In a coffee shop in Cooperstown, NY, Matt Hauswirth sat uploading video coverage of Iván “Pudge” Rodriguez’s Hall of Fame induction tour, before he was on to his next stop, to interview the athlete of the week.
To add to his multitasking, as he edited his video, Hauswirth took the time to answer some questions I had for him over the phone.
Having the opportunity to interview someone that you’ve seen on television before was an absolute pleasure. As of June 2016, Hauswirth, a West Virginia University graduate, can be seen anchoring the weekend sports report for CNY Central in his hometown of Syracuse, NY.
Prior to joining the CNY Central team, Hauswirth spent eight years in West Virginia working his way up in the sports media industry. But more on that later.
Growing up in Syracuse, a city that revolves around basketball, Hauswirth notes that he spent the most of his time getting better at it, than any other sport.
“It would be 11 o’clock at night in the summer and I’d still be shooting outside and my mom would yell at me, ‘Get inside! You’re gonna wake everybody up!” He laughed. “That’s what started my love for sports, then everything just grew around it.”
Dabbling in each sport at some sort of organized level provided Hauswirth with an inside look at what’s going on in an athlete’s head. “It made me aware of why they do what they do, and play the way they play,” he said.
Before Hauswirth could even dream of the possibilities ahead in West Virginia, he went to Onondaga Community College to study radio communications, at the suggestion of his mother who worked on the campus.
“My mom brought home the pamphlet with the list of majors and said, ‘You like sports, why don’t you try communications,” Hauswirth said.
According to Hauswirth, although community college isn’t necessarily the most ideal thing to do, or the most popular even, he still considers it to be the best decision he ever made. “At OCC they were so hands on and they were just trying to get the best out of you every day. I think that’s what really drove me.” Hauswirth said.
Going to community college and living at home certainly gets old eventually. When it came time to transfer to a four-year school, Hauswirth was torn between West Virginia University (WVU) and Ithaca. In the end, Ithaca was too close to home and he felt he needed to experience life a little bit more.
“I had no family there or any connection to the state at all. It was just a spur of the moment thing,” Hauswirth noted.
At first, the thought of being on television was terrifying to him, which is why he majored in radio. “This is where I really got to hone my voice and really grow on air,” he said.
However, at the recommendation of his advisor, he switched to television where there were more opportunities and better pay.
During his final semester at WVU, he was offered a part-time job as a sports reporter with a small market NBC affiliate in Clarksburg, W.V. Unlike many of his classmates, Hauswirth was already working in TV while finishing off his degree.
After a year and a half of not only working part time at the station but at Dick’s Sporting Goods as well, Hauswirth finally signed a two-year television contract, moving up to a full-time position.
Following another two-year contract, he worked his way up to join WV Illustrated where he covered all Mountaineer athletics. At this point, Hauswirth was traveling across the country covering Big 12 games all over the midwest.
Last January, when West Virginia played Arizona State in the Cactus Bowl, Hauswirth was amazed to step foot in Chase Field, home of The Arizona Diamondbacks.
At just 28 years old, Hauswirth says he’s been extremely fortunate to see as much as he has so far. “I think I’ve really kicked things off in the right direction,” he said.
“I got to see some great places, met a lot of people, got to interview a lot of people (Gus Johnson of Fox Sports & Fran Fraschilla of ESPN)…it was a really nice gig, it just didn’t pay very well,” he said.
Hauswirth explained that he never planned on being away from home for as long as he was. Once his second two-year contract at WV Illustrated expired, he was itching to return (an effect Syracuse tends to have on people).
Take a look at Hauswirth’s debut at CNY Central.
Now, working for CNY Central, Hauswirth is becoming a household name, but he’ll be the first to tell you that it doesn’t happen overnight. “I was very proactive, I was constantly seeking out internships, and not many kids do that,” he said.
When he was working his first job in West Virginia, he went to the chair of the University’s TV department, asking for interns. She couldn’t name a single student that might be interested. “I couldn’t believe that I was the guy in charge and I was the one asking for interns,” Hauswirth said. “Usually it’s the other way around and the interns are just blowing you up.”
