AU grad Mackenzie Pflum working her way to sideline reporter goal with sports radio job
Recent Ashland University graduate Mackenzie Pflum has wanted to be a sideline reporter since she was 12 years old.
At that age, she had attended a Cleveland Guardians (Indians back then) baseball game with her family and, due to a long rain delay, they were able to make their way down to the front row by the time the game resumed because so many fans had left.
“There ended up being a walk-off home run in the 12th inning and I saw that player talking to the sideline reporter, who was Katie Witham,” Pflum said. “I just remember looking at her and thinking, ‘She has the coolest job in the world.’ He just had this insane, cool moment and she gets to talk to him right after it.
“Ever since then, that’s what I’ve wanted to do,” added Pflum, who is working her way toward that dream with her first sports broadcasting job after her AU graduation (December 2022) at Cleveland sports radio station WKRK, 92.3 FM, also known as The Fan.
Her main job is to give sports news updates throughout the day and support the radio station’s show hosts.
Once training camp for the Browns starts this summer, Pflum said she hopes to move into an off-site reporter job the station will add to cover Guardians games when the current off-site reporter can’t because of the Browns. That would involve recording soundbites during games to send to the station to use on the radio and post a short story to the station’s website after games.
“That would be working toward being a sideline reporter,” Pflum said. “I would basically be doing everything a sideline reporter does, but not presenting it on TV - I’m presenting it on our website.
“Radio is developing my sound and the way I present things,” added Pflum, “so that way when it’s time to get back into television, I feel I will be more prepared and have a better foundation moving forward.”
That could mean she will eventually be the next Witham, who has gone on to become a Major League Soccer sideline reporter; or the next Allie LaForce, an Ohio native who does sidelining reporting for NBA games; or even Erin Andrews, probably the best-known sideline reporter who does mostly NFL games.
Pflum’s radio job also allows her to make connections with several people in the sports broadcasting business, such as Andy Baskin, a former Channel 5 sports anchor who has a radio show on The Fan, “Baskin and Phelps,” with Jeff Phelps, a former host of the pregame and postgame shows for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While looking for jobs after her AU graduation and seeing one at The Fan, Pflum reached out to Baskin, whom she said helped her get the job. She met Baskin when he visited his alma mater, Kent State University, where Pflum attended before transferring to AU in 2021.
The Ashland High School graduate said there were multiple reasons she returned to her hometown, one being the opportunity to do sideline reporting at a smaller university.
“At Kent there wasn’t an opportunity to do sideline reporting and that is my ultimate goal,” said Pflum, who grew up in a family interested in sports and played several sports in high school. “I thought, ‘How am I ever going to get a job in the industry being a sideline reporter if I’ve never done it?’ ”
Dave McCoy, chair of the AU journalism and digital media department (JDM), said Pflum seized the opportunity to serve as a sideline reporter for the Bally Sports Great Lakes telecasts of AU football and basketball games and did a great job.
“I am very proud of Mackenzie and I know that she will excel in her new sports media job,” McCoy said. “I foresee a promising career for her.”
John Skrada, director of broadcasting at AU, said the university was lucky to have Pflum transfer into its JDM department, particularly for the Bally broadcasts.
“Coming out of COVID, the JDM department was idle for about a year and a half of not having any games to cover for Ballys and my prior sideline reporter had graduated, and I did not have anyone coming up through our major to take the sideline position,” Skrada said. “It was perfect timing for Mackenzie to jump in as we started to ramp up game production post-COVID.”
Skrada said Pflum worked hard doing a lot of research for those AU broadcasts, which has paid off with her first job in the sports media field.
“I expect her to move up quickly and one day to be a sports reporter or a producer for either a professional team or on a sports network,” Skrada said.
Another reason Pflum transferred was the hope of connecting with other females with an interest in sports broadcasting, which she said McCoy promised her would happen. She said she didn’t have much of that at Kent State.
Olivia Pliske is one of those females who has become a good friend of Pflum. Pliske is a JDM major who likes working behind the scenes as a camera operator. During the AU basketball season, she did the camera work for Pflum’s sideline reports, and they became fondly known around campus as “the camera girl and sideline girl.”
They hope to someday be paired again in those same roles covering professional sports. They will be living together this summer in an apartment in the Cleveland area where they plan to hang all of their credentials for Cleveland sporting events on a wall and continue to support each other in the sports broadcasting industry.
“We are both big on women in sports broadcasting,” said Pliske, who is living with her parents in Bedford this summer. “We want to be good role models for girls who want to get into sports broadcasting. We want more women involved in the industry.”
Pliske is a freelancer who often works on the camera crew for home Guardians’ games and has done the same for the Cavs, doing everything from camera operator to stage manager to runner.
She has also worked some Thursday night Browns games and even helped Pflum get a job for one of those games as the person in charge of the dressing room, where Pflum made more connections in the business.
Hard-workers dedicated to sports broadcasting, the friends agree they push each other to be the best they can be. Pflum said she hopes that eventually helps her achieve her dream of a career in sideline reporting.
“When I get passionate about something, I go all in,” Pflum said. “Sports broadcasting is an all-in thing for me.”