News Anchor Makes The Jump To ESPN

By James J. Lidington

ESPN broadcaster Jay Harris didn’t start out wanting to work for “the Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

Though he counts longtime sportscasters Brent Musberger and Bryant Gumbel as major influences, the 1987 speech communication graduate had been in Pittsburgh for 12 years and was happily working as the main news anchor of the WPGH/Fox 10 p.m. broadcast when he decided to send a videotape to a friend at ESPN.

His friend’s boss saw the tape and the network invited Harris for an audition. After a long talk with his wife, Stephanie, whom he met at ODU in 1988, Harris decided to make the jump to ESPN in February 2003. He began as an anchor for ESPNews, one of four ESPN channels, but after just a few months on the job he was also appearing on the Saturday morning and evening broadcasts of ESPN’s popular SportsCenter news/highlight program.

Harris spends most of his time writing and working with producers to come up with those “nuggets of information you don’t and won’t get anywhere else,” hallmarks of ESPN. The 38-year-old Norfolk native now works alongside such well-known personalities as Chris Berman and Stuart Scott. “I see everyone at some time or another,” Harris said. “Most of my conversations with Dan Patrick have come in the restroom. They’ve been entertaining, but the location has been strange.”

Prior to joining Fox, Harris was morning news anchor for Sheridan Broadcasting and WAMO-FM in Pittsburgh, and WOWI-FM in Norfolk. He credits WAVY-TV newsman Don Roberts, the former news director at WRAP-AM, for giving him his break in broadcasting. Among his many awards is a Silver World Medal from the New York Festivals for writing and hosting American Urban Radio Networks’ “Year-In-Review” program.

According to Harris, the best thing about being an anchor is having the opportunity to set an example for young people, especially African American boys like his 4-year-old son, Bryce.

Harris said Gumbel remains his chief TV role model. “I really don’t care what people think of him personally, and being in the business, I take what everyone says about everyone else with a grain of salt,” he said. “Professionally, he’s one of the most well-rounded, thorough journalists living.”

Harris, who said he decided as an 11th-grader that sports journalism was the ideal job, has reported this year on everything from the NBA finals to Roger Clemens’ successful quest for his 300th win to the problems surrounding former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett. “I’d like to do more with the NFL, but right now I’m just enjoying the experience,” Harris said.

He also noted that he’s grateful for the experience he received at Old Dominion. “ODU let me grow, challenge myself and try things that I might not have tried,” Harris said. “It also gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with different people and cemented the foundation I rely on daily.