Throughout the year, the Southern Conference will feature a former student-athlete from around the league in a series called Where Are They Now. This will be an opportunity to get reacquainted with the student-athletes after their competition days have come to an end. The question and answer session will focus on a former student-athlete who has gone on to a career away from the field, course, mat or court.
Our next Where Are They Now feature focuses on former UNCG women’s basketball player, Caroline Blair. The 6-foot-2 center from Trinity, N.C. was on the Spartan team from 2002-2006 while juggling a double major in communication studies and broadcast in cinema. She also had the opportunity to intern with NBC in New York one summer.
Currently Blair is a news reporter for News14 Carolina in the Piedmont/Triad where she covers a wide array of stories.
UNCG Women’s Basketball (2002-2006)—Communication Studies, Broadcast and Cinema with a concentration with news and documentary
Current Profession: News Reporter for News14 Carolina
You’re originally from the Triad (N.C.). What made you want to stay in the area and play at UNCG rather than other schools that may have recruited you?
Anyone who has gone through the recruiting process knows it’s quite strenuous. You get up early and may go to a practice, go to class, go to practice again. You eventually get home and get ready for supper and then the phone starts ringing. It was definitely a bit of a stressful process, but I knew once I actually stepped foot on campus at UNCG, that it was a good fit. The girls were fantastic. I got along really well with them and coach Agee had been around for years and years and had a phenomenal reputation. I knew about the Southern Conference and its great schools, not just UNCG, but Davidson, Elon, College of Charleston, and I knew the competition would be stiff. I looked around at a lot of different places, but decided to go against my original thought and stay close to home which worked out really well because family and friends got to watch me, so it was a really great choice.
You mentioned you were a double major. What was that schedule like being a double major and a basketball player?
Needless to say that was quite tough. We had our early morning workouts and I’d have class projects especially with the broadcast and cinema major because we were constantly working on either film projects or news stories, and they’re not like they are today where I have to turn one in within a day. You worked on those projects for days. Scheduling that around basketball was very tough, but it definitely taught me time management skills, which is what I use every day here and I think it definitely prepared me for the real world, juggling both.
How were you able to schedule internships during your time as a student-athlete?
Internships were definitely tough, and looking back I would have tried to do a little more. When I go speak to students, that’s something I definitely push for them because as an athlete, that was tough. The summer of senior year I was able to schedule an internship in New York. I went up to New York and interned at NBC and while I was there I scheduled an internship back in Greensboro with a news station. So my internships were actually post-basketball, but it worked out well for me. I was a double major so I took one extra semester to finish because I had so many credits I had to get. I even came in with credits, but it still wasn’t possible for me to do it all in the four years even with summer school. It was great because it allowed me to do my local internship which is where I got a job so I was working my last semester, stayed in the business and was then able to get on camera. So the internships were tremendous in putting me where I am today and getting me a journalism job.
You said you talk to students, do you ever go back to UNCG to speak?
I do. I go back to UNCG and talk to students there that are in the broadcast and cinema major. When I was a senior we had a senior portfolio class, it was just a one hour credit but they had people come in and talk to you who are in the business. One month it may be someone who is the film industry, the next month it may be someone who is in media law. They’ve asked me to come back on numerous occasions and talk to the students about news, and what it’s like to be in the news industry. Sometimes I feel like I was prepared, other times I don’t. I’m very, very honest with the students about what it’s like. It’s definitely not all glamorous. Just like sports, people think college and professional athletics is always a glamorous life, but there’s always a lot of hard work that goes into it. I go back and talk to those students and let them know how it is, but when you love what you do, I definitely think it’s well worth it and I try to let the students know that as well.
What did you do from the time you graduated in 2006 until you came back to Greensboro?
I graduated in December (2006) when I was still at the local FOX station here, I was interning and they had a job pop up as an Editor and jumped on board with that immediately. It allowed me to stay with the station but continue to work on my tape and continue on the weekends to go out with photographers and reporters. I was used to having very, very long days already and then playing on the weekends so that didn’t bother me at all. I used my free time to go on and do that. I got a tape together and started applying places and I got a few calls back.
I ended up moving down to Tallahassee, Florida I was the Georgia Bureau Chief 30 miles north of there in Thomasville, Georgia. I was there for a year and a half working as a reporter and managing the station in Georgia, fixing everything from the sink to the camera when it broke. Again, what I learned in college helped me tremendously in juggling a million different things because I had to, and working really long hours.
I came home one weekend, the first time I had probably been home in eight months and checked my email and I had an email from the News Director here at News14. He wanted to talk to me by phone and I said, ‘why don’t I stop in.’ He ended up offering me the job a few days later. Now three years later I’m still here. It’s kind of hard to believe, but it’s fantastic.
Working in the journalism industry calls for long days and sometimes stressful situations. Is there anything else you take, other than time management, from your time as a student-athlete into the workplace?
