Following a Passion to College: Fabryce Joseph on Sports Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill

Fabryce Joseph, ’18, discovered his passion for sports journalism when he was young. What began as a sixth-grade project to get more “in the loop” about international sports news has become a specialized interest that Joseph will follow to the halls of UNC-Chapel Hill next year.

“In middle school, I would always go to school and hear upperclassmen—you know, the eighth graders—talking about sports,” says Joseph. “I wasn’t really connected with international sports or celebrities at that point, and I felt out of the loop.”

Fabryce "Fab" Joseph

Fabryce "Fab" Joseph

Joseph decided that, to get into the conversation, he would watch SportsCenter as much as possible. “First I would watch SportsCenter in the morning from 7:00 to 9:00, and then I would watch Sportscenter from 10 pm to 12 am at night.”

“It gave little summaries, and I started to gain knowledge about different sports,” he says. “Then, in seventh or eighth grade, I discovered First Take, which is on Monday through Friday from ten to twelve. It talks about almost every single sport, and it goes in depth.”

It was there that Joseph discovered Stephen A. Smith, a famous sports-writer and broadcaster, a commentator on ESPN First Take, an analyst on SportsCenter, and host of “The Stephen A. Smith Radio Show.”

“I started watching First Take religiously, and then I would listen to the Stephen A. Smith radio show on my iPod,” says Joseph. “I still listen to it, not as much, but I will try to find it and get caught up.”

Joseph admires Smith because “he is not afraid to say something and end up not being well liked. He says things that people are thinking but don’t want to say. Other journalists say ‘safe’ things. I like how brave he is, and I like the veracity of his statements.”

“I would rather just be on the sports writing side,” Joseph notes of Smith’s broadcasting job. “People say I have a voice for sports broadcasting, but I feel more comfortable writing about sports than actually talking about it.”

From middle to high school, Joseph’s love for First Take developed.

“In tenth grade, Ms. Beauzay sent out the Myers Briggs test, and, when I took it, journalism and broadcasting came up,” he notes. “I thought about Stephen A. Smith and decided to start learning about his path, and I realized that’s a path I wanted to take. I wanted to learn how I could find a similar path.”

“Stephen A. Smith is interested in basketball and football, but they already had journalists for those teams when he went to school, so he covered soccer, which he knew absolutely nothing about. But he learned,” says Joseph.

“If I want to be a sports journalist, I might not get to cover what I would ideally want to—soccer in Europe and basketball,” he adds. “So I can learn from that.”

As Joseph began to build his writing skills at Dublin, he also began to seek opportunities to become more specialized in sports writing.

“One of my advisors, Dr. Smith, helped me find summer camps about sports journalism, as did Ms. Doenmez,” he says.

In ninth grade, Joseph was a student in the Global Scholars program at American University. This three-week program provided classes about journalism, and Joseph took a few that helped him build his repertoire. 

The summer before senior year, he attended a four-week journalism program at Columbia University.

Fab has been a dominant soccer player at Dublin.

“I got to take a class on sports journalism,” he says. “That class was amazing. I learned so much. First, we named our interest, and mine is soccer. We had to write Op-eds, find controversial elements. With soccer, I looked at FIFA, where there’s a lot of corruption, under the table payment, so I studied that, and I wrote about that.”

The program provided a model for what it might be like to write in college.

“I had a lot more freedom than I did at American,” he says. “The teachers would give a lecture, give you a deadline, and you need to have it done. They don’t talk about it again, and if you don’t have it then, you don’t have it.”

Another component that sparked change in Joseph’s writing was the intensive peer review process.  “I had to give my writing to all others in the class—there were twenty of them,” he says.

“At first, I didn’t like it. I felt like they were attacking me,” he admits. “But by the fifth or sixth time, I realized it was helping. We wrote maybe six pieces in total, and my writing improved as we went along.”

“I learned that there will always be people who will disagree with me,” Joseph notes. “Whatever I think is well-reasoned and right, people will argue against it. I had a friend there, and we’d want to see each other’s papers, and we always disagreed. We’d read each others’ papers and get different perspectives, though, so disagreeing was okay.”

At Dublin, Joseph has taken a handful of English electives—from Collage and Décollage to Moby-Dick—as well as Advanced Placement Language and Composition. This winter, in fact, he was enrolled in three English courses simultaneously. While these courses have not focused specifically on sports writing, through his coursework at Dublin, Joseph has learned a great deal. 

“Through my English coursework at Dublin, I have been exposed to a variety of writing,” he says. “Expository writing and descriptive writing, though, have become my favorite, while fiction writing is undoubtedly my least favorite. But becoming familiar with different writing styles have been paramount to my development as a writer. I always look to implement something new in my writing, and I always look to these styles to give me inspiration. All of these English classes have given me the chance to touch up on my grammar, spelling, and punctuation as well which are essential skills for a journalist. Most importantly though, I have become significantly better at communicating my thoughts to my intended audience.”

When Joseph started looking toward college, he investigated each school’s journalism program. He attended webinars on sports journalism with Emerson College, Northeastern University, and UNC-Chapel Hill. As he listened to professors describe the program and course offerings, he heard resonances with the summer programs he attended: a focus on peer review, discussions on the ethics of journalism, small class size.

“At UNC, through the Webinar, I saw that the professor would start a class with ‘Hey, have you checked the news lately?’ The professor presented an issue and gave students time to write about it, and then they would share. After, the instructor would share things students may not have considered. Some of the students in the class shared that some of them are personal journalists for the soccer or baseball team,” he says. “I feel like that experience will be very valuable.”

Next year, Joseph will enroll in a journalism course at UNC-Chapel Hill and seek sports writing opportunities. 

Some topics that Joseph is interested in considering and addressing are inequities around playing college soccer and faults in the United States’ professional soccer. 

“The ability to play college soccer is pretty unfair because soccer academies train players from when they are around ten through when they are eighteen,” he describes, “And even if you try out and get in, it costs so much; these academies are so expensive that it creates unfair potential for people getting recruited for college.”

“Another issue is that soccer in the U.S. is not as good as it is in other countries,” he elaborates. “We put so much money into soccer, and we still don’t have the quality. I honestly think that in other countries like Spain and Poland, they have a history. The league in the U.S. is fairly new compared to other leagues, so that means that other countries have a history of protocol and tactics. In the U.S. we are trying to adopt other European tactics, and it’s just not working out.”

When Joseph looks ahead to college, he looks forward to taking specialized classes in sports journalism and getting valuable experience in the field through internships. 

“It has always been my dream to work at ESPN, and I believe that UNC can provide me with the education to propel me to my goal,” says Joseph.

To any aspiring sports journalists, he shares this advice: “Any aspiring sports journalist must first find their respective passion and become overly knowledgeable about it, just as I have with my passion for soccer. The next step is finding a place where you can take your passion a step further and make it a reality—through summer programs and, finally, through college coursework.”