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Vol. 57, No. 3 • February 2020 • .pdf version
World-Herald beat writer is USBWA's Rising Star
By JOSH AYEN
Omaha World-Herald sportswriter Chris Heady has had a meteoric rise in his journalism career.
His accomplishments are exactly why he was recognized with the 2020 Rising Star Award, given annually by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association to a member under the age of 30 who shows great promise as a college basketball writer.
Heady joins an elite group recognized for this honor, including Sam Vecenie and Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic, Myron Medcalf of ESPN and Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer.
Heady said that when USBWA president Mike Waters delivered the good news, it was hard to believe.
"Mike left a message on my phone while I was recording a podcast, and when I saw I had a missed call from a New York number and a 28 second voice mail, I was curious," Heady said. "He told me in that voice mail he had some 'good news,' and that's when I put two and two together. I was floored and so grateful, especially when you look back at past winners and the work that they have done over the years. I'm still pretty baffled on how I was about stack up to those names, but I'm so honored and so thankful to the USBWA for the recognition."
Heady's first got into journalism in high school. Wanting to be just like his older brother, Heady joined his local high school newspaper in his hometown of Kansas City. Heady grew particularly fond of reading and writing human-interest stories during his high school years.
Later into his high school career, Heady had the opportunity to attend the Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Anaheim, Calif. The people he connected with and the speakers from that conference still leave a lasting impact on Heady.
The keynote speaker at that year's convention was renowned Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez.
During his address, Lopez told the audience to disregard all statistics about limited job opportunities for students pursuing a career in journalism.
"If this is what you love to do," Heady heard Lopez tell the audience, "don't worry about the statistics." Those words have not been lost on Heady.
Inspired by Lopez's remarks, Heady continued toward his dream of becoming a journalist. Heady enrolled at Nebraska in 2012 to pursue a bachelor's degree in journalism.
Heady never considers himself a sports reporter, rather a reporter who covers sports. In his years at Nebraska, Heady interned for several publications like the Lincoln Journal Star, the Daily Nebraskan and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Heady also wrote for the Life section in USA Today for a few months after graduating from Nebraska.
Heady found his way back to Lincoln, Neb., when the Big Ten website Landof10 called with an opportunity to cover Nebraska football and recruiting.
He jumped at the opportunity and moved back to cover his alma mater.
One year after taking the job at Landof10, the door would later open at the World-Herald to cover Nebraska football and basketball.
Since starting at the World-Herald in 2017, Heady has covered many significant events in Nebraska athletics.
Some of Heady's favorite work during his time at the World-Herald includes covering the events leading up to former Nebraska head men's basketball coach Tim Miles' dismissal and a look into the life of current head coach Fred Hoiberg.
Both present and former writers at the World-Herald have glowing remarks for Heady's work. Lee Barfknecht, a former writer who spent 40 years at the World-Herald, called Heady a very diligent, detailed reporter that has a bright future.
"He really cares about the business and cares about journalism," Barfknecht said.
Tom Shatel, another colleague of Heady, said the Rising Star winner is as good a young writer as any he's been around. Shatel went on to say that Heady is a great example for a modern-day beat reporter, citing Heady's ability to not only write but report through other forms like video and podcasting.
"The award was made for a guy like Chris. He really embraces the sport and everything that comes with it," Shatel said.
Josh Ayen is a graduate assistant with the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI in Indianapolis.
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