I tell people all the time that time management is probably the biggest thing, because just like in sports, here in news your schedule changes constantly. In basketball in college, you have a game one day at two o’clock and then the next day it’s at seven o’clock and you’re driving overnight, and you get two hours of sleep. It was really, really long days and it’s the same in news. We never know what our story is going to be the next day, your schedule changes constantly. I now work nights so I’m here well past midnight so that definitely helped prepare me. Also I think more than anything in news business in the competitive side. Just like sports, news is a competitive business. You’re always trying to be number one, you’re always trying to be on top, trying to be the first one to get the story on, always trying to get those leads, and there is no doubt in my mind that my history with sports, my history in the Southern Conference and playing collegiate athletics helped me be the best that I can be in this business.
You said you work nights and your schedule is always changing, but what is a typical day like for you?
We definitely work as a team. I think that’s maybe what attracted me to the news business when I first started interning and being around people in news, is that’s is very much a team vibe just like you do when you get in a huddle. Every day when I come into work in the afternoons we get around a table and hash it out. We talk about stories we may have heard about, or someone has called and told us about, or that we got news releases on, and we all kind of as a team talk about and try to figure out who is going to do what, what role each person is going to play that day.
I work nights so I come in around two o’clock in the afternoon and work until around midnight, sometimes one or two o’clock in the morning and the really neat thing now is that we just started broadcasting on the local ABC channel here as well because they didn’t have news. So not only am I a reporter for News14 Carolina, but I’m also a reporter for ABC45 as well. Again I can’t say this enough, time management, trying to juggle all of this is very tough, but I very much enjoy and I feel like I’m a big part of a team here, which is fantastic.
It all depends on the night before, if I’m not getting home until two or 2:30, I will try to sleep in as best I can if my phone isn’t ringing. I try to switch up my workout routine pretty regularly, so right now I’m doing a boot camp in Kernersville (N.C.), so I get in my car, drive past work to go to Kernersville, drive past work again to go home and get ready for work. So I’m kind of all over the place in the morning. I always call and check in with my assignment editor in the morning and see if they already have an idea of what they want me to do for the day or if there is something major going on. That way I can start planning and it gives me a little peace of mind. If they don’t know then it really pushes me to start looking for a story, call some contacts and enterprise a story. Even though my meeting isn’t until 2:30, I try to get into work by 1:45 or 2 o’clock because I get hundreds of emails every day. I’m on hundreds of lists. I get everything from accident reports to press releases about kitty cat fashion shows. It takes a while to get through those. Then we go into a meeting to discuss what we are going to do for the day, figure out where I’m going to be, if I’m going to have a photographer, if I’m going to do live shots, and then I run out the door with all my gear. Then I’m out in the field most of the time. Some days I will have a mobile truck and work out of it. I edit in there, track and voice and then do live shots. Then we finally head back after our 11 o’clock ABC live shot. If I have any more work to do I wrap it up, otherwise I pack up my stuff and go home. I don’t think I’ve had less than a nine or ten hour day in a very long time. It makes for very long days, but I love it.
With such a hectic schedule, do you get a chance to keep in touch with your teammates?
I do, thank goodness for facebook. My point guard, I was in her wedding a couple years back, my roommate Ashley Current, she is down in Florida. I talk to her pretty regularly. Another one of the girls is in Virginia, I talk to her pretty regularly. Definitely not as much as I would like to, but my schedule is pretty much the exact opposite from most people, but I do my best and I try to keep in contact with as many as I can and they’re all very important to me and always will be.
Are you just an on-camera reporter or do you also write your own stories?
I love talking to people who haven’t seen exactly what we do here at News14 and it’s very different from a standard local news station where they have a couple shoots a day and that’s it. We are 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are never off-air and we are one hundred percent news. Needless to say, you have to be ready to go at the drop of a hat and because of that, we need so much extra content, all of us are trained to do one hundred percent of a story. Many days not only do I shoot my own story, but I will write it, lots of times I will edit it. I write the track that the anchor says, lots of times I come up with the story idea. Typically I’d say more than 50 percent of the content you see on-air is one hundred percent me, which is very rewarding at the end of the day. It’s a lot of hard work, but I definitely put my heart and soul into my work and what you see is pretty much coming from me.
What made you choose news in general over sports reporting?
It was a really tough decision for me because I think everyone expected me to go into sports and I love sports, I’m still very active. I love to watch sports and that’s not something that I’ve completely cut out. I was just very attracted to news when I first got into my major in college, I really started to learn the ins and the outs and it fascinates me. The fantastic thing about news is it’s something different every single day. One day I will do a heartbreaking story, maybe a loss in a family, and then the next day I’m doing something happy about people donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to a charity. So every day is something different. I get to meet new people every day and tell their stories and it’s a very rewarding job, but I still have that sports itch.
Do you get the opportunity to cover a lot of sports though?
I do. I don’t think I’ve missed an ACC tournament since it’s held here in Greensboro. I don’t think I’ve missed one since I’ve been back. I got to cover the ACC baseball tournament when it was in downtown Greensboro, charity hockey events, dancing events. I think I’m our residential news/sports girl. They definitely throw me on those whenever they get the chance; they know I’m always scratching for those types of stories that way I get the best of both worlds. Anytime they come up, I raise my hand for those stories.
