ESPN is the ultimate internship for a sports journalism major. For Kennedy Byrd, a rising senior and UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media student, she’s gotten the chance to experience it twice.
While attending the National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair her sophomore year, Byrd added her name to ESPN’s recruiting list, but didn’t think much of it. “I wasn’t really thinking that far in advance,” she says. “But it’s ESPN — everybody talks about it — so I thought I might as well put my name on there.”
By the end of that spring semester, she received an email from a recruiter. “I was like, ‘This has gotta be a joke,’” she says.
It wasn’t. Byrd ended up landing an internship in the fall of her junior year, working remotely during the evenings while going to classes during the day.
When the recruiter reached back out about a summer internship – this time as part of ESPN’s entry-level rotational program – she didn’t hesitate. “I get a lot of practical experience at Carolina, but it’s very Carolina-geared,” she says. “I was looking forward to learning more about a company that’s in the field I aspire to be a part of.”
Byrd has done enough work in front of the camera at Carolina that she’s amassed a full clips reel, but her internships introduced her to life behind the scenes. This summer, she’s part of ESPN’s features unit. When a producer needs a clip of something – like a colorful fan – she scrubs game footage to find something they can use.
“I was just cutting the Suns vs. Bucks game,” she says. “There’s a super fan with green hair, and the producers were like, ‘We just need two good clips from him.’ I cut clips like that, and I’ll send it to the editors in Bristol, Connecticut.”
Although Byrd works remotely, she hasn’t been stuck in her room the whole time. She recently joined an Emmy-award-winning producer in Anderson, South Carolina, to assist on an upcoming documentary.
“I helped with some field producing,” Byrd says. The producer even gave Byrd the reins to lead an interview. “She was like, ‘This interview is yours. Where do you want to take it? What questions do you want to ask?’ That was really cool.”
The internship has also given Byrd the chance to learn more about each department at ESPN. “Every two weeks, I shadow a different area of ESPN,” she says.
She recently joined the control room, virtually, for a WNBA game. “I had two screens – on one screen I could see the control room, and on the other screen I was talking to the graphics person, so I got to watch how they put up the graphics and hear the producer talking to talent in the studio,” she says.
Byrd loves sports journalism, but she’s also thinking about law school after graduation. Shadowing ESPN’s legal department showed her how she might be able to combine those interests.
“I’ve talked to people on the legal side — the ones who write contracts and secure footage rights,” she explains. “That was really cool. Some of the people I talked to in legal were either in production and then went to law school, or went to law school, did a stint in production and then came into legal. It’s helping me flesh out how these areas can mesh.”
Whatever path she decides to pursue after graduation, Byrd’s internships at ESPN have laid the groundwork to open big doors. “It’s kind of nice if I do decide to apply [to ESPN], I’ve made these connections,” she says.