You have to get your foot in the door somehow, and it’s not always going to be easy. In terms of TV journalism, there’s probably ten general reporters and 2-3 sports reporters per station.
With this in mind, Hauswirth said,” think of all the stations across the country, and how many fewer jobs in sports news there are. That means you have to be pretty damn good to get a job in this field.”
Interviewing is one of the trickiest parts of the job, (take it from me). Hauswirth and I bonded over the inevitable awkwardness that came with our first few interviews. “Most people just generally know how to talk to people but you don’t really know how to talk to people unless you’ve interviewed someone,” Hauswirth said.
He went on to describe how your whole life you’re taught how to talk to family and friends, but when you’re interviewing a complete stranger, or even a step up from that, a celebrity, it can be rather startling.
According to Hauswirth, the trick is to just imagine them as another person, like your dad. He assured me that your first few times, you’re not always going to come off as smooth. “Once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize that that guy is the same as any other person, he can just hit a baseball way farther than anyone else,” he said for example.
You can’t be afraid of your interview subjects; which in a lot of cases is easier said than done. Take Syracuse Basketball Head Coach, Jim Boeheim for example. Across the board, there are reporters who are terrified of the snarky coach, and let their fear hold them back. Hauswirth however, has no problem during a Boeheim press conference, shouting out a question. “I don’t care if he wants to say something back to me to make me feel crappy, which he does to a lot of reporters,” he said. You can’t take it personally.
Everything that you do with journalism is a learning experience, whether you’re a seasoned veteran on the air like Hauswirth or just a college kid with a blog. The key to growing in whatever you do is to be open to criticism and not be afraid.
In the early stages of his career, when he was just getting started on television, Hauswirth’s station would get angry emails saying, “This kid is terrible, get him off the air.” But in the face of adversity, Hauswirth has always excelled. He understood that he was opening himself to criticisms by being on TV, and did not let any negative remarks hold him back.
It’s not the ideal situation, but for the time being when you’re constantly getting ridiculed, sometimes the only solution is a positive attitude. “Those people didn’t realize that they made me better and made me want it more,” Hauswirth said.
“You have to know what you want to do in this business,” Hauswirth said. A lot of people mistake the job as merely talking about sports, and fail to realize that there’s actually a fair amount of work.
More often than not, he has to set up his own equipment, take his own photos, etc. “When I say backpack journalist, I mean that. A lot of people don’t get the help they did back in the day,” Hauswirth mentioned.
Unless you’re working in a top 50 market, you’re typically on your own when it comes to setting up equipment and taking photos. “You have to do it all, which might sound discouraging, but the silver lining is that, the better you get the more opportunities will be available to move up in markets.”
Another factor that tends to drive people out of the journalism industry is the hours. For Hauswirth, anchoring on the weekends means his days off ordinarily fall on Wednesday and Thursday. Many have found that when they meet someone and want to settle down, the weekend shift loses its charm, and working until midnight isn’t as glamorous as they thought it might be.
For Hauswirth, he is so proud of the work that he does that it keeps him coming back. “You get more of a sense of accomplishment through journalism than any other job,” he emphasized.
“When you break a story, or you put together a really inspirational piece, they make you so happy to do be doing what you’re doing, that it trumps all the negative aspects of it,” Hauswirth said.
It’s hard to not be a fan of Matt Hauswirth, especially after having the opportunity to interview him. Of all the people I’ve been able to talk to for my blog or any article for that matter, this has by far been the most difficult to write about. How could I possibly do justice to our hour and a half conversation?
Hauswirth’s genuine nature stuck out over the phone and his faith in me was clear. “I’ve never been too busy to get in touch with someone who needs my help,” he told me after thanking him profusely for his time.
On a parting note, Hauswirth urged me to continue what I’m doing with “Let’s Talk Sports Talk.” “Keep talking to people and keep calling people. What you’re doing is something most people don’t do,” he said.
I’ve never felt so encouraged by a stranger, and I can’t help but take his advice to heart.