Ellie Riegner JMS’24, a Florida native and Big Ten athlete who plays on the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team, is headed for a career in sports journalism.
Seeking to gain invaluable experience as a sports reporter, Riegner is currently interning at NBC Sports. There, as the sideline assistant working with SC&I alumna and sideline reporter Kathryn Tappen JMS’03, she is part of the team covering Big Ten Saturday Night Football, which is aired weekly at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
Riegner said working with Tappen “is a special opportunity and one that I am grateful for every day. I have consistently been in touch with Kathryn about my career plans and internship opportunities since my freshman year when we met by chance in a class that matched students with Rutgers alum mentors.”
Her Journalism and Media Studies professors, Riegner said, “prepared me for this work 100 percent. As I progressed through Rutgers, my classes became more specialized and geared toward showing us what we would be doing in the real world of broadcast journalism, and in my case, sports journalism. Many of my classes are interactive where we learn skills that will be used after college as journalists or writers or reporters.”
Learn more about Riegner and how she thrives in sports journalism in our Q&A below.
SC&I: What made you decide to go to Rutgers as a student-athlete?
ER: I was recruited by Rutgers to play lacrosse, which was ideal because I always knew I wanted to be at a bigger school, particularly a Big Ten environment. Rutgers was appealing because of its football environment, school pride, and overall reputation academically and athletically. It was also geographically appealing since it was easy for my parents to get on a flight from Florida to New Jersey to come visit me or to come to my games. Another reason the location was a plus was because of its proximity to major cities and the network of people I can and have become connected with nearby. This is especially important to me as I head into the broadcast industry.
All of my professors have given me the confidence and support to help me do my best work right now, and I am forever grateful for them and my experiences in their classes.
SC&I: Why do you want to major in JMS and specialize in sports media?
ER: The reason I am majoring in JMS and specializing in sports media is because of my career goals, specifically being a sports reporter. I knew that majoring in journalism and media studies would provide me with a solid foundation and skills, reporting and writing, in particular, that would prepare me for a career in broadcasting.
I have wanted to be a sports reporter for as long as I can remember. I believe it is a career that combines my passion for storytelling, getting to know the person behind the player, being around people, which energizes me, and of course, sports overall.
SC&I: How did you find the opportunity to intern at NBC Sports, and how has the experience impacted you?
ER: The work that I am currently doing at NBC Sports as a sideline assistant is a special opportunity and one that I am grateful for every day. When this position opened up, I got the phone call of a lifetime. I really have my dream job – being a part of the well-oiled machine that is our sideline team.
The best and most unique part about my job is that it shows me firsthand what I hope to be doing moving forward, and it allows me to see the industry front and center. I am able to see the behind-the-scenes view of the programs/shows and games everyone watches at home. While I always thought this was what I wanted to do for my career, now I know for sure.
This experience continues to impact me in a huge way. Every weekend, I learn something new, meet someone new, and experience something new. Who knew Iowa would be one of my favorite places?!
Most importantly, this job is giving me the skills and knowledge that is just not possible in a classroom. I feel like I have a bigger purpose and a bigger passion. Throughout this process, I have left every weekend (of my senior year) happier and more excited than I have ever been. And I get to do it all alongside an amazing group of dedicated, professional, smart, and kind individuals who are incredibly passionate about what they do and who want the same for those around them.
SC&I: How has your connection with SC&I alum Kathryn Tappen influenced you?
ER: My experience with Kathryn has been nothing short of amazing. As I mentioned, we connected my freshman year at Rutgers, and she has been a mentor and role model to me ever since. I stayed in touch with her, AND she stayed in touch with me! I am extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work alongside her and see her expertise in action, while also getting to see her off-camera. Her passion and dedication in preparation for every show is admirable. I watch her every move and am amazed every weekend. She is who I want to be when I grow up, ha!
We’ve had many conversations about how she got started and the path that led her to where she is today. I am incredibly fortunate to have her guidance, feedback, and friendship. She understands exactly where I am and where I want to be, and as busy as she is, she makes time for me and continues to support my journey in every way she can. Over the past few years, Kathryn has remained one of my biggest supporters and continues to encourage and guide me. I am lucky every day to have her as a role model, not only professionally, but also personally.
She has shown me how special and impactful it is to influence someone’s life so heavily. She is certainly paying it forward, and I hope to be in the position to do the same one day.
SC&I: What are some things you find the most rewarding about studying JMS at SC&I?
ER: One of the areas I feel lucky to have experienced, and one that I believe has prepared me the most, is that most, if not all, of my professors have real-world experience themselves. Some currently write or report for major sports news channels, and some have been professors for years and have a pool of valuable connections. Their individual experiences are so valuable and applying that to their classes is extremely beneficial. All of my professors have given me the confidence and support to help me do my best work right now, and I am forever grateful for them and my experiences in their classes.
Photos: Riegner at Purdue University and Riegner and Tappen at the University of Iowa. Images courtesy of Ellie Riegner.