Cronkite students Final Four

Phoenix Cronkite students take advantage of multiple opportunities across the Valley during NCAA Men’s Final Four

Friday, April 12, 2024


Sammy Miller grew up in a family that loved basketball. So the opportunity to cover the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four as a college student was “beyond her wildest dreams.”

Miller spent Final Four weekend with other students from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication covering the games, documenting events on social media and engaging with fans. The Final Four took place April 6-8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

Miller reported on the Final Four with students from the Cronkite News Phoenix Sports Bureau, while other Cronkite students from across the school provided communications support. The students joined their peers from all around ASU who volunteered in other capacities, with the university serving as the host school for the event

The Cronkite News Phoenix Sports Bureau class is an immersive capstone experience in which students cover local professional and collegiate teams as well as major sporting events in Arizona.

The bureau’s students reported on various aspects of the Final Four from the games, players and coaches to the fan experience at events held throughout the Valley. The bureau produced a Cronkite Sports Report Final Four Special on location from the Phoenix Convention Center that previewed the games and included feature stories on the growth of businesses near the stadium, as well as interviews with former players who competed in past NCAA tournaments.

“I was really impressed by the way that they were able to contribute ideas and creatively think of how we can do the show, from the content to what the set would look like, where we could be, guests that we could invite on the show for a live experience and just their skill set and being able to orchestrate all that,” said Professor of Practice Gail Rhodes, who oversees the broadcast students in the bureau.

Miller, a senior who is enrolled in the bureau, covered the games from the sideline, reported on a number of feature stories and attended press conferences throughout the event.   

“I learned so much throughout the process and was able to grow as a journalist,” Miller said. “I was able to interview so many players and coaches, stretching my skills and I also did a live shot for Cronkite News before the national championship, which was nerve wracking but ended up being so amazing.”

Other Cronkite students worked alongside communications professionals in the Social Media Command Center operated by the Phoenix Local Organizing Committee at the Phoenix Convention Center, where they posted social media updates, provided information on ticketing and parking and took photos for fans in front of the NCAA Championship trophy and other Arizona-themed backdrops.

Cronkite Agency Executive Director and Professor of Practice John Nicoletti and Clinical Assistant Professor Abby Zufelt, who leads the digital marketing team for the agency, both coordinated opportunities for Cronkite students to volunteer. The agency is a class and immersive capstone where students serve real clients with public relations, digital marketing, brand content and bilingual engagement work.

“The skills that Cronkite students gain from our digital audiences courses and within the Cronkite Agency Digital Marketing Capstone prepare them to participate in exciting opportunities like the Social Media Command Center,” said Zufelt, who connected students from the agency and online Digital Audiences Program with opportunities to work in the command center. 

Cronkite students also worked in the media lounge at the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel & Spa near State Farm Stadium, volunteered at the Tip-Off Tailgate presented by Nissan and greeted visitors arriving at Sky Harbor Airport.

Alyssa Esquivel, a senior sports journalism major and student in the agency, conducted mini mic interviews for social media and captured content at the Fan Fest at the Phoenix Convention Center and March Madness Music Festival at Hance Park in downtown Phoenix. 

“This opportunity to work with the Final Four and gain this experience is incredible, and it’s just one of the reasons why I love Cronkite,” Esquivel said. 

Online student Shannon Sheree, who is pursuing her Bachelor of Science Digital Audiences, also created social media content for the Fan Fest. 

“I have a huge passion for photography, social media and sports,” Sheree said. “So I think just combining those things and the fact that this could open up a lot of doors for me in either the sports world, media or events within Arizona is extremely exciting.” 

By Lauren Boykins