The Kids Stay in the Picture
This Olympics-related story was published in the Philadelphia Weekly in the February 8 - 14 issue.
MATT DELUCIA WAS surprised when someone stopped him on South Street recently and asked, "Aren't you on the La Salle
The college junior and Sports Line co-host shrugged it off as a random act, but his work on La Salle's low-budget TV station-staffed entirely by students, and broadcast to more than 300,000 Philadelphia homes-is paying off.
A producer from the New Jersey Network saw him on the show last year and offered him an on-air reporting apprenticeship. And right now DeLucia and 10 of his fellow La Salle communications students are interning for NBC at the Winter Olympics in Italy, which begin on Friday.
"It's not going to be a vacation," DeLucia said last week before heading to Torino for three weeks. "They told us we're going to have no days off."
DeLucia will be a production assistant working with crews following cross-country skiing. He doesn't know exactly what his duties will entail, but he does know he won't be sitting around watching snow fall or pounding beers with skier Bode Miller.
"It's going to be work, work, work," he says.
One of his classmates, Casey Feeney, went to Torino three weeks early to help set up the broadcast facilities. Feeney emailed DeLucia from Italy saying he was already putting in 12-hour days, and that it would only get busier once the games began.
More than 50 La Salle students applied to be interns. Thirty were granted interviews, and 11 were selected to work the games. The nine male and two female La Salle interns will join student interns from eight other universities, including Syracuse, North Carolina, George Washington and Ithaca.
NBC will pick up some of the tab for the students' college credits, but the interns won't be paid otherwise. And while lodging during the Olympics will be on NBC, the students are responsible for their own airfare, meals and lodging before the games begin.
"It's going to cost me about $3,000 to $4,000," says senior Matt Juliano. "I took out another loan to make it acceptable."
Junior Adam Bagni, who'll be a video-logger for the speed-skating competitions, cashed in his father's frequent flier miles for a free flight. But he had to travel from Philadelphia to Chicago, Chicago to Brussels, and then Brussels to Torino. Including layovers, it was a 24-hour journey.
"My mom doesn't understand it," Bagni says. "It's a job I don't get paid for."
The La Salle students are used to putting in long days for no cash. In addition to their full-time schoolwork, all of the students are part of the university's cable channel 56. Many also have their own shows on the school's radio station, and several write for the college newspaper.
When this group of students arrived at La Salle a few years ago, Bagni says the radio station only intermittently broadcast live play-by-play from La Salle football games. Now it offers regular live coverage of about 100 sporting events annually, including every men's and women's basketball game, as well as football and baseball games, and men's and women's soccer matches.
"It's been crazy," Bagni says of his extracurricular workload. "It's probably cost me a couple classes here and there."
Students even broadcast from most away games, but they have to fund their own expeditions. They pay for gas, drive their own cars, buy their own meals, and make hotel arrangements if necessary.
"It will pay off in the end," says junior Brandon Davidow. "People see the commitment we have now and all the work we do."
The students are hoping their dedication in Italy will pay off with career connections.
"It's an opportunity you can't miss," says senior Ben Rosehart. "And for what it makes on your resume, it's worth it."
This is from a student who already has a loaded resume. He's the general manager of the school's radio station and a co-host of Sports Line. He worked at Fox 29 last summer, and he interned in the Eagles media relations department last season. The team even took him to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., last year.
And he plays the violin during Mass on campus.
"Going over there and meeting broadcast professionals and professional athletes from all over the world, there's no better place to be," says DeLucia.
There'll be some 10,000 media members working the Olympics and about 2,500 athletes from 85 countries, but tops on the list of people the La Salle students want to meet is Bob Costas.
"I'll shine his shoes," Davidow says.
Juliano, who aspires to a career behind the scenes, says, "I'll probably be kissing the asses of all the audio technicians and video personnel in editing and production. I'll be like, 'Hey, what did you want? I'll go get it for you!'"
But when they return to Philadelphia after the games, the interns say they'll strut around campus wearing their NBC Winter Olympics team jackets, hats, gloves, sweaters and whatever other gear they can scam. They'll resume their positions as upperclassmen and role models, as well as information disseminators for the city.
"We're sort of like F-list celebrities," Bagni jokes.