Affleck, who is director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, is a veteran journalist who worked for more than two decades as a national manager in news and sports for the Associated Press (AP). He relies on his experiences outside the classroom to help students earn their professional experiences.
Affleck said he wants to develop students who think critically and communicate effectively, but he also drives them to use these skills in a professional setting. At the Curley Center, students tour the globe, covering sports on the international stage. His students have covered the Penn State Nittany Lions football game in Ireland for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association (PNA), the Penn State baseball game in Cuba for PNA and the Rio Paralympics in 2016 for the AP.
In 2017, Affleck’s class created an award-winning sports documentary featuring European fans who love American football. The film, “Quiet Sundays,” was shot during 10 days in London, culminating around two NFL football games at Wembley Stadium. It premiered in 2018 at the Southampton International Film Festival and won several awards, including best editing in a documentary.
Affleck said he loves teaching sports writing because, he said, “if you can write about sports, you can write about anything.”
He gives a buzzer-beater win at a Penn State basketball game as an example. The journalist must work quickly to deliver a story that reflects the facts of the game: the score, the teams and the most important account of what happened.
“Why is this game different? Why should someone take a moment to look at their cell phone and read this story? If students can master the communication and analytical skills demanded by sports, they can write about elections or natural disasters or complicated legal cases,”
Students praised Affleck’s passion and patience, but also his dedication to immersing them in real-world experiences.
“There’s only so much journalism students can learn in the basement of the Carnegie building, where we are taught AP style, journalism ethics and reporting methods,” a nominator said. “But we cannot truly make it as journalists if we don’t know how to apply these skills on the job. That’s the beauty of the Curley Center and the brilliance of John Affleck.”
Affleck also serves as faculty adviser to the Penn State chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media, which earned national student chapter of the year in 2017-18.