By Matty Madden
Jay Harris is a name a lot of Old Dominion University students may recognize. He is an alumnus of ODU, a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award and an anchor on ESPN's SportsCenter. Harris graduated from ODU in 1987 and was the keynote speaker for the 100th commencement ceremony in 2003. This week he visited his alma mater and appeared at several events for the Department of Communication & Theatre Arts, where he earned his degree.
In the signature event of his visit, Harris held an informal "conversation" at Chandler Recital Hall with fellow broadcasting alum Mitch Brown '15, touching on everything from his 30-plus-year career as a broadcaster to how students can break into the challenging profession.
"You're still telling stories," Harris told Brown about how the industry has changed. "There's so many modes of distribution now. It's there, you can do it. But don't forget the basics. If you can't write, if you can't tell a story, you can't convey information, you're no good to me."
Harris grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., which heavily influenced his decision to attend Old Dominion.
"I chose Old Dominion because it reminded me of my high school in Chapel Hill," he said. "I knew I was going to college in the Hampton Roads area because I wanted to spend time with my dad, and ODU just felt right."
Harris didn't originally intend to focus on sports. He held an interest in journalism because he had taken a career aptitude test that suggested it as a career for him.
"I scored well in the area of interpersonal skills, and journalism was a suggested career field," he said. "I've always like to write, and talk, so I made my decision right there."
After graduating from Old Dominion, Harris worked as a weeknight news anchor for WPGH-TV in Pittsburgh, Pa., for about 12 years. When his contract was nearing its end, he decided to send his reel to a friend for a critique.
"He worked at ESPN," Harris said. "He showed my tape around, and they liked me. I wasn't looking for a job in sports. I'd spent 12 years working in news. They brought me in for an audition and interview, and the rest is history."
On his visit, Harris also held a brown bag lunch with student-athletes in Communication & Theatre Arts, conducted a workshop with television broadcasting students and delivered a lecture in a new media technologies class.