Penn alum Jesse Spector never left sports


Sporting News writer attemped to buy Montreal Expos while at Penn, now covers NHL




When bidding for a Major League Baseball team doesn’t work out, try sports journalism.

That’s the path 2002 Penn graduate Jesse Spector took. A former Rangers beat writer for the New York Daily News, he’s since moved on to covering the NHL for the Sporting News, a position he’s held for about a year.

Unfortunately, despite winter rapidly approaching, Spector is covering collective bargaining instead of hockey games.

“I’d love to have a date that I really thought we are going to have the NHL again,” Spector said. “But I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody does. I don’t think the NHL and [NHL Players’ Association] know when the season is going to start.”

Despite a bleak outlook for the season, Spector has continued to provide commentary each day on the lockout ranging from collective bargaining agreement suggestions and putting advertisements on jerseys to bringing back a version of the “glow puck” and legalizing sports gambling in North America.

Other than analyzing each of the sides’ proposals, he has also poked fun at them. On Oct. 16, he parodied the NHL’s focus group controversy with Penn grad and former GOP strategist Frank Luntz. In the article, in which the league explored public relations options instead of actually negotiating with the players.

When Spector was at Penn, he also showed off his sense of humor. As a senior, he and two friends made a joking attempt to buy Major League Baseball’s Montreal Expos. The inside joke grew into a national story and eventually raised over $3 million.

The idea began in 2001 when MLB was considering contracting the Montreal Expos. Spector and his friends, who all worked for The Daily Pennsylvanian, went around the office asking for donations to help buy the team from the league.

The movement quickly took off. Spector happened to be in the same fantasy baseball league as Alan Schwarz, who worked for ESPN.com at the time. After talking to Schwarz about the developing attempt to buy the Expos, Schwarz did a story for ESPN, prompting the movement to gain national attention. It culminated in an appearance on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and a few million dollars in donations.

“It was crazy being a senior in college looking to get a sports journalism job and becoming the story,” Spector said. “It was something else. I wonder how much more it would have taken off if Twitter had existed. It was a real early lesson for me on the power of the internet to spread something.”

During his time at the Daily News and the Sporting News, Spector has established a strong social media presence. Instead of simply publicizing his articles, he has used Twitter and other platforms to interact with fans and other media members about more than just hockey, including his continuing support for the since-relocated Expos.

“One of the things that they told me when they were bringing me in at the Sporting News was that part of the reason they were interested in me was because of my work on social media,” he said. “I am someone who really takes to it. If I wasn’t a journalist, I would still be [on Twitter] anyway.”

With the world slowly moving away from print media, Spector is someone who is adapting with the times. Other than his use of Twitter, he is also excited about Sporting News’ focus on a digitalized future, including their fully online publication and new iPad app.

“I love print newspapers in my hand. I loved working at the Daily News. I loved working at the DP, but people are consuming their news in different ways now,” Spector said. “That’s just being part of the world in 2012: getting involved in social media and the internet.”

Despite his continuing hockey coverage, the fact remains there are still no games to cover. In spite of this, he remains passionate about his job.

“My dream job is to watch sports and get paid to talk about it,” he said. “I’ve got one of those jobs, and it’s fantastic.”

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