Andrea Joyce did her first sports broadcast in the late 1980s, while working for WFAA in Dallas. She’d been called in to cover a Dallas Mavericks game in place of the regular sports reporter, and the Mavs were hosting the Denver Nuggets that night.
Doug Moe, the head coach of the Nuggets at the time, was a character and a fantastic interview, but her contact in the sports department gave Joyce the assignment, they said, “Don’t even bother with Doug Moe, he won’t talk to us. He’s mad at us. Somebody from the station made him mad the last time they were in town.”
But Joyce decided to just go for it. She called Moe’s hotel, the receptionist put her through to his room, and he agreed to do the interview.
The news director was very impressed with Joyce’s ability to land the interview and make that extra phone call, and that single interview served as the launchpad for Joyce’s 30-year career in sports.
Joyce spent 10 years with CBS Sports and currently works for NBC Sports. She went to her first Olympics in 1988 with ESPN and has now worked 14 Olympic Games. She was the first woman to co-host the network television coverage for the World Series, and the first woman to anchor the college football studio show. She’s covered the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA basketball tournament. Of late, she’s been the face of NBC’s coverage of gymnastics and figure skating.
On April 3, 2019, Joyce arrived on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin to deliver the Center for Sports Communication & Media’s 2019 Frank Deford Lecture in Sports Journalism.
Her lecture gave the audience, many of whom are students in UT-Austin’s Moody College of Communication, an idea of what life was like for a budding journalist in the 80s and 90s. She also shared advice and lessons she learned along the way, many of which are pertinent not only for journalists but for individuals in any field.
Keep reading to find out some of the most memorable moments from Joyce’s lecture, or watch the entire event in the video below.
From Weather Girl to Respected Sports Reporter
Joyce dropped out of graduate school at the University of Michigan to take a job as the weather girl for local television station in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“My friends said, ‘You’re crazy. How can you do this?’” Joyce recalled. “My professors, who had such high hopes for me, … I think they were just stunned by this, and a little disappointed.”
But something drove Joyce to stop studying and get some experience in the real world.
The job paid terribly ($4 an hour). She was required to always wear dresses and skirts, and the previous weather person had been very tall, so in order to reach the Pacific Northwest, she had to utilize a pointer.
“But as you can probably guess,” she said, “it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I had my foot in the door. I seized every opportunity that was available to me.”
That meant filling in on the weekends to do some real reporting: lugging around her own camera equipment, and writing and editing her own stories.
“The biggest lesson that I learned was that it really comes down to just saying yes sometimes,” Joyce said. “I mean, it might not be the perfect job. It might not be the sexiest job. It might not be the job that you’ve dreamed of. But when you say yes and—it’s a cliche—you take that road a little less traveled, you find that it opens up a bigger, broader, more spectacular world for you.”
Take Responsibility for Yourself and Your Work
Joyce worked in Wichita, Kansas, for another one of her early career jobs. She was the station’s first female co-anchor and her fellow newscasters, all men of course, made it their mission to make her mess up on air.
Joyce recalled trying to read a voiceover script while the sportscaster was pecking her in the shoulder with a taxidermied bird.
“I learned early on that as much as there is so much teamwork that goes into putting on a newscast or a broadcast or a sportscast, you’re really on your own,” she said. “You’re the one who is out there. It’s your name, it’s your reputation on the line. So you’ve got to watch out for yourself. Because nobody cares if there was somebody pecking you on the shoulder with a bird and you start laughing. You can’t blame anybody else. You’re responsible for yourself.”
But Don’t Become Paralyzed By What Other People Think
As a woman knocking down barriers in the world of sports broadcasting, Joyce was often put under a microscope by members of the public and her fellow broadcasters.
As a result, she poured all of her energy into being overly prepared for every assignment, and yet was still terrified that she’d make a mistake and be eaten alive. Eventually, she hit a breaking point.
Prior to hosting the 1991 NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection show, Joyce found herself paralyzed by the possibility that she might appear in USA Today writer Rudy Martzke’s column where he critiqued everything that happened on television in sports over the weekend.
“I was so worried that I was going to make a mistake and Rudy Martzke was going to write about it and say, ‘Wow, why’d they put her on that? She sucks. Why would she be there?’”
But Joyce talked through her anxiety with her husband, television journalist Harry Smith, and a sports psychologist and she was able to get to a point where she could say, “If I make a mistake, I make a mistake. I’m human.”
“If there’s somebody out there that wanted to shine a bigger light on it because I was a woman, I mean there’s really not much I can do about it,” Joyce said.
After that 1991 selection show and that breakthrough moment, Joyce started landing even bigger and more high profile assignments, and she finally started to relax and enjoy them.
Identify Your Values and Stick to Them
Joyce covered the 1998 NCAA men’s basketball tournament for CBS, and Bobby Knight and his Indiana squad were among the eight teams in her assigned location for the first and second rounds.
Of course, CBS expected Joyce to score an interview with Coach Knight, but one of his former players had recently released a book that did not paint a flattering picture of Knight, so the Indiana sports information director told Joyce she could not ask him about it in the interview.
Coming from news, Joyce’s initial instinct was to cancel the interview all together, but the higher ups insisted she do it anyways.
In the hallway of the arena the night before the tournament was to begin, a fellow CBS employee tried to convince Joyce to wait until the end of the interview and then slip in a question about the book.
“Then,” he said, “you’ll have everything that you need from the interview and if he gets mad at the end, who cares? You’ve already got what you need.”
Joyce said, “I’m not going to do that. I gave them my word. There’s no way I’m sandbagging Bobby Knight.”
The next morning, as Joyce and her CBS crew prepared for the day’s games, color commentator Bill Raftery came in and told Joyce Knight wanted to see her in the locker room. Terrified of what could be awaiting her, Joyce went to the locker room, only to find a smiling Coach Knight who told her someone on her staff had overheard that conversation about sandbagging the interview the day before, and he really appreciated her integrity.
He went on to say any time she needed an interview from him, she could have it. Back in those days, coaches were not required to stop and give a sideline interview before half time, and Coach Knight notoriously never did. But that night, for Joyce, he stopped and he did the interview.
“A situation like that, it sort of goes back to the foundation, the questions that you ask yourself early on,” Joyce said. “What kind of reporter am I? What do I want people to know about me? What do I want them to remember about me? And standing up and taking responsibility when somebody suggests that you do something that you know isn’t in your DNA, whether it’s right or wrong, it’s just not in your DNA to be that kind of reporter.”