John Anderson, acclaimed SportsCenter anchor, joins Missouri School of Journalism faculty

John Anderson

By Austin Fitzgerald

COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 24, 2024) — John Anderson, BJ ‘ 87, an anchor of ESPN’s flagship SportsCenter program for 25 years, will join the Missouri School of Journalism’s faculty as the Leonard H. Goldenson Endowed Chair in Radio and Television Journalism, beginning January 2025. Anderson’s last SportsCenter episode will air on Friday, June 28.

“John has kept fans and aspiring sports journalists in the know for more than two decades, and I’m so excited that he has chosen to bring that experience back to his alma mater for the benefit of new generations of students,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism.

After getting his start at the Missouri News Network’s KOMU-TV as a student at the Missouri School of Journalism, Anderson spent more than a decade in local television news before landing at ESPN. He served as an award-winning sports reporter and anchor at local stations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona.

He came to ESPN in 1999, kicking off his term as one of the network’s longest-tenured anchors — a tenure that has also netted him four Emmy Awards. And while ESPN is one of the most prestigious and highly watched platforms for sports journalists, Anderson sees his new role at the School of Journalism as the summit of yet another mountaintop in his career.

“Why wouldn’t you want to go play for the Yankees?” said Anderson, who will also hold the position of professional practice professor. “That’s what Mizzou is. If you’re going to go play, why not go play for the team with all the world titles? I could not have thought of a better post-ESPN landing spot.”

As is not uncommon at the School of Journalism, which is guided by the Missouri Method of learning by doing, Anderson will not only impart the lessons he has learned through hands-on experience to his students, but he will also remain active in the sports journalism industry and will continue to lead ESPN’s collegiate track and marathon coverage.

Coming home

Anderson has stayed in touch with the School of Journalism since graduating in 1987. He served as grand marshal at the Missouri Tigers’ homecoming football game in 2002, earned a Faculty-Alumni Award from the Mizzou Alumni Association in 2007 and delivered the December commencement address to graduates that same year. Earlier this year, he was honored with the esteemed Jefferson Club Golden Quill Alumni Excellence Award.

For the past 22 years, he has also sponsored a Mizzou student internship at ESPN, a tradition that Anderson said spurred all SEC schools to send interns after Mizzou joined the conference in 2011. The internship program also reflects an educational instinct that has been with him from the start; he still has a handwritten letter from his grandmother in which she apologizes for ending a sentence with a preposition.

“I come from a line of educators,” Anderson said. “My grandparents were teachers, and my mother, being raised by those people, had respect for teachers. Two of my uncles taught math. That sort of trickled down to me.”

Athletics, too, have always been part of his life. After high school, when it was time to choose between Mizzou and his home state University of Wisconsin-Madison, it came down to a supportive call with Bob Teel, then the head coach of Mizzou’s track team, who encouraged him to join the team as a walk on. He would ultimately become the team’s captain in his senior year.

Fittingly, four decades later, a meeting with Dean Kurpius that was intended to help Anderson navigate the higher education job market convinced him to return to the School of Journalism for the next stage of his career.

Bringing people along

Upon reflection, Anderson is not surprised to be returning to his alma mater, given the influence that his time at the School continues to exert even today.

“When I go in tonight and do the show, something that I learned at that campus will show up in the broadcast in some way, shape or form,” Anderson said.

In particular, at a time when the industry faces a crisis in public trust of news and the concept of truth is top of mind both for journalists and the public, he said the lessons he learned at the School are more relevant than ever.

“The value of being correct, as opposed to right and wrong — Missouri taught me that you are responsible not only for what you say but what people hear,” Anderson said. “I’m really glad that I am rooted in a schooling that was very much, ‘hey, let’s start with the basics. Get the facts and present them correctly.’ That’s foundational. It’s a tenet of the whole job, and it seems obvious, but it’s become something that is so important to think about every time you make a keystroke.”

While his new role will be his first formal teaching position, he is no stranger to giving back. The Anderson Family Charitable Foundation, started by Anderson and his wife Tamara in 2009, provides assistance to elementary school-aged children to help them succeed in public school. In 2010, he also helped raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation by participating in the New York City Marathon.

For Anderson, the instinct that underlies those efforts is key to everything he does.

“What are you doing if you’re not going to help bring somebody else along?” Anderson said. “I think about my life, and someone always took the time to bring me along, whether it was a baseball or track coach who taught me how to be a good teammate, or whether it was professors like Stacey Woelfel, Don Ranly or Karen List who taught me that being prepared doesn’t mean you’re a finished product. I have benefited from so many people who have looked out for me, and I only have three kids — I can look out for a few more than that.”

Updated: June 25, 2024

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