By Amanda Joerndt
Michael Stahl, camera operator for ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC networks, talked with Youngstown State University students about his experience working in several Super Bowls, World Series and NHL games during “Pizza with the Pros.”
“Pizza with the Pros” is an ongoing series through the YSU communication department and aims to give students the opportunity to network with professionals in the media industry.
Stahl has been in the industry for over 25 years as a camera operator for the last five Super Bowl games, three All-Star games, four NBA finals and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the Jackson 5.
Stahl started in the radio industry, but quickly realized his passion and talent for operating a camera by operating the jumbotron for minor league hockey games.
According to Stahl, in recent years the Super Bowl has become a major production with all hands on board.
“Back in the ’90s, they had about 14 camera operators. Today we have about 100. Every job is very important,” he said. “We go from high artist camera operators to just regular stagehands.”
Stahl stressed the importance of networking within the industry.
“Network constantly and always [treat] people with respect,” he said. “You just have to get in there and learn anyway you can. I took initiative, worked hard and took it seriously. There’s always that stress and being able to live with it outside of work.”
He said working the Super Bowl requires a high level of focus.
“Covering games is like playing the sport yourself in a way — being able to get in your head and do your job while staying calm,” he said. “Games are like telling stories and following the story and transitions. That’s what separates the camera operators apart in the industry.”
Stahl has also been camera operator for several halftime performances such as Beyoncé and Prince.
Stahl’s main goal was to inform students about his highlight moments at the Super Bowl games and encourage students to achieve their goals.
“I hope the students learned from me today what the real world is like and there’s not a direct pattern to getting where you want to be,” Stahl said. “There’s nothing fair in the real world and you’re working your way up the ladder.”
Adam Earnheardt, chair of the Department of Communication, started “Pizza with the Pros” to help students become more educated and connected in their field of study and hopes students will attend the sessions to understand the industry better.
Earnheardt said the communications department recently hired Paul Ditchey through the sports broadcasting program, and Ditchey knows many other professionals who have helped “Pizza with the Pros” become a success.
“The biggest thing we want the students to take away from these experiences is knowing that these jobs are out there and this is how we get them,” Earnheardt said. “You hear from us so often, so sometimes you might not give it so much thought, but hearing it from a professional, you give it more credibility.”
Maya Kresic, a junior communications major, attended the session to listen to how Stahl started his career and working with the Super Bowls.
“I’m honestly not a big sports fan so I was really interested in his experiences with filming the halftime shows in the Super Bowl,” she said. “Working with people who have been in the news business was really interesting.”
Kresic said the session informed her on how to start making connections as a college student and getting involved in the field.
“What I learned from his is everything is about connections and having to know people,” she said. “It’s so important to make those connects with getting names and numbers in the field.”