Senior Column: A Taylor Coonan Production

The author as a baby. Photo courtesy of the author

I’ve never been one to hold back my words, and I won’t start now — surely not in my last article for The Daily Campus. This organization has, quite literally, given me another outlet to share my words and even some of my own stories while I do my best to tell those that don’t necessarily belong to me through previews and recaps. It’s time for the last go round at this — the victory lap starts now. 

Actually, I was victorious when I scored a position working for UConn football and realized that sports media was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So much so, I messed around and majored in it. Here’s a plug for the individualized major program: It fuels your main character energy and completely empowers you through academic and career goals. Coupled with my human rights major and political science minor, sports media was another passion I always knew I had but tried to push to the side to focus on my pursuit for law school. Sports were just a hobby of mine and I’ll forever be loyal to the Boston teams no matter what, but I was trying to be professional and studious. Turns out, you can get paid to be at games and practices as a hardworking professional. This was just the beginning. 

Of course, this was also the beginning of a pandemic but you don’t need me to tell you that. Sure, it made things much harder but at the same time, it made my goals clearer and clearer. I continued to enjoy filming for the team and my classes were no longer basic theories of human rights or economics of sports, real-life issues made up the entirety of my curriculum in both majors. The sport law courses and the most specifically, the sports as an institution of violence unit in Mick Powell’s WGSS 2263 along with visual journalism by Steven Smith and Shareen “the Queen” Hertel’s politics and human rights in supply chains were the exact breakdowns of what I knew, and still know, my life will consist of after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from UConn. 

The author today. Photo courtesy of the author

Sports, journalism and human rights are not mutually exclusive topics, contrary to popular belief. They’re really not that much different from each other and if you think so, you aren’t paying attention. Better yet, you’re not working hard enough to realize the importance of all of them working together in a society that would completely collapse without each element. It’s really the lack of this realization for me, which propels most of my research and what I hope to continue doing next year when I return to UConn for a master’s degree in human rights. 

When working on my theses of human rights in the supply chains for the NFL or the importance of human rights reporting in sports, there is always the underlying aspect of journalism. Kind of like how you need to breathe to talk, you need journalism to report on human rights violations. It’s one thing for them to occur, but nothing can be done unless there is an awareness of them, for which trusted news organizations are essential. Not all news is sports but all sports is news, and someone’s got to cover it. However, this must be done in a way that puts individuals first, prioritizing athletes as humans, not just money generating machines. Humanizing athletes is a mantra of mine at the youth, collegiate and professional levels, which is done through media coverage. Of course, it starts at reporting and writing and photography for teams and players, but it gets deeper than that. We care so much about the game in front of us, that we forget how athletes live lives beyond the field, and news continues to happen there. 

The Daily Campus gave me the ability to focus on my general coverage of sports as news and I’m thankful to have been able to do that for the 2021-2022 men’s hockey team. Riding the Ice Bus all the way to TD Garden for the Hockey East Championship was truly the ride of a lifetime. The entire team worked so hard just to be able to play on that rink and I owed it to each player to tell their story as accurately as possible.  I still don’t know how I got so lucky to be able to take on the men’s hockey beat.

I remember clearly wandering into the sports section meeting after copy editing one night at The Daily Campus, understanding that it was likely a “Boys’ Club” but nothing that I hadn’t seen or endured before. It was a bunch of guys and I was used to being one of the guys, but this wasn’t the case. On a Sunday night at a building few people know exists on campus, I met my best friends of senior year. We immediately became so close and joked about everything, but the difference was, there was never any disrespect. It’s not that I can’t handle sexist jokes, it’s just that they aren’t funny and if it’s not funny, it’s not a joke. I’ll tell you what’s no joke, the love I have for each member of the sports section and the respect I have for them as individuals and the work they produce. Being able to serve as the associate sports editor for this section was a dream and something I never took for granted because of the too short of time I held this position. 

Working for a newspaper, time is always looming over you. You only have so much time to write an article, copy edit everything, design the layout for a particular section so that the entire newspaper is ready in time for the morning. Then, you do it all again the next day. Jimmy Buffett says that “only time will tell if it was time well spent,” and as my time as a copy editor, writer, sports section designer, associate sports editor with a dash of some as a photographer, this was the best use of my time. This Taylor Coonan production only had so much air time in the Basketball Capital of the World, and I did my best but in actuality, no words could establish the necessary syntax to fully capture how much the DC means to me. Nonetheless, stay tuned for another Taylor Coonan production and if you pay close enough attention, you’ll find plenty of Daily Campus references throughout the show.

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