After graduation, Joe Spears, B.A.J. ’17, landed a job with Gannett/the USA Today Network, and moved from Indiana to Tennessee. He started out in Jackson, Tenn., then headed to Murfreesboro, where he was the Middle Tennessee State University beat writer. Recently, Spears moved within Gannett to become the USA Today High School Sports Reporter. He focuses on covering prep sports in the Nashville area. We asked him about his latest gig:
1. How has your new job been going so far?
“I’m loving what I do now! I’ve been helping with our growth in Nashville in the preps department as well as our social media presence. I’ve also been tasked with helping some of our newer writers, which was an interesting challenge over the summer.”
2. How did you feel when you landed this job?
“I was really excited when I found out that I was being moved back to preps. I did enjoy my time covering MTSU but I also realized that covering that sort of beat wasn’t my thing. I started helping with our coverage in Columbia last year but switched full-time to Nashville over the spring.”
3. How have you been settling in to your new city?
“I’ve loved Nashville since I was a little kid so the move here is everything I wanted it to be. The pandemic put a hold on a lot of things but now I’m able to go out and meet my coworkers and hang out with my friends. I would love to stay in Nashville for as long as possible.”
4. What have been a few of your favorite stories that you’ve covered in your current role?
“One of my favorite stories so far actually wasn’t a preps story. A few weeks back I did a story on Vanderbilt tight end Tommy Smith, who is a 32-year-old father of two. He’s also a Navy officer who is attending Vanderbilt to get his MBA. I really enjoyed working on that story.
With preps, I enjoy most of the stories I write on Friday nights after games. We focus on recruiting coverage so I enjoy getting to know these players, why they’re looking at certain colleges, and who they are as people off the field.”
5. Have you faced many challenges with your new job?
“My biggest challenge is establishing myself with coaches in Nashville. Being so new to the area, I’m the low guy on the totem pole. We have a lot of competition down here but I want to be the preps voice in the area when it comes to breaking news and other stories. I want to be the person coaches come to with story ideas. That’s been my main goal and while it’s been tough, I’ve enjoyed the challenge.”