card, Jake Gonzalez, Daniel Locke, Larry Robinson and Henry Zimmer—utilized their instruction from the School of Communication and Journalism to cover their peers as they played in the first and second rounds of the tournament in Greenville, South Carolina, March 18-20. Representing student media outlets The Auburn Plainsman, Eagle Eye TV and WEGL Radio, the student journalists gained invaluable practical experience working in the field they have chosen for their careers.

For Card, a sophomore, covering the tournament was a career-affirming experience.

“This experience really solidified that this is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Card told the student-run Oaks Agency.

Zimmer, a fifth-year senior, thoroughly enjoyed covering this year’s team, which won the Southeastern Conference regular season title and finished with a 28-6 record, all season.

“Traveling with Auburn basketball all over the country this season has been my most memorable college experience, by far,” said Zimmer, The Plainsman’s assistant sports editor. “From Tuscaloosa, to Knoxville, Tampa to Greenville, I have been with Auburn hoops every step of the way, and I would not have changed a thing. While our stay in Greenville did not end how most would have wanted, to be able to see the things we did and cover this historic team was plenty fulfilling. 

“Outside of watching and covering Auburn, we got to watch Duke play and see Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] battle against [Michigan State’s] Tom Izzo. We saw near buzzer-beaters and the best competition the NCAA has to offer. Auburn’s band made friends with Michigan State’s band right in front of us, and we got to cover and watch two of the best college basketball athletes in Jabari Smith and [Duke’s] Paolo Banchero. It is experiences like this that make me realize how special my time at Auburn has been, and how well I have been set up to succeed by the College of Liberal Arts.”

Covering the team for the student-run radio station will go down as a highlight of Locke’s first year on the Plains.

“It was a dream come true and surreal experience,” Locke said. “I’d like to thank WEGL 91.1 FM and Auburn University for giving me the opportunity to go. As a freshman, I’d never gotten to experience an in-person press conference, so attending one made the experience even better.”

Being a part of March Madness will remain with Beyersdorf forever.

“The coolest part for me was being able to walk out onto the court and experience it all right on the edge of the action—really getting to live in the moment and think, ‘This is March Madness, and I am a part of it,’” Beyersdorf, who was covering the event for Eagle Eye, told The Oaks.

Robinson echoed his Plainsman colleague’s sentiments about the opportunities he was given to cover Auburn’s historic team throughout the 2021-22 season.

What a dream come true,” said Robinson, a sports writer who also took photos for The Plainsman. “Not only to attend one of the most prestigious tournaments in all of the Western sports world, but to do so while also being able to do the very thing that I love, photography, is something that I will never take for granted. Much like the SEC Tournament, this may be one of the very few times where I will be able to capture moments of unseen jubilation from an upset, or extreme sorrow from those who have to head home with a head full of negative thoughts. All sorts of new teams, faces, bands, colors, fans, it was something I had never experienced.”

Robinson admitted there were some surprises and challenges of being a student journalist covering his own school.

“I am surprised at how I was tested,” he said. “Watching the team you have covered for at least 15 games, 50 hours-plus of driving, fall apart in the brightest lights really affects you emotionally, and it’s oh so hard not to show that, especially on the sidelines. I’ve never had that problem until that Sunday night of the tournament game, admittedly. But what greater experience, right? It only hardens me for the next go around.

“I’m just so grateful for Auburn Athletics, the College of Liberal Arts, and The Plainsman, specifically, for giving people like me the outlet to see their dreams come to reality. I just hope other students try to get the most out of their student media experience as I have, because things like the COVID pandemic have shown me that it isn’t something that you should take for granted.

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