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Michelle Beisner-Buck, a feature reporter for ESPN, joined Playmakers for the Week 16 episode. First, she discussed the year-round nature of generating story ideas and how injuries, trades, and other unforeseen circumstances can hurt or even kill a story. Beisner-Buck also discussed the difficulty of condensing what could be a three-hour interview into a five-minute video package.
She described her previous role at NFL Network as a "utility player" as overwhelming at times but vital to her development as a journalist.
"I feel lucky…(and) really blessed that I sometimes felt like I was...going to sink instead of swim," Beisner-Buck said, "and I somehow always stayed above water."
She advised would-be sports journalists to "be focused, versatile, and make sure that you are learning everything that you can from producing to editing to sound mixing."
"I can write, I can edit, I can produce, I can be on live TV-- it doesn't freak me out-- those kind of people are what everyone is looking for," Beisner-Buck said.
The veteran journalist said that she likes to be involved in all aspects of production, including the editing process, because she truly cares about her work.
"I really want to have my hands in all of it," she said.
According to Beisner-Buck, good feature storytelling starts with the reporter.
"I have to be accountable and responsible and completely invested in my work and the person that I'm sitting with," Beisner-Buck said. "That person that you are interviewing has to be the most important person you've ever sat with. You have to make them feel that way. You have to be committed from start to finish in making sure that you are allowing them to tell their best story."
She also stressed that "people have to be able to trust you."
Beisner-Buck understands and values the impact of her work.
"I think it's really great to be able to take the helmet off, get rid of the uniform, and see a person standing in front of you," she said. "You get to actually humanize and make this person's struggles, triumphs, and adversity real. When you can do that, it all of a sudden becomes relatable."
Beisner-Buck served as a captain of the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders for five of her six years with the team, where she was party to consecutive Super Bowl titles. While cheerleading, she remembers looking at Melissa Stark reporting from the sideline during Monday Night Football and thinking that was her dream job. She then began to take advantage of the resources at her disposal within the Broncos organization to pursue her dream.
Beisner-Buck mentioned she's wanted to work in sports and entertainment from a young age.
"I was either gonna be dancing on Broadway or acting or...on the sidelines," she said.
Her "determination, curiosity, commitment, and dedication to what I knew I wanted to do led" her to her first opportunity as an NFL reporter, and from there, she continued to "(take) advantage of every opportunity that came my way."
According to Beisner-Buck, her background in dance and acting has served her well.
"There is definitely a performance aspect of what we do," she said, "and a cadence and tone and a rhythm a choreography to the way you deliver a lead-in or a tag, the way that you sit with someone, interact, the way you ask your questions, the way you navigate and dance through a feature."
Beisner-Buck said that she previously swore she'd never date, let alone marry, someone in sports media, but sportscaster Joe Buck was persistent, and she soon realized he was her "soulmate." She and Buck have twin son toddlers, and though their schedules are hectic, Beisner-Buck said, "there's no better feeling than being a mother and a parent with your person."
Finally, she spoke about women's evolving position in sports media, saying that she believes women sports journalists are increasingly more accepted by the public and have more opportunity.
"Now more than ever, women are getting the credit that they deserve," Beisner-Buck said. "That's refreshing and good to see."
First up this week on Chargers Weekly was Derek Watt, who discussed being named a Pro Bowl first alternate on special teams, where he is tied for the league lead in tackles.
"To come up as a first alternate was pretty special," Watt said. "Would have loved to be the guy there, but (Patriots wide receiver) Matthew Slater is a great player (and) has established himself as a great special-teamer in this league."
Next, Hayre chatted with running back Justin Jackson about facing a division rival.
"It doesn't matter what your record is, when you're playing a rival that game always goes down to the wire, it's always testy," Jackson said.
Afterward, Hayre and Hayley Elwood were joined by assistant equipment manager Kevin Duddy for another edition of 'uni-talk' to explore what goes into preparing for a Bolts game. Duddy, who has been with the Chargers organization for parts of three decades, also reminisces about preparing for games at the Oakland Coliseum and looks ahead to how his job will change when the Bolts play at SoFi Stadium next season.
Finally, Hayre sits down with the Los Angeles Times' Jeff Miller, Southern California News Group's Gilbert Manzano, and The Athletic's Daniel Popper for another beat writers roundtable. The group looks ahead to Sunday's matchup against the Raiders, also reflecting on the Chargers' season thus far, with the three agreeing that running back Austin Ekeler was snubbed from this year's Pro Bowl.
"Ekeler proved this year that he can run between the (tackles) and do a little bit of everything," Manzano said. "Approaching 1,000 receiving yards… he doesn't drop the ball ever, he's a reliable playmaker and gamechanger-- he had three touchdowns in the season opener, so I think it's a snub for Austin Ekeler."