Mindi Bach reflects on a career in sports journalism that started at Chico High
Submitted by Ed Booth on Wed, 08/18/2010 - 2:17pm.
Many high school athletes undoubtedly dream of becoming professional athletes, or at least reaching the big-time college level of competition. Statistically, few make it.
Even so, some people have the extraordinary opportunity to still be involved with major college and professional sports— not as athletes, but as observers and commentators. They’re living the dream and getting paid to do it.
That’s exactly the path Mindi Bach (Class of 1987) has followed since graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and a master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University. Now she’s a senior reporter and post-game host for San Francisco-based Comcast Sports Net Bay Area— formerly called Fox Sports Net and SportsChannel Pacific.
Bach was a swimmer from age 4, when she started with the Chico AquaJets, through four years of competition at UCLA. Her pedigree is athletically solid as well: her sister Melissa (Class of 1984) played basketball at Chico High School; brother Andrew (1992) played football and basketball and participated a bit in track; and sister Deidre (1993) swam and played basketball.
Mindi, however, says Chico High School teacher Pat Wismer may have been her earliest influence to enter the world of journalism. Bach took photojournalism and English classes from her.
“I enjoyed Wiz’s dry humor, and in hindsight, her classes probably provided the spark for my deep interest in telling inspiring stories with good writing and great pictures,” Bach explained.
That interest expanded at UCLA when she took a journalistic ethics course led by Prof. Jeffrey Cole.
“When dissecting an issue, there were rarely just two sides involved, rarely a right or wrong answer, and always many views that offered valuable insight. I was hooked at the complexities of it all,” she said.
While at UCLA, Bach worked as an intern at the Los Angeles bureau of CBS Network News. “I knew it was a field I wanted to pursue,” she said, and enrolled at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism with the intention of covering “hard” (political, social, cultural, etc.) news. She specialized in economic and political reporting and remained in hard news for a bit following graduation.
“But the lure of sports was always there,” she said. “Because of my sports background, I often worked as the “fill-in” sports reporter/anchor when someone in the sports department needed time off.
“I enjoyed telling the positive stories that athletes provided much more than the overwhelming negativity I had to cover in hard news,” she said. “I started working toward a full-time sports job, and when one became available, I never looked back.”
Of course, the road to a solid, well-paying job in journalism is never short nor easy. Right out of graduate school, Bach worked small jobs for SportsChannel Pacific, NBC Sports during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and other production companies until she obtained a full-time job at KOBI in Medford, Ore.
“I gained my small market (i.e., a station in a low-population area) experience as a news anchor/reporter/producer/editor/Friday night football reporter/assignment editor with KOBI,” she explained. “From there, I then went Sacramento to work for KTXL as a news reporter/anchor (back-up sports anchor).”
Her resume also includes stints with Versus, NBC Sports, Fox Sports’ NFL coverage and others on a per-event basis.
Bach and her husband, 1986 Pleasant Valley High School alumnus Jeff Trimmer (the son of former Chico State University football coach Dick Trimmer), now live on the Peninsula south of San Francisco. The couple have three sons – “very active, funny and loving boys,” as Bach described them. They chose the area to make Mindi’s commute considerably easier.
“Not having to cross a bridge in the Bay Area every day to get to work is heaven!” she said.
Even so, her job takes her to many sites.
“I work all over the Bay Area ... Cal campus, Stanford campus, Raiders headquarters, Warriors workout facility ... wherever the story warrants,” Bach explained.
“During baseball season I am mainly in the Comcast Studios in San Francisco as that is where we have our new, state-of-the-art studios for pre- and post-games. SportsNet Central, our nightly sports news program, is also produced out of the San Francisco office, and I work as an anchor on that program two days a week.
“During football season, however, I am mainly in Santa Clara at the 49ers facility for training camp and practices, at Candlestick or on the road to cover games. I’m rarely in the office in the fall.”
Bach’s seniority gives her broad power in deciding what to cover, and how to do it.
“I make the decision about the story topic I will cover and the subjects I will interview when I am out in the field,” she said. “The producers depend on my relationships with sources as well as my knowledge of a team to come up with story ideas.
“Of course, there is always going to be an event or news-of-the-day to cover, or a producer may want something specific covered for a certain program, but for the most part, I research and set up my own stories and features. That’s the best part!”
She also gets to serve as anchor for fixed-schedule programming, though she gives up a bit of editorial discretion.
“When I anchor a program, the producer sets the agenda. He/she creates an outline and chooses the elements and graphics he/she wants in the show,” Bach said.
“I write my own material within that outline, ask my own questions and offer suggestions if I think something may flow better, but it’s the producer’s baby.”
We asked Mindi what her professional aspirations at this point, and whether she’s satisfied with her position, or would like to reach a higher, national level with ESPN, for example.
“The career goals change once you have kids,” she said. “I search for the balance between doing my work and raising happy, healthy and thoughtful boys.
“If I miss a big sporting event, I keep in mind there will always be another around the corner. You only get certain moments with your kids once. I am fortunate, however, that there are many athletes, coaches and teams from and in the Bay Area that draw national attention that I get to cover on a regular basis.”
When asked how she envisions broadcast journalism changing in the next 10 or 20 years, Bach said it’s not easy to predict because of recent rapid shifts.
“It is so difficult to foresee the future as it has changed DRASTICALLY in just the last three years with the explosion of the Internet, mainly due to how much high-definition video is now accessible online,” she said.
“It used to be broadcast stations had the advantage because they could show great video you couldn't get online. Remember those horribly long downloads? Not the case anymore,” she explained.
“Local broadcast stations here in the Bay Area are losing staff every year. Their online presence has increased in the meantime, but the formula to make an online news station profitable is one that still needs to be worked out. There will always be a need for quality, reliable and accurate broadcast journalism, but it is facing its most difficult challenge right now.”
Bach said she has many memorable experiences in covering big events and interviewing notable people, but was at a loss to choose the most memorable.
“I can’t pick one,” she said. “From covering the playoff series between the A’s and Yankees in New York – getting a 1-on-1 with then rookie Barry Zito after he beat Roger Clemens – to traveling on the road to cover Barry Bonds record-setting home run season, to meeting a 6-year-old boy who hit a hole-in-one from the women’s tees” are all instances of big events, professionally, that come to mind for her.
“Each story is unique,” she said, rattling off a few special assignments from the last few months, including: spending dinner with 49ers head coach Mike Singletary and his family at their home, sitting down for an hourlong chat with 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, awaking in the dark to cover Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki’s early morning batting routine, and politely “chasing” Michael Crabtree and MC Hammer through a hotel restaurant during Crabtree’s contract negotiations with the 49ers.
These days, Bach is at the 49ers training camp nearly every day, gearing up for the upcoming season and a trip to London, where San Francisco will clash with the Denver Broncos Oct. 31. It’s just one of the perks of the job, a nice payoff from countless hours of study and toil, and performing with skill and aplomb.
For more information…
There are seasons in our lives when people help us to become more than we are. For many of us it was a high school coach we had along the way, whose inspiration and encouragement lasted long after high school is over.
Join The Chico High Foundation Board, On Saturday, August 21, 2010, at the Elk's Club on Manzanita Avenue for the first ever Chico High School Sports Reunion.
Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. followed by a BBQ dinner at 7:00 p.m. Varsity Coaches from the last 60 years will be there as well as the former athletes from those golden years.