In October of 2021, Klein College of Media and Communication proudly launched the Claire Smith Center for Sports Media and a corresponding sports media certificate that Klein College students can pursue as a part of their studies.
Now, the first students to complete the certificate are beginning to graduate, and the leaders behind the center are working hard to prepare the next generation of sports media professionals for successful careers.
The center would not be what it is today without its faculty. Some members, such as Assistant Professor of Instruction Lauren Bullock, STHM ‘03, and Associate Professor Karen M. Turner have known each other for years. While others, like Turner and namesake and Co-Director of the center Claire Smith, KLN ‘79, are only at the beginning of some of the most important working relationships of their careers.
As three women excelling in a male-dominated industry, we talked to Smith, Turner and Bullock about their stories.
Smith had an extensive career in sports journalism, namely as the first Black woman full-time beat reporter for a Major League Baseball team, covering the New York Yankees for the Hartford Courant. She is also the first Black woman to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and was the first woman presented with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Career Excellence Award – the highest honor from The National Baseball Writers’ Association. Smith also wrote for The New York Times and served in editor roles at The Philadelphia Inquirer and ESPN.
Most recently, Smith was named the winner of this year’s Red Smith Award. She is the first Black woman to join previous winners in receiving one of the highest sports journalism honors in the country.
Throughout her career, Smith had the pleasure of visiting many college campuses to talk to journalism students. Being a professor, though, always seemed like a “romantic” thing associated with tweed jackets and pipes, she said. With the support of Dean David Boardman, Smith was not only honored with her name on the center, but also with an opportunity to teach courses at Klein College as part of the sports media certificate.
“I just fell into the most important and special place that is possible at this point in my life,” Smith said of her return to her alma mater.
Smith co-teaches JRN 3763: The Influence of Sports Media on Modern Society with Turner. Though her job is to use her expertise to teach students, she often finds herself learning from Turner in the process. As a self-described “rookie teacher,” Smith has learned much about teaching practices and how to interact with students from Turner during their time together. As an added bonus, each class is filled with laughter from the students and professors alike.
Turner came to Temple University in 1992 after working in several media markets, including as a City Hall reporter in Philadelphia for WPEN. She also took a non-journalism role as Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell’s first press secretary. At City Hall, Turner observed many Temple journalism students covering city council happenings and always knew in the back of her mind that she may like to teach one day. After seeing the results of Temple’s curriculum at City Hall, Turner took a temporary professor position in the Klein College journalism department and applied for a permanent job as soon as it opened up.
Part of being an accredited institution, Turner said, is ensuring a diverse faculty. Turner and Smith have conversations in class about what it is like to be Black women in sports media and create a space for all students to pursue their passions. With Smith’s experience as a trailblazing woman in sports, she brings so much expertise to this mission, Turner said.
Turner met Bullock through Temple University Women of Color before the latter came to Klein College full-time in 2018. When she made the switch, Turner was quick to reach out to Bullock as another Black woman navigating academia.
Bullock sits on the planning committee for the center and is quick to participate in meetings by sharing her experiences in sports media. Like Turner and Smith, Bullock teaches a course in the sports media certificate program.
“This is something about the Temple community: you keep running into the same good people,” Bullock said.
Coincidentally, Smith and Bullock both attended Neshaminy High School. Though they did not meet until Smith came back to Temple in 2021, they have been able to bond over their shared experience of being one of the only people of color at the high school. Having an early understanding of being one of the only members of an underrepresented group in school made the experience a little easier for Bullock to navigate when moving to the sports industry. Through the center, they have established an incredible working relationship and friendship.
Together, Turner, Bullock and Smith are working to support those interested in sports media, and hope that their experience as women of color in the industry will help make the Klein College sports space a comfortable one for all students.
Center Co-Director John DiCarlo, KLN ‘98 ‘06, is proud to work with all three women at the center. “If we’re really staying true to our mission of breaking down barriers of gender and race in sports media, future sports media members need to see themselves reflected in what we’re doing,” he wrote.
DiCarlo has been working at Temple since 2001, but first met Bullock when he was a sports reporter and she was an undergraduate student worker in athletic media relations. Bullock spent some time working in sports media but ultimately returned to Temple to work in Student Affairs. DiCarlo also worked in Student Affairs, and both transitioned to teach at Klein College around the same time. The two have become close friends over their years working together in higher education.
“One of the things I like about working with the people from the center is how genuinely humble everyone is,” Bullock said.
All were quick to praise their colleagues for their accomplishments while being humble about their own.
“You’re never as special as other people want to tell you,” Smith said.
One thing is for sure, though: it’s the people and the work they do that make the Claire Smith Center for Sports Media so special.