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Budding Broadcasters Get a Little On-Air Time at a Sporty Camp

August 25, 2005 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Jonathan Cramer-Cohen learns the skills to become a future announcer.
With a light rain falling on an empty Lincoln Financial Field, Jonathan Cramer-Cohen - microphone in hand - stood in front of a TV camera, reporting on the Philadelphia Eagles' first preseason game, a 38-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had the poise of a professional: speaking clearly, enunciating each word, and offering detailed and accurate comments on the surprisingly good play of the Eagles' young wide receivers.

But despite his solid demeanor, Cramer-Cohen of Mount Airy is not a reporter for ESPN or Comcast Sportsnet. He's just a 16-year-old, casually dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, with a mop of black hair and a mouth full of braces.

His time in front of the camera is the culmination of writing, editing and repeatedly practicing what to say and how to say it. With the help of professionals at the Scholastic Play-by-Play Network Sports Broadcasting Camp, Cramer-Cohen hopes that his tape will look and sound like the real deal.

"I'm definitely not good enough to play sports for a living, but I'd still like to be around it," said Cramer-Cohen.

All told, the weeklong broadcasting camp drew 65 kids, ages 9 to 18, who came to learn the intricacies of sports broadcast reporting, such as play-by-play announcing, sideline reporting and conducting interviews.

The practice sessions from Lincoln Financial Field were the main activity during Day 2 of the camp, held from Aug. 15 to Aug. 19. For the admission price of $395, the kids also tried their hand at play-by-play announcing in the stands during a Philadelphia Phillies game, as well as conducting a mock press conference with Villanova basketball star Kyle Lowry and participating in TV-style sports debates similar to those on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption."

Jeremy Treatman, an accomplished sports journalist who founded the camp four years ago, sees it as an opportunity that he would have loved as a kid.

"Imagining myself at 14 or 15 - if there was a sports broadcasting camp - there wouldn't have been anything better in the whole world," he said.

The group learned about broadcasting from such guest "teachers" as Comcast Sportsnet TV anchor Michael Barkann, WIP sports-radio hosts Paul Jolovitz and Glen Macnow, ESPN football reporter Sal Paolantonio and Mike Taibbi of NBC News.

"They've learned how to network, which is half the battle," said Treatman. "One of the big attractions is that we bring in big-name speakers. You talk to Michael Barkann, he gives some real advice."

Back in 2002, the camp was held for three days at Bryn Mawr College, and only 17 people attended. Since then, the program has expanded to five days and moved into cities such as Boston, Baltimore, New York and Washington, D.C. Three separate sessions are held in Philadelphia.

"We've probably had over 1,000 kids so far," said Treatman.

Some Constructive Criticism
After Cramer-Cohen taped his Eagles report, Philadelphia Flyers television announcer Jim Jackson was on hand to offer some constructive criticism for the young reporter, telling him to keep his eyes focused on the camera and to stand still.

"The experts obviously know what they're talking about - they've already made it in the business," said Cramer-Cohen, whose dream job would be a play-by-play announcer for the Eagles.

Although the camp is open to young sports fanatics of all religions, it seems to attract a lot of attention from Jewish youth.

According to Treatman, "it's about 40 to 50 percent Jewish."

And like the camp, the craft itself attracts its share of Jews. From Philadelphia sports writers and TV personalities like Al Meltzer, Stan Hochman and Barkann to national broadcasters like ESPN's Chris Berman and Jeremy Schaap, Jewish voices seem to accompany sports talk.

Perhaps, said Hochman, the trend has something to do with the low number of professional Jewish athletes. "People who care about sports, but aren't big enough or quick enough to hope to make it as a player, often turn to some field that is associated with sports," he said.

Another camper, 14-year-old Victor Brady, who came all the way from Westchester County, N.Y., would also like to some day break into the business.

"I want to be a play-by-play voice for either hockey or baseball," said Brady, who also gave a rousingly professional report at the Linc.

When asked about his dream job, Brady admitted, "if anyone will give me a job, I'll take it!"

Out of the 65 campers, only three were females.

"We're getting between two and six in every camp," noted Treatman. "I'd love to see more, because this is the absolute best time to be a female in sports. There are so many opportunities that never existed for women."

Some recent alumni of the camp are already working in the field; one is even broadcasting for minor league baseball's Camden River Sharks.

Of this summer's particular group of youthful potential, said Treatman, "I could see a lot of the kids going through these camps making it in the business."

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