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Podcast Preview: Morales adapting to new sports reporting norm

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, sports journalists are having to come up with creative ways to create content.

Kenny Morales, sports reporter and anchor for Spectrum Sports, isn’t a stranger to the difficulties of sports journalism, but the coronavirus pandemic presented new challenges. 

One of the hardest things was finding ways to set up interviews while also maintaining social distancing, according to Morales.

“I think the biggest change for folks in TV [was not] doing any on-camera interviews,” he said. “Now that we have been doing that, we have been finding unique ways to mic up our interviewees. Instead of putting the mic right up to their mouth, I have a golf club attached to my microphone. [When] I hold it out like that, it creates a nice safe social distance between me and my subject.” 

Technical challenges aside, finding stories to tell challenged Morales to come up with unique angles.

“There’s only so many times you can regurgitate ‘So and so is doing this to work out or they’re getting ready to do this to stay in shape,’” he said. “Like ‘All right, we know gyms aren’t open and facilities aren’t open so they’re at home working out.’ 

“That’s where you kind of have to think outside the box a little bit sometimes and do some different things.” 

To continue the art of storytelling, Morales has had to think outside of the box and cover stories he usually wouldn’t.

“I was curious about baseball beat writers,” Morales said. “[They] have a very unique gig compared to beat writers for other sports. I was like, ‘I wonder what life is like for those guys?’ I interviewed my buddy Josh Tolentino, who works with The Athletic, Juan Toribio who works for and then Marc Topkin for The Tampa Bay Times. I got their thoughts on what they are doing right now? What does your job consist of? How are you going about it? And like what do you think your job is gonna look like when we do come back?”

Morales is no stranger to adapting to new conditions, however. He learned that when he accepted a position as a sports reporter for NewsChannel Seven in Wausau, Wisconsin, shortly after graduating from Central Florida in 2013.

It started out as a dream, according to Morales.

“I mostly did my stuff in the field and covered a lot of high school [sports],” he said. “We had a local Division III school we covered a lot, but the big selling point for me was we got to cover the Packers. That was really cool coming out of college. It was like, ‘Whoa, I got to cover Aaron Rodgers.’ This was the time when they were at their peak after their Super Bowl run.”

Although his dreams were being fulfilled, he soon began to realize the cold climate was not to his liking. 

“I was kind of sick of the cold,” he said. “Growing up in Florida, I just got used to the heat. I can’t stand the cold and the snow and that was a huge adjustment for me.

“I remember numerous times going out to shoot high school football and it’s snowing, 10 below zero.”

Longing for the Florida sun, Morales accepted a job as a weekend sports anchor for the CBS affiliate in Tallahassee in 2015.

In the state capital, Morales covered FSU from the early days of Jameis Winston to the beginning of Willie Taggart’s reign in 2018. 

He also covered Florida A&M and south Georgia high school athletics. 

“I got a different perspective on athletics through [Florida A&M] as well as south Georgia,” Morales said. “South Georgia is just an absolute factory when it comes to talent there so it was really cool to cover all that.”

In mid 2018, Morales accepted a position with Spectrum Sports and moved to downtown St. Petersburg. One of the biggest advantages to living where he does is getting to cover many different teams within his city.

“A little more than two years ago now, I got the job down here in St. Pete and I’ve loved it ever since,” he said. “[I have] gotten the chance to cover pretty much everything I’ve wanted to cover. There’s something cool about Friday Night Lights and high school sports in general, but also getting the chance to cover a college team like USF and [pro-teams like] the Lightning, Buccaneers and the Rowdies.”

Despite the obstacles — especially the coronavirus pandemic — thrown his way, Morales wouldn’t have it any other way, he said.

“The idea of getting to interview people and share their stories, specifically athletes and coaches, speaks to me. Everyone has a story. And especially in sports, there’s always something cool to discover.

“If it’s a story that is heart-wrenching and can move you to tears, that’s something worth sharing with other people. And I enjoy that.”

For the full conversation with Kenny Morales, watch The Oracle Sports Podcast with Nolan Brown and Hannah Halili, which premieres Sunday night.