Do you still follow UNCG basketball?
I do. I actually went back when Coach Agee had the floor dedicated to her, which meant a ton. I think this past year I’ve been a part of the athletics at UNCG more than I have as an alumna thus far. Of course I miss coach Agee, but now we got a new coach and it’s been interesting watching her work. It’s just a new era with a new athletic director and things are changing, but it’s a lot of fun to watch and I try to make it out whenever I can. I’m always a Spartan.
What happens if you get a story and you have no knowledge of it, but you have only 10 minutes to prepare?
That happens a lot, especially now. I used to work the one to ten shift and my deadline was nine at night and now I come in at 2:30 p.m. and lots of times they want me for a live shot at five and then definitely a live shot at ABC at six, and then maybe another one at nine, and then another one at eleven, and I have to work on my story in between there. I don’t know everything about everything, but thank goodness for the internet and that you can Google. You really just have to ask a lot of questions and if you’re unsure about something, especially the folks that you’re interviewing who should be the experts, you have to ask the questions that you may feel embarrassed to ask, but you have to throw those out there and just read up as quickly as you can. I’m thrown into a ton of stories I may not have been following that closely that have been ongoing or something that I’m just not the familiar about. It could be a story on taxes; I could be in federal court one day and not know that much about a case. So reading up as quickly as you can and asking a ton of questions is always key.
What are some of your long-term goals?
Since I’ve been in the business, I’ve gotten to wear a lot of hats. I think the only one I haven’t worn is Director. I have produced shows, I’ve reported, I’ve anchored, I write, I edit, I get to do so many different sides of the business which is fantastic. There’s never a boring moment. As far as the future, I don’t think there’s a place where I have to be. I don’t think I have to be in New York in five years or in L.A. in ten. I’m very open to what the future has in store. Most people ask me, ‘are you planning on getting into sports?’ or ‘why didn’t you do sports broadcasting?’ and the really neat thing about my time here at News14 is I’ve gotten to cover so many different sporting events from the ACC men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, to baseball, to hockey. I’ve gotten to cover so many different sporting activities, so that’s been wonderful. Will I move to and transition from news to sports, who knows, but I’m definitely excited about what the future has in store.
What advice would you give to current student-athletes?
If you haven’t done an internship, do one. School is an amazing way to train for the real world, but actually getting out and sitting in an office, or shadowing someone is essential to knowing what the actual job is.
If you don’t know what you want to do, don’t be scared. The average person changes jobs a million times. It’s definitely tough out there and I think doing what I do I get to see that on so many different levels. I get to interview people who have so many different types of jobs or have been without jobs for quite a long time. I will definitely say, be prepared just like you are in athletics, to fight and to push and try to come out on top. Be ready to do that with a job and push your athletic skills onto employers, they really like to see that you’re competitive, that you’re driven, that you can multi-task, that you’ve been able to balance a ton of things in your collegiate career. The average student doesn’t have to do that, and at least for me that’s made me shine and show that I can handle a lot of things at once.
Don’t be afraid to have a mentor and ask questions and don’t apologize for it. Most folks who are out in the real world and have a job love lending a helping hand.
You mentioned having a mentor. Did you have a mentor while you were in school?
I was always really close with coach Agee. She always had an open door policy and I was definitely one of the student-athletes who didn’t mind going and talking to her not just about athletics, but about my personal life and she was wonderful about just letting me cry or yell, express my concern and just completely take athletics out of it. I was very lucky to have her as a coach and she had been around for so long, that she had seen it all so she always had wonderful words of advice.
I also had mentors outside of athletics, especially one who was a long-time sports anchor at a local station. He knew what I was going through as an athlete, but also knew the business so I had the best of both worlds with that. He was very encouraging and laid it out for me what the business what like, but he also pushed me because he knew my potential, which was fantastic.
Our basketball tournament is coming up in Asheville, do you think you may come and check it out?
Asheville is one of my favorite places in the state. I’d love to, I think the Southern Conference is a fantastic conference and one of the most competitive in the country and I’m so thankful to have been a part of it. When I go back to UNCG to watch games, it gives me that fire again and makes me want to keep going back and keep watching whenever I can.
The tournament is an incredible thing, an incredible weekend. To this day, I still talk about the fun I had when I was at the conference tournament. I think it would make me a little sad that I wasn’t out there playing.
What was your favorite part about being a student-athlete and favorite part about your current job?
Traveling! I think that has to be the best part of both of them together. With athletics we were always gone and getting to go to new places, and seeing new schools, experience new things. I was very lucky growing up with my parents that we traveled a lot as well, but we went to New Orleans, Arizona, and we went to Boston. We had amazing trips, wonderful food and fun experiences and I think that was just awesome getting to do that with my teammates and coaches and bond. It was a different game every weekend and a different experience and it’s the same with work right now. Every day is something different. One day I’m in Montgomery County, the next I’m in Davidson County, then I’m in Randolph County and I’m doing a completely different story, but I get to meet people that I probably would never get to meet and tell stories, and even just learn about things going on in my community that I never knew were taking place. I love to travel, so I wouldn’t give that up for anything.