ESPN columnist, sideline reporter J.A. Adande hopes to provide unique experience for Medill students

J.A. Adande

Photo courtesy of Medill

J.A. Adande

Fathma Rahman, Development and Recruitment Editor

J.A. Adande came to Northwestern University in 1989 as an undergraduate student for its proximity to a big city, collegiate-looking campus and the best journalism education in the country.

“I wanted squirrels — and Northwestern had them,” Adande said. “It was the best decision I’ve made in my life.”

24 years after graduating with a journalism degree, Adande is returning to NU this fall to lead Medill’s sports media specialization program, a focus initiative of the new specializations at the master’s level, Medill dean Bradley Hamm said.

“We have amazing alumni throughout the United States in sports journalism,” Hamm said. “I’ve been able to talk with J.A. for several years about different things we’re doing at the school and as we started working on this, he seemed like an ideal person to run the program.”

Adande said his main goal is recruiting the best students and faculty to the program so they can put together the best sports journalism curriculum in the country.

“With the great resources and alumni network that we have, we can really put together a unique experience for the students that will best prepare them to be in the changing modern journalism world,” Adande said.

Adande’s first job out of NU was at the Chicago-Sun Times, where he covered college football and basketball around the Big Ten as well as the Chicago Bulls. He then went to the Washington Post, covering Georgetown University during Allen Iverson’s time there and the Washington Bullets, now known as the Washington Wizards. In 1997, Adande returned to his home state of California to write for the Los Angeles Times. He stayed there ten years before beginning to work for ESPN in 2007 as a columnist and sideline reporter.

In addition to running the sports media program, Adande will also be a professor at Medill. Though Adande’s course schedule has not been finalized, Hamm said he will most likely be teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses every year.

“The journalism that I learned in Medill in the 80s and 90s — the core of it applies, but the methods are very different now,” Adande said. “We will be adamant about the journalistic principles that have always been stressed at Medill, but will update it and make sure that our students are well versed in the modern means of communication and disseminating stories.”

While at NU, Adande said he spent his time in class, working at SPAC and writing for The Daily, where he served as sports editor.

Medill prof. John Kupetz taught an introductory reporting and writing class that Adande took in the late 80s — pre-internet, he said, where students covered lead writing, briefing, obituaries and other basics. Adande remembers Kupetz best for his green pen he used for edits instead of a red pen. Kupetz described him as a “superb” student.

“Back then, I remember telling him that besides being a good reporter at The Daily Northwestern, that I thought he had such an incredible voice,” Kupetz said. “The voice that he has now at ESPN — he had that when he was a sophomore. A really clear, deep voice.”

Kupetz said that Adande brings to broadcast what old-fashioned broadcasters like Walter Cronkite bring, in that after spending a great part of his career doing print journalism, he says it has made him an exceptional writer and reporter that sets him apart at ESPN from the others.

“(Adande) is like a lot of the sports reporters that came out of The Daily Northwestern who were really great and are more interested in the story than having a glib personality,” Kupetz said. “Medill is getting a great addition to their faculty and I don’t think you could find a better person or journalist than J. for what he does.”

Reflecting on some his most memorable experiences as a sports journalist, Adande listed several moments he was present for, naming players like John Paxson, Muhammad Ali and Stephen Curry. He hopes to provide Medill students with the same opportunities.

“That’s one thing about sports — you’re never done producing unprecedented moments,” Adande said. “There’s always going to be something better or more remarkable, and I want to help students get the chance to experience that, to cover that and share it with the audience the same way that I had the opportunity to do.”

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Twitter: @fathmarahman