Sports coverage at Montclair State University took a turn in the fall of 2019. The Red Hawk Sports Network (RHSN) was born, and since then, it has changed everything about how Montclair State University’s athletics are viewed.
The way sports media has affected how we view sports is often taken for granted. Sports of the old, for the most part, focused primarily on the competitive events among athletes. Our sports culture today is not only made up of the competitive events themselves but the surrounding issues and stories among specific athletes.
RHSN covers all 18 varsity athletic teams at Montclair State, with live streams of all home contests on YouTube with a color and play-by-play commentator calling the game. The network also has a weekly show called “Inside the Nest.” The show releases a video every Monday on their YouTube page and is put together mostly by students in a class that meets twice a week, led by professor Stacy Gitlin.
All of the work for the class is done outside of the classroom, as the objective is to create the weekly show. The RHSN also offers social media content and the ability to cover non-varsity sports, such as a club team.
There is also an RHSN club that allows students who are not registered in the class to get involved.
Although “Inside the Nest” is made with much collaboration, Gitlin is the one who navigates it all. Not to mention, she is also the director of the weekly show.
Each week, Gitlin says, students within the class typically have a project they are working on for that week’s show.
“There’s no consistency to [the projects]. One week someone could be doing ‘What to Watch For,’ which is really just a 20-second piece of video with a graphic,” Gitlin said. “And another week, they could be going to a game and shooting it live, to put together a ‘Game of the Week’ package that is much more complex.”
Seniors Jack Barteck and Alex Grabiec both play key parts when it comes to “Inside the Nest,” as they are both producers for the show. The two of them have been with the network from the very beginning and are in charge of working with the class, creating the rundown, editing the show and figuring out different ways to create content.
“I think we have a good idea of the stories that we want to cover,” Barteck said. “But it gets down to the nitty-gritty of it, [such as], ‘How do we want to say that the soccer team has won 10 games in a row?’”
In the content creation industry, you have to stand out, and with these two at the helm, RHSN has been in phenomenal shape. Grabiec emphasizes how he and the team do more than just report on sports.
“We cover every aspect of Montclair State sports while also highlighting the athletes who have more of a story to them,” Grabiec said.
Coverage of this magnitude is generally only seen in Division I schools and professional sports. Gitlin believes the class is incredibly helpful in preparing students for a future career in sports media.
“This class, if you want to work in this business, is exactly what you need,” Gitlin said.
Within RHSN, there are interns who are chiefly responsible for broadcasting the games and also contributing to the weekly show. Along with sending two sports commentators to every home game, a production team is sent out to film the game as well. Barteck says this is what he loves about his work.
“It’s my favorite part of the job — getting to call the games,” Barteck said. “I mean growing up, you listen and watch games all of the time and it literally is a dream come true.”
Sports communication majors at Montclair State have an opportunity that many students across the country don’t have. The RHSN prepares students for the professional world as it teaches them all of the requisite skill sets they might need in the field.
Kelly Whiteside, along with Gitlin, is the co-founder of the network. She spoke to The Montclarion about what skills a student could learn through the sports network.
“It’s a little bit of everything: writing, shooting, producing, managing and social media skills,” Whiteside said. “All of that comes into play when you work for the RHSN as a member of the club, an intern or a member of the class.”
The network has come a long way since its original initiation. The spring of 2020 was supposed to be huge for the network, but for much of that year, there were no sports due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The RHSN is constantly trying to expand, as just recently, they hosted their first-ever live pregame show that included interviews with players and coaches along with analysis. Future plans include live shows at every home sporting event, along with having sideline reporters, sports analysts and other positions.
Building a network like this takes a lot of hard work. Seeing the finished product doesn’t quite show just how much time and effort is put in.
Barteck explained why the RHSN means so much to him.
“I was there from day one. I’ve seen it grow every step of the way and I know what it can be,” Barteck said. “I hope that one day — 10 years [or] 20 years down the line — I can have a successful career and come back and see the network turn into what I think it could be.”