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JP Finlay Visits Journalism Classes at Dominion

The Redskins Insider for NBC Sports Washington came to share his life as a journalist to the many journalism students at Dominion.

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JP Finlay is an important sports figure in D.C. right now, especially with the Redskins regular season starting up today, as the Redskins Insider for NBC Sports Washington. Finlay stopped by L620 on Thursday, September 6th to talk to the Newspaper, Broadcast, and Introduction to Journalism students about his experiences in journalism, what it is like to be a sports journalist, and advice about making it in the journalism world.

The journalism world is an ever changing one and as Finlay said, “You have to change the television coverage to [fit] the digital landscape.”

Finlay’s described what his career as a sports journalist is like day to day, by touching on what his time looks like for away games, “[For] long travel you go two days in advance,” says Finlay. On the day of the game he gets to the field two and a half hours early, once he gets to the field, Finlay explains, “I don’t even go up to the press box anymore, you can get everything on the field.”

Getting information on the field is a big part of Finlay’s reporting as he is able to get lots of information before the game even starts, saying, “the biggest information gathering you can do in journalism is watching.” He explains how you don’t get an exclusive story by following the herd, Finlay says, “Go where people aren’t.”

As the Redskins Insider, he has many other responsibilities during and before the game, he goes on air twice before the game to provide analysis of the game, as well as coming onto the jumbotron during halftime at home games to do a recap of the game. These appearances on the jumbotron in a situation in which the Redskins are losing are often very difficult, saying, “The biggest key is that you can never be dishonest… but there is other information you can provide.”

Then it was opened up to student questions, as the whole reason Finlay came to speak at Dominion was because of junior Varun Shankar, who is a staff reporter for DHS Press. Varun reached out to him through twitter and then journalism teacher Mr. Schwartz continued to contact him through email. Finlay said of Shankar reaching out to him, “Don’t think you can’t talk to someone… you can talk to anyone you want.”

The questions from students had Finlay talking about how he got the best interviews, his favorite interview as a journalist, his favorite aspect of journalism, what he does during the NFL offseason, and overall advice on how to make it as a journalist.

After the games, Finlay goes into the locker rooms to interview the players. Finlay described two experiences in which he was able to get a great story off of choosing a more unique person to interview, these stories impressed his editors at the time, as he was number 8 on an 8 person Redskins reporting team and set him apart from the other seven on the team.

In 2013 when Robert Griffin III was struggling, Finlay went into the 49ers locker room and asked Ahmad Brooks about RG3, who, according to Finlay said, “He’s obviously a man and he makes his own decisions, but I personally don’t feel he should be playing right now.” This audio by Finlay blew up and was quoted in other notable publications such as Bleacher report and the Los Angeles Times.

Another instance of Finlay being rewarded with a great story for not following the herd, was when he asked Zach Bowman what it was like playing against Kirk Cousins, according to Finlay, Bowman responded, “It’s like Christmas,” when referring to the amount of picks Cousins was throwing that game. Again, this quote made an impact on Bleacher Report, The Washington Post, and SportsCenter.

When asked about his favorite interview as a journalist, Finlay said, “The one that stuck with me the most was Rob Kelly.” Finlay explained how he went over after the game to talk to him about the result of the game, Finlay says, “Nobody knows anything else about this guy, he lost his house.. [his family] couldn’t get out before Hurricane Katrina.” Finlay continued by saying, “They are all just people, they all have stories and obstacles.”

Despite the many different platforms that Finlay can be found on, he considers podcasting to be his favorite because you have as much time as you want and you can talk about any topic you want for as long as you want. Finlay said, “You can go wide and deep about something [while podcasting],” and you often don’t have the time or resources to do this on another medians such as writing or television.

During the offseason, there is still a lot to do as the Redskins beat reporter, as Finlay explains, “[The] NFL is kind of a year-round world.” But other than the NFL, Finlay talked about how he did some work around the Capitals, Finlay said, “It as kind of all hands on deck [during the Capitals Stanley Cup run]… I did some man-on-the-street interviews [surrounding the Capitals].”

Plenty of advice was given to the young journalists about getting into the career of journalism. He told students to get learn as much as they can, “The more things you can do the more chances you have to get a job and get better jobs,” also that, “You have to be able to write.”

Finlay also gave advice on how to get the best article you can by not just reporting the facts but also giving analysis about what it means and how it affects people. This also includes, “You need to be able to think fast, if you see a problem, ask good questions, [and] be perceptive,” says Finlay. When it comes to reporting losses or news that is bad for the team he is covering, Finlay said, “You got to tell the truth, if everything sucks you have to tell what happened.”

Still, there are many struggles that come with being a journalist, many people in media have part-time jobs before landing full-time jobs and getting that first job, says Finlay, “[It’s a] legit hurdle.” He also talks about the tough hours that journalists often have to work, Finlay says, “You are working nights, you are working holidays, you are working weekends.” And while “The NFL is the closest as you get to a 9 to 5 reality… the biggest hurdle right now is balancing my life,” says Finlay.

Finlay grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and attended the University of Maryland and studied Communications. Finlay also went on to get his masters in journalism at the University of Georgetown.

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JP Finlay Visits Journalism Classes at Dominion