Undergrad covers big-time sports between Ford School classes

April 26, 2011

Writing concise policy memos was no sweat for Nicole Auerbach (BA '11), who covered U-M basketball, hockey and, in 2010, football for the Michigan Daily during her undergraduate career. Auerbach has interned at USA Today and freelanced for the Wall Street Journal, SI.com, and ESPN.com. The Hillsborough, NJ, native will intern this summer at the Boston Globe.

Auerbach spoke with S&H about how a public policy liberal arts degree meshed with sports writing at the U-M.

How did you decide on public policy as your major?

I was considering political science and one of my editors at the Daily was in the first BA class. He told me it was like applied political science. He also said there's good food. I went to the info session, and the food was good, as promised. That was the first time I went to an info session where it all sounded perfect. I went to others and they were competitive and crazy, talking about job prospects. The Ford School was about the small community and the topics we'd get to study.

How did you choose gender and health studies as your focus?

I enjoyed the introductory women's studies class, and I knew I'd be interested because it always related to me. Sports writing is such a male-dominated profession, it's nice to have a different perspective, taking classes about women's issues like reproductive rights.

Have these classes added any insight to sports writing?

There really aren't that many female writers, and I think my classes made me more aware of it. Angelique Chengelis [from the Detroit News] is respected and really great at her job, but I think she's the only other female beat writer for U-M football, and there's probably 20-30 of us.

Did your assignments interfere with class?

When I covered basketball last year, there were a lot of road games in the middle of the week and I'd miss class. But my professors always understood. The professors kind of use it as an opportunity to talk sports briefly. I guess if you teach at Michigan you have to pay a little attention to sports. When Brady Hoke was hired, I had my campaigns class with Rusty (Hills) at 5:30 and couldn't go because I had to stake out Schembechler Hall. This was my last assignment for the Daily so I sent an email to Rusty apologizing. The class meets only once a week and I felt terrible. And he's like, "Don't worry about it. I really hope Brady's a good fit. What do you think?"

What's your proudest professional moment so far?

USA Today called me to do a Denard Robinson feature after the Notre Dame game. My deadline was in four hours and I thought it was one of the best stories I've written, so I was happy about that. That was the same game when a Daily photographer took the "Heisman" shot of him, and USA Today ran that photo with my story on the front sports page. We have a big poster of it in the Daily. It's hard to pick just one moment but that was pretty exciting.

Do you find the writing you do for class compatible with your career?

I've said this a lot, I think that they're very similar. As a sports writer, it's beneficial for me to take Ford School classes, because when I'm writing a really concise memo, I have to hit my points quickly. You can't waste any words and it's the same with sports writing.

Do you think you could switch to policy-related writing?

The people I meet as a sports writer always ask, "What's public policy?" and I have to explain it to them. But in policy, [sports writing] is a benefit because it shows I can write about current events and meet tight deadlines. Maybe it's not as exciting as sitting courtside at a Lakers game, but it's something I could definitely do and probably do well.


Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Spring 2011 State & Hill here.