FEATURE: The Long Road to Success: A Talk with Lisa Salters
Feb. 17, 2011
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Salters attended Penn State from 1984 to 1988 and graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. The Nittany Lion Alum spent two years of her time in Happy Valley as a member of the Lady Lion basketball team as well. She made the team as a walk-on in 1985 and played for two years, after which she chose to hand in her jersey and focus solely on her education.
The 45-yeard-old sports journalist said that she worked from the bottom all the way up to the top of the reporting world, and that she is happy to be where she is today.
"I started my career in Baltimore at WPAL-TV in 1988 and I started at the very bottom of the food chain," said Salters. "I was just a glorified runner."
Salters explained that this first job included nothing more than running tapes to her superior colleagues, fixing printers and doing odd jobs for her coworkers. However, she said that even these small tasks made a huge difference in her career path.
"I was ecstatic just to be able to do that," said Salters. "I mean just to get your foot in the door, that's my biggest advice to people now when they ask you know, how can I get in the business. I tell them no matter what your long-term aspirations are, just get your foot in the door. Even if it is being just a glorified runner, get your foot in the door and get as much experience as you can and just keep growing."
An award-winning success at WPAL-TV, Salters was recognized for her efforts by an ABC agent in 1995 and was asked to join the network staff. The Philadelphia native agreed and was relocated to the ABC Los Angeles headquarters where she was a hard-news reporter for the next five years.
Although Salters enjoyed her time at ABC and worked hard to hold one of the highest positions at the network, she said that she was a bit different than most of her colleagues. She recalled that while most of her co-workers would start off their day by reading the front page of the newspaper, she was the one to grab the sports section.
"I kept up with the news obviously because that was my job but for me fun was reading the sports page and finding out what was going on in sports," said Salters.
In 2000, Salters was again recognized for her work and asked to join a new team, but this time it was by a different news genre: ESPN. Salters was uncertain whether or not she should leave her position at ABC, where she was at the top of her game and at the highest level a journalist could get.
"I don't know if this is still the thinking today but back when I grew up as a journalism major and being in journalism, in a news room for the ten years that I had prior to going to ESPN, I had always thought that I was doing what most journalists wanted to do," said Salters. "I was a hard-news reporter and I was at the network and I was 28 years old, and to do anything less, to do sports? That would just be wrong. Journalists don't do sports."
With some help from a good friend and a lot of options to weigh, Salters decided to take the offer to work for ESPN.
"I thought you know, I probably have more of a chance of being special and making a mark at ESPN and it's not like I was doing politics, which I don't really enjoy, it was sports!" said Salters. "So I was thinking is that even possible? Can I do something that I really like and get paid for it at the same time? That doesn't seem right, but that's what I did and I've been at ESPN ever since and I've got to tell you I was very nervous leaving ABC because again, it really was for a journalist, being a network news-correspondent, it doesn't get much higher than that. I really had to think long and hard about it but, once I left, I never once looked back."
Salters has been at ESPN since 2000 and she has held a variety of positions including being a sideline reporter for college football, a courtside reporter for the NBA and most recently a correspondent of the color-journalism show called E:60.
As a correspondent for E:60 Salters described how she has been able to dig deeper into the lives of athletes such as NBA All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant, reporting the news that isn't always highlighted or SportsCenter.
Salters also addressed the issue of gender in the world of sports, and said that although many people think that being a woman in the business can be limiting, she has never experienced such a feeling.
"For me I don't think it has ever held me back in any way at all, but you have to really be mindful of who you are and what you're trying to accomplish," said Salters. "You've got to be clear in your head what you're about so that you're able to put that out there so that that's what other people see. You get people to take you seriously and to respect you when you behave in a respectful and appropriate manner."
As a female journalist, Salters reminded the audience that she is simply that. She stressed that her job is to be a reporter, not a star.
"You're not trying to be a part of the story, you're covering the story," said Salters. "Sometimes I think we lose sight of the fact that we have to step back and let our work step forward. For me, I'm really proud to say that I'm known for my work."