VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University’s Colin Walker and Matt Malone recorded the pilot episode of their Blazer Athletics-inspired podcast — The Blazer Spotlight — on Aug. 16, 2019. The duo’s first guest was Kayla Widera, a volleyball player from Trinity, Florida.
The following week, Walker and Malone talked to McKay Culberson, a soccer player from Suwannee, Georgia. More guests followed, including Brian “Buzz” Saunds, a football player from Darien, Georgia; Kelli Fields, head coach for the Red Hots; Dariah Powell, a volleyball player from Tyrone, Georgia; Blake Justice, assistant coach for the men’s basketball team; Jamar Thompkins, a football player from Miami, Florida.
Week after week Walker and Malone welcomed a new student-athlete, coach, or former Blazer star athlete into The Blazer Spotlight’s on-campus home, gradually perfecting their interviewing skills and the art of getting the best out of their guests.
People were paying attention. Listeners, hosts, and guests were having fun.
By the time they interviewed Stephen Andrew, head coach for VSU’s women’s soccer team, on Oct. 10, 2019, Walker and Malone had discovered the formula for a quality podcast — the right message for the right audience all wrapped up in an entertaining and compelling story.
Walker and Malone recorded six more episodes before the end of the fall semester. They kicked off the spring semester with the Blazer Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2020. The following week they talked to Haley Garrett, a softball player from Valdosta.
A few days after that they received some major news.
The Blazer Spotlight had won Best of Competition in the Sports Radio category at the Broadcast Education Association’s 2020 Festival of Media Arts Sports Competition.
“I was pleasantly surprised when Colin texted me to let me know that we had been honored in this way, especially considering that I didn’t even realize we had been nominated,” said Malone, assistant athletic director for development with VSU’s Division of Advancement. “God has provided me countless opportunities to meet and work with some incredibly talented people at VSU, and Colin is no exception. The production of this podcast has been a rewarding experience in that we’ve had the chance to dig deeper into the stories of our amazing student-athletes at VSU. Each story is unique, and we are trying to help tell those stories.”
“It was a true honor to see our work recognized at a national level,” said Walker, assistant professor of digital production in VSU’s Department of Communication Arts’ Mass Media Program. “This award provides us reassurance that we are producing content at a high-quality level. We competed against Division I programs, which shows that Valdosta State, a Division II school, can stand toe to toe with the bigger colleges and universities.”
“Matt and I are both proud to call ourselves VSU alumni, and we do this podcast out of appreciation and support for Blazer Athletics,” he added.
In mid-April Walker will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, where The Blazer Spotlight will be recognized during the Broadcast Education Association’s annual convention.
Walker said he started the podcast because he wanted to continue honing his professional skills and use that experience to be a more effective teacher and provide more experiential learning opportunities for students in his Sports Workshop and Audio Workshop courses.
In terms of downloads, The Blazer Spotlight ranks in the top 50 percent of podcasts. It is recorded in the Mass Media Program’s Larry Etling Studio.
An international academic media organization, the Broadcast Education Association is committed to driving insights, excellence in media production, and career advancement for educators, students, and professionals. It boasts more than 2,500 individual and institutional members worldwide.
The Broadcast Education Association’s annual Festival of Media Arts is an international refereed exhibition of faculty creative activities and a national showcase of student work. This year’s event was a record breaker with more than 1,750 entries representing more than 300 colleges and universities competing in one or more of eight competitions — Audio, Documentary, Film and Video, Interactive Multimedia, News, Scriptwriting, Sports, and Two-Year Colleges.