NSSA Weekend: Carlson

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2011

By Jordan Honeycutt
SALISBURY — Jenni Carlson is part of a very famous moment in sports and journalism, you just can’t see her in it.
Carlson is the reporter who felt the verbal wrath of Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy’s now infamous “I’m a man, I’m 40” rant.
Carlson is a sports columnist for The Oklahoman, an Oklahoma City based newspaper that focuses mainly on Oklahoma and Oklahoma State athletics, as well as the NBA’s Thunder.
Carlson handled this situation very professionally.
“When it happened, I was a bit shocked,” Carlson said. “But I have pretty thick skin and as a columnist, you realize that usually someone is going to get upset about something that you say on almost an everyday basis.”
Carlson is a Kansas (KU) graduate and got her start doing local high school games and other events that she describes as off-the-wall or abnormal in the Kansas City area before joining the staff at The Oklahoman.
“My personality, though, would not allow me to be a beat writer as I love the variety and spontaneity that comes with being a columnist,” Carlson said. “And knowing that you never really know how someone is going to react to a tough question or what someone is going to do is exciting and challenging and I embrace that.”
In what is traditionally a deeply enriched football part of the country, Carlson has now found herself doing a lot of work with professional athletes as she has been covering the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are in the middle of a deep playoff run. Game 7 is in Oklahoma City tonight.
“I love covering the pros,” she said. “Actually, they are easier to get access to than the college athletes, especially in football, as those players are so protected and the coaches make so much money at these “big-time” schools (like OU and OSU) that dealing with them is just like dealing with a pro team. So there isn’t too much difference.”
One interesting aspect of how her community’s fans attitudes and passions have evolved because of the Thunder, is the camaraderie that Oklahomans have displayed to support their team.
“While Oklahoma still is, and always be, a football-first state, it is amazing that fans of OU and OSU, who hate each other, are coming together to pull for the Thunder,” said Carlson.
She added that the extreme loyalty that exists in state is unique.
“Everyone is either a Sooner or a Cowboy and it is just two opposite ends of the spectrum that makes for a fun rivalry to be a part of and to cover.” Carlson said.
Carlson is also part of a newer, but ever-increasing trend in the sports journalism profession and that is the emergence of more and more women into the industry.
“I think that it is great to be part of a more diverse profession and especially as with The Oklahoman, our editor is very committed and driven to maintaining a diverse staff, not just in gender, but race as well, and its good to see journalism becoming like much of America in that sense.”
Working for a medium-sized market and covering high profile teams, Carlson is living her dream in the great Midwest.
“I am very fortunate, happy and overall content with where I am right now in my career,” Carlson said. “ I love Oklahoma City and the opportunities here to do more and more with the ever-changing world of media, like shooting video and doing much more multimedia, which is the direction that our paper is going.”