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InterviewSocial

[Chapter 13] Reporting Live! with Stephanie Funkhouser

You can find Stephanie’s blog by clicking here.

“Walkin’ with Joaquin” returns for a new set of interviews! In case you need a refresher on what this is about, let me summarize it for you! This is an online series where I facilitate interviews with professionals from various industries around the world. Through a series of questions, with a mix of fun in-betweens, I get to tease out and dissect my interviewee’s thoughts, habits, ideas, and opinions so that you can apply it in your everyday life.

What is so special about this re-installment? This is my first time to have interviewees from outside Canada. Thanks to technology and the power of social media, I’ve had the pleasure to reach out, pitch, ask, and learn the stories of professionals from New York, San Diego, Michigan, and even all the way from the Philippines!

I am excited to introduce to you my guest, Stephanie Funkhouser! I touched base on her broadcasting career, her time in Seville Spain, the importance of resiliency and taking criticisms, and the giant bug that made her scream!

VIDA ESPAÑOLA

Stephanie Funkhouser graduated with a degree in Sports Management at the University of Michigan. I originally wanted to take the conversation to this career path, but something else caught my attention. She complemented her degree with a minor in Spanish and also a study-abroad opportunity in Seville, Spain in 2013. This peaked my curiosity on why she chose to integrate these two fields, whether she has Spanish roots, y su vida con una familia española (and her life with a Spanish family).

“I loved learning the language in high school and extended even until my time in university,” Stephanie mentioned. She also thought that it might be helpful in her professional career as some sports, like baseball, have a strong Hispanic following. She switched gears to her time in Seville where she recalled living with a family that spoke no English at all. “Communicating in Spanish is way different in school compared to when you have to speak it 24/7,” Stephanie shared. “It helped me become fluent pretty quickly and all my classes were in Spanish, too, so that helped!”.

While it’s been 5 years since the fun moments in Seville, Stephanie admits that her Spanish has become “a little rusty”.

JP: Although an immersion is a great step to foreign language fluency, not everyone may have the time or the luxury to experience this. I find that small tasks all add up to the major goal. In my case for French fluency, I started off with language apps such as Duolingo to establish that base. The internet is a never-ending pool of resources. I even found a French news broadcast is streamed live on YouTube. Finally, when you network with someone, ask them if they speak other languages. Most people would be happy to practice their language with you.

Stephanie speaks at Grand Rapids Art Museum for the “Who Shot Sports” exhibit. Image from Stephanie Funkhouser’s Instagram (@funky5).

STEPHANIE’S FIRST STEPS IN BROADCASTING.

At any career, you have to start somewhere. For Stephanie, it started at WOLV TV, University of Michigan’s student-run television station. What is so interesting about this station? Students of all majors are welcome. Not only did Stephanie get to learn the ropes of broadcasting, but she also got to work with students from various degrees — thus, creating a lasting impact to the university’s 45,000-strong student body.

Stephanie went on pursuing more roles in broadcasting, including a sideline reporting role at Big Ten Network (BTN) Student U. She took on more responsibilities including graphics, replay, and camera work, among others.

JP: I noticed an interesting trend on Stephanie’s career. My guess is that these roles that she shared with me are only a fraction of many other reporting jobs that she auditioned and applied for. In an industry known for rejection and criticism, how does she demonstrate a “yes attitude”? The answer lies in the next section.

RESILIENCY AND CRITICISM.

Before landing her current role as a Sports Anchor at FOX 17, she also did some freelance reporting. “It’s definitely a grind as I bounce from one gig to the next,” said Funkhouser. She admitted that her broadcasting career took an unconventional path after graduating from college. Despite being armed with the skills to succeed in the industry, combined with her charming personality, she knew early on that it’s not enough. “Not everyone is going to like you or see your potential,” Stephanie added. She owes it to resiliency and willing to take criticism as the two guiding factors on how she kept going. “Learn from your criticism, continue to work hard, and do your best. People notice hard work”.

March Madness coverage. Image from Stephanie Funkhouser’s Instagram (@funky5).

THE “WING T OFFENSE”.

Stephanie shared a story when she met with a high school football team before the season. Typical questions might include the preparations done by the team and/or the mindsets of the athletes. Stephanie took things one step further. “I asked the coach about running a wing T offense at his new school and how the team has been handling the transition,” Stephanie recalled. The coach was impressed with Stephanie’s research and preparation that, during the season, the coach always came up to her before the games started.

That is Stephanie’s “Wing T Offense”. People recognize hard work and they know when you’ve done your research.

THE ONE WITH THE GIANT BUG.

One might think that working in broadcasting is all glamour. Take a quick search on YouTube and thousands of clips pop up. Stephanie is no stranger to this. While she does not have her own blooper reel, she recalls a funny moment in her broadcasting career.

“I was covering high school sports at my last job. A giant bug landed on me while I was recording standups at a football game. I didn’t notice a buzzing noise started to interfere with my microphone. I, then, dropped the mic and ran away screaming! I think my friends still talk about how funny it was”.

JP: Life can get intense sometimes. At some point, there will be a giant bug that will land on us, reminding us that not everything will fall into place, that it’s okay to scream away our emotions, and not take life too seriously.

FUN FACTS:

     “Funky5”. “Everyone always asks me about ‘funky5’!” said Stephanie. This is her Instagram username (if you are not yet following her, you should!). The number 5 is her jersey number in    soccer and “funky” is a wordplay on her surname. “My friends would always joke, “Funky 5 is     reporting live!” Catchy, isn’t it?

     Live games or working in studio? While Stephanie mentions her fondness of working in both settings, she thrives more on working within the live games. “It’s fun to be at events where you feel connected to the sport and what you are talking about,” Stephanie added.

     Stephanie’s footprint. “I want to be remembered in this world as a genuine person.”

     Favorite social media. Instagram (@funky5)

     Netflix shows. “I just watched Stranger Things and loved it! I am a big fan of ‘This is Us” right now, but I could use a New Netflix recommendation.

FOX17’s very own Sports Reporter! Image from Stephanie Funkhouser’s Instagram (@funky5).

ASKING QUESTIONS

Stephanie’s career is more than opinions, facts, and stats. A big part of her job is asking questions to athletes, coaches, and team staff. What are the components of good questions? How does she come up with questions? For someone watching Stephanie on TV, her tone and line of questioning seem natural. It turns that her strategy includes a mix of simplicity and a whole lot of listening. “Stop thinking about it [the question] too much,” advised Funkhouser. “The best questions are real and genuine. You don’t need to throw out stats at the beginning of every question to sound smart. Listen well to your interviewee. Then, take off your questions from the answers”.

FINAL THOUGHTS.

Stephanie’s personal page starts with a quotation: “Find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life”. Why does this quotation resonate with her? I noticed that her love for her career even transcends all the way here in Toronto. “I get to talk about sports for a living!” Funkhouser said.

She confesses that life as a broadcaster is not always easy. “I spend 10 – 12 hours of shooting my own stories, then rushing back to the studio to anchor three sportscasts,” Funkhouser added. “At the end of the day, I remember how lucky I am to have this job. I get to share stories and make connections. For that, I will always feel very lucky!”

You can find Stephanie’s blog by clicking here.

On y va!

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