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Gekko Chats: Q&A with UW Sports Journalist Mason Kelley

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Mason Kelley is a name that resonates with a lot of Husky fans. He's been around UW sports in one way or another for several years and is currently launching a new project called "The Details". He joins me for a Q&A.

Mason Kelley has you covered with his new column "The Details" on GoHuskies.com
Mason Kelley has you covered with his new column "The Details" on GoHuskies.com
GoHuskies

Today we get the special pleasure of presenting our Q&A with Mason Kelley of the UW Athletic Department.  Despite his young age, Mason is well-known name in Husky media circles.  The son of long-time Seattle Times columnist, Steve Kelley, Mason has been in the media business for over a decade now.  His work has taken him from Florida to Idaho and to Seattle.  Over the past few years, you've seen Mason pop up covering High School Sports for the Seattle Times, covering the "Husky Nation" beat for ESPN.com and blogging for the Huskies as an embedded journalist all of last season.  Mason is currently a graduate student at the University of Washington School of Journalism and has just kicked off a new project with the UW Athletic Department called "The Details".  You can check out his work on GoHuskies.com and by following him on his very active Twitter account (@MasonKelley12).

Here is a sampling of his work:

Here is my Q&A with Mason Kelley.

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Mason, thanks for taking the time.  The first question on everybody's mind is "what's with the "Faux Hawk" hairstyle?  Did you lose a bet?

Mason Kelley: Did I lose a bet? Ha! Does it look that bad? I've always tried to keep things interesting when it comes to my hair. I once had an editor give me a hard time for shaving my head. 'There will come a day when you don't have hair to shave,' he said. Ever since, I figured I should have fun with it while I've got it.

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When most Husky fans hear the name "Kelley", in particular the older among us, they think of your father, Steve.  How is he and what is he up to these days?

Mason Kelley: It is hard to believe it has been almost a year and a half since my father left the newspaper, but things have been great since he retired.

He teaches. He is an assistant basketball coach at Liberty High School, and I swear he still goes to games as often as he did during his tenure as a columnist..

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I imagine that your family name can be both a help and a hindrance to you as you carve your own path in sports journalism.  How have you managed through that dynamic in pursuit of your own goals?


Mason Kelley:  When I first joined the staff at The Seattle Times as the high school sports coordinator in 2009, I received my share of emails saying the only reason I got the job was because I was Steve Kelley's son.

When you are in the same business as your father, comparisons - both good and bad - come with the territory. My goal has always been to let my work speak for itself. I have never tried to distance myself from my last name. I looked up to my father growing up, and I'm proud of the fact that I was able to work with him for a few years at The Times.

Now that he has retired, I don't get the comparisons as often, but I have no doubt it will be something I'm tied to the rest of my career.

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Your experience covering UW recruiting for ESPN must have been an eye-opening one given all the hoopla around big-time recruiting.  What are your thoughts on this new dynamic of 24-7 coverage of high-school athletes going through the recruiting process?

Mason Kelley:  I thought my time at ESPN was great. It was an awesome experience to be able to see my byline appear on a platform that reaches so many people. That being said, I learned early on in the process that covering recruiting wasn't something I was going to be able to do long-term.

I have always been driven to uncover compelling stories, and the expectation that comes with recruiting is cranking out updates on where kids will end up. I never felt comfortable as another guy bombarding kids with questions about their future. In a saturated market, I eventually decided to leave that coverage to the established guys who do it well, people like Greg Biggins and Brandon Huffman.

My decision also coincided with the opportunity to go back to school and pursue a graduate degree.

I think there is a voracious appetite for recruiting coverage, so it's not going anywhere.  Those who do it the best, I think, are those who do a good job making sure that they balance the idea that recruits are still teenagers while still feeding the content beast.

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The Masters program that you are enrolled in at UW is a unique experience.  Can you describe how it is helping you to define a vision for a future of integrated social, digital and traditional media?

Mason Kelley:  I am a little more than a year into my graduate studies in the Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) program. My classes so far have been fascinating. The goal of the program is to navigate the constantly changing landscape of technology as it pertains to communication.

...there is an energy around this program that is special. Every person I talk to emphasizes how impressed they are with this group of coaches -Mason Kelley

From social media to content creation and ethics, among other topics, the program is designed to aid professionals in the communication field as they work to figure out what comes next.

Here is the description of the program provided on the MCDM website.

The MCDM "guides professionals into transformative roles through the design of networking strategies, anchored in compelling storytelling and insightful analytics. Professionals build the necessary communication knowledge, strategies, and skills to manage content, information, systems, people, and change."

As far as the future goes, well, I'm not sure anyone has the right answer as far as where things are headed. While we often talk about what comes next, the goal is to refine skills and add tools that will help people navigate the media landscape, regardless of where things are headed.

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Last year you were embedded with Coach Sark and blogging for him.  This year you get to work with a new staff on "The Details".  What are the big differences in philosophy between the two staffs when it comes to program transparency and access?

Mason Kelley:  That is a tough question to tackle from the standpoint that my relationships with the two coaches staffs come from two very different places. I spent years covering Steve Sarkisian's Washington teams in one way or another. He arrived in Seattle about the time I moved back to Washington, so we got to know each other over the years.

Last year, I was invited into the program as an embedded reporter. They gave me unlimited access, and it was a great experience.

With a new staff in place, it takes time to build that relationship. It happens organically and, for me, that's one of the most enjoyable things about my new opportunity here at Washington. I get the chance to learn the nuances of coach Petersen's philosophy from a blank canvas.

Since I wasn't around the program during spring football this season, this is a question that is impossible for me to answer at the moment, because everything is new.  What I can say is the new staff has been open to the story ideas I have proposed, and it has been a lot of fun covering the first two weeks of fall camp.

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We have to get a football question in here.  Based on the access you have and what you've seen, what can you tell us about how the team has taken to the new staff?

Mason Kelley:  Whenever there is a coaching change, the dynamics of the program are altered. Each coach has their own philosophy, their own way of pushing their players toward success.  I don't yet have the time spent with the new staff to take a deep dive into this question.  However, I can say there is an energy around this program that is special. Every person I talk to emphasizes how impressed they are with this group of coaches.

I am really looking forward to getting to spend more time around this group. It's an exciting time for Husky football.

I was talking to defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake earlier this week about his boat, and he shared a story about taking his unity group - a collection of players outside of the the defensive back - on a ride around the lake before getting dinner. They shared stories and it was clear everyone had a great time.

If you have a chance, check out the photo of basketball coach Lorenzo Romar shooting free throws with the football team. I think the looks on the players' faces show exactly how much this group is enjoying fall camp this season.

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Thanks to Mason Kelley for taking time away from his paying job to do this Q&A for the 'Pound.  If you haven't yet checked out his work on "The Details", take some time to do so.  Also, give Mason a follow on Twitter.  You won't be sorry..