Anish Shroff, ESPNews anchorman and SU alum, answers some questions for A-Line. This piece also appeared in the Fall 2009 issue.
By Naresh Vissa
Q. As a kid, did you play many sports, or did you just watch?
A. I grew up playing little league baseball. I played lots of tennis in high school. I wouldn’t call myself, by any means, a great athlete but yeah, I basically played all sports for fun here and there. You watch it, and you kind of want to do it yourself.
Q. What part of India are your parents from?
A. My parents are both from Bombay. I last visited in the winter of 2003. Most of the times I went there was when I was a kid.
Q. When did you realize you wanted to become a journalist?
A. I wish I could say there was one ‘eureka’ moment when my future crystallized in front of me. But I always knew I wanted to be in the communications field. I loved to write and I love sports, and thankfully we have a profession where you could do both. When I was in high school, I won a few essay contests which re-inforced my faith that I was choosing the right path. Basically, by sophomore year of high school, I knew what I wanted to do. You’ll even find in my high school yearbook quote a snippet about wanting to be a journalist.
Q. What were your parents’ reactions when you told them you wanted to become a journalist?
A. My parents supported me fully throughout the entire journey. They always told me to pick the path that will make me the happiest. My mom encouraged me to write and really instilled in me the passion for reading and soaking up knowledge. When I was younger, I would only read about sports. My mom would make me read a non-sports book to become better rounded. I can’t thank her enough.
My dad has a degree in accounting, but his passion was always photography. He chased his dream a long time ago and became a professional photographer. So he always told me, do what you love.
There were never any demands from my family that I had to be a lawyer or doctor or engineer. We were progressive in that regard. We believed in the American dream.
Q. How involved were you in the Indian community at Syracuse University and back home?
A. I tried to get involved at Syracuse University initially but that didn’t work out too well. I was quickly casted as an ABCD (American-Born Confused Desi) and “not Indian enough.” It was pretty much the same thing before I got to SU. Now those same people tell me, “I represent.” The misconception is I shun my identity; that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m proud of who I am and where I’m from but I’ve always viewed myself as an individual first. My friends are those with similar tastes and interests not necessarily those with similar skin tone. That message hasn’t always been easily understood.
Q. What do you enjoy most about the Indian culture?
A. It’s a question I get a lot. The Indian culture to me is the family I was always raised in. I guess I would be what you call ABCD. I really don’t fit a lot of perceived stereotypes. That’s sort of how I was raised. I love the food the most though.
Q. Do you watch Bollywood films?
A. I don’t mind the cross-over films. Films like “American Desi” and “The Namesake” — the book was amazing. I don’t really speak or understand Hindi and am not a big fan of musicals. Also, it’s tough for me to sit still for four hours to watch a Bollywood movie.
Q. You’re a sports buff. Do you know much about cricket? Do you follow it?
A. I never really got into it. I have heard stories from my grandfather being a huge cricket fan. My dad’s a fan. I probably got the sports bug from them.
Q. How does it feel to be the second broadcaster of South Asian descent on mainstream sports television?
A. To be honest, it’s not something I think about. This is the profession I chose because it’s what I love to do. First, second, 45th — that doesn’t get to me. I”m happy to be doing what I love.
Q. Has your race ever been an issue professionally, be it positive or negative?
A. I can’t say it has. The great thing about sports and media is after a while you are seen for what you are.
Q. You hear people make bold assessments like “I want to be the first female President,” “I want to be the first [insert ethnicity] CEO for a Fortune 500 company,” etc. Have thoughts like this ever crossed your mind, or is it just about telling stories and giving news?
A. It’s about telling stories and reporting the news. That’s where the passion lies. I worry about doing my job to the best of my ability, telling the best story I can find, being creative and unique in my approach. I don’t really get caught up with all that.
Q. Any tips to aspiring South Asians looking to work in the sports or broadcast/journalism industries?
A. Yes, if it’s something you want to do — pursue it and make it your goal. And most importantly, work at it. Don’t think because you are a minority a station will hire you to fill a quota. Work on getting better, improving your knowledge base, improving your writing and making yourself the strongest candidate — and you’ll be seen for that instead of your background. Make yourself into the best candidate that you can…and at the end of the day — if you’re the strongest candidate — you’ll land somewhere. If you’re not, then you probably won’t.
Al Jaffe, ESPN Vice President of Talent and Recruiting, also shared a few words with A-Line.
Q. From what I know about Anish, he is great at what he does, and he has an earnest drive to improve at his craft. With that being said, increasing diversity is a huge task within the media industry. Is the fact that Anish brings a different race to the newsroom a plus for ESPN?
A. Yes it is. ESPN is very much into diversifying its workforce. It’s a company-wide goal every year. There’s a lot of discussion about diversity, in terms of what it brings to the media. It’s definitely a factor. We’re pleased with our diversity efforts while still remaining strong on the air. We are still actively improving behind the scenes. Every year we get better at it. We go to all minority journalism fairs. It’s not something we go to show the flag. We are very serious about this issue.