The USC Annenberg Files: 15 People You Should Hire Instead of Me

This week, for the last four years, I was heading back to a most fantastic place: the University of Southern California. And now I’m not.

What a strange feeling. I miss this week: the days before the school year starts. I don’t miss the actual school year much, but the off-days, of course!

Plus, the lucky brats at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism get a new building this year. Those ungrateful… brats.

Look at this exterior.

Wallis Annenberg Hall

Bask in the glow of this newsroom!

Annenberg Newsroom


Annenberg Studio

I decided I wanted to write about a few of the classmates with whom I was lucky to work (and drink). If you’re a friend of mine and you’re not on this list, I secretly hate you I’ll be writing more of these lists as a demonstration of gratitude for my friends. Take a chill pill.

Plus, I still have more than 350 of these blog posts to go, and I’m always strapped for ideas. These were the first 15 names that came to mind, the Opening 15:

Kristen Rodgers — If you are ever going to lead an organization with someone, do it with Kristen. She is uncommonly organized and dedicated, works as hard as a Puritan and will do the things you don’t want to do. Add in the fact that she is a dynamite sports reporter and a good-looking blonde, and you’ll see her on one of your national sports shows soon enough.

(If any potential employers read the previous paragraph, Kristen was a lazy figurehead. I did everything myself.)

Elisa Hernandez — Another my partner-in-crime in producing the sports-balls of Annenberg TV News, and you couldn’t ask for a better one. Elisa was dedicated in keeping the website and social media updated with fresh content every day, along with many other tasks that were probably my job instead of hers. Sports job hirers: if you need a do-it-all digital whiz, give her a call.

Evan Budrovich — I am only lucky that I graduated one year ahead of him, so I get a 12-month head-start on applying for the sportscasting jobs that he would get. All the skills I think I have? Evan has more — knowledge, great voice, broadcasting acumen and overall handsomeness. I better get out of the sports broadcasting business before Evan takes every job.

Sarah Sax — She has a work ethic for days and interests in all the things I usually find boring (meaning politics). I don’t know if Sarah is going to become a political reporter, a national TV producer or head of the Anti-Defamation League. She could do any of them.

Jessica Benson — Screw Jessica. She gets to do everything I want to in life: traveling to the Final Four and National Championships, working for ESPN, doing sideline reporting for baseball, getting an awesome sports anchoring job, meeting Bob Costas and Al Michaels. If she weren’t an amazing person who deserves everything she gets, I would loathe her.

Paige Graham — While she’s working on the web side of things now, but you’re going to see Paige anchoring Super Bowl coverage some day. She possesses some rare traits, not the least of which was putting up with my awful jokes every Wednesday and during several classes. The ability to survive hours with me without clawing your own eyes out is perhaps the rarest trait of all.

Mike Piellucci — This dude was the finest wordsmith I had the privilege of editing at Neon Tommy. No one else pushed me to a thesaurus more. I don’t know why the hell he wrote for our silly website, but I’m glad he did. He’s a knockout writer, and we’re just lucky that he chooses to write about sports.

Katie Rooney — Or Kate, if you’re going by her professional name. The powers-that-be stuck a 19-year-old sophomore with a 30-year-old grad student to run Neon Tommy Sports, and it’s a credit to the grad student that we didn’t sink the site and I did not end up murdered. Generous with her time and a better leader than I could hope to be, I know she is killing it with Pac-12 Networks.

Aaron Fischman — Meet another one of my classmates who works three times as hard as I do. And it shows. He’s a smart, terrific writer who has forgotten more about basketball than I will ever remember. Keep your nose to the grindstone, Aaron. Good things are coming.

Will Robinson — A fellow leader at Neon Tommy: a great editor and an even better friend. Whether he ends up writing about football or basketball, you can expect intelligence and humor from his work. But as a Sacramento Kings fan, he is an unfortunate glutton for punishment.

Alexa Girkout — Another person I am lucky to graduate in front of, because if she sticks to baseball writing instead of silly little music writing, she’ll take another job that I would be looking to get. However, she does like my puns, which means she ought to be put in an insane asylum.

Matt Leland — The inverse is true here: I am unfortunate to be younger than the smart and talented Matt Leland. He was the best baseball play-by-play announcer I had the privilege to work with. If he ever gets back to that vocation (though I can’t blame him for saddling up with MLB Advance Media), he’ll be on a Major League announcing track.

Nick Burton — This guy is incredibly kind and even more incredibly hard-working. I could give Nick many compliments, but let me just summarize by saying: If I am ever lucky enough to hire a producer in the future, Nick will be the first person I call.

Jeremy Bergman — I’ve said it before, but it is very difficult to be funny in print writing. Jeremy does it, somehow, and did professional work for an amateur site. Soon he’ll be one of your favorite sports writers. He was one of my favorites to edit.

Jacob Freedman — I left Neon Tommy in good hands with Jacob. He had better ideas for the site than I ever did and remains devoted to producing a quality sports section. He brought fantastic experience from 30-some-odd internships he has had. I don’t know how he finds all that time.

Again, this will be just the first of several editions in which I laud the abilities of my classmates. I haven’t forgotten you.

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