ATLANTA-Mike Griffith of SEC County was named the Steve Ellis/FWAA Beat Writer of the Year during the association’s annual Awards Breakfast on Monday morning at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel.
Griffith, FWAA President in 2007 and a frequent award winner in the association’s Best Writing Contest, becomes the eighth recipient of the Steve Ellis/FWAA Beat Writer of the Year Award, which annually honors one of the best beat writers in college football. The award is named after the late Steve Ellis, a standout beat writer who covered Florida State football for the Tallahassee Democrat for a number of years.
Griffith follows previous winners Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland Plain Dealer; Steve Wieberg, USA Today, and Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe (co-recipients); Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury News; Tim May, Columbus Dispatch; Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times; and Jason Kersey, Daily Oklahoman.
“Mike has been a relentless reporter on whatever beat he has covered over the years,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “Now that we are in an era of a myriad of reporting platforms, Mike has mastered the switch technique of adapting to the many different mediums.
“He’s also forever a guard of his and others’ job space in the press box. One time a couple of years ago, he was on the prowl when he was told a road SID was going to limit the time reporters could stay in the press box after a night game. The media and the FWAA are better off with a watch dog like Griff.”
Griffith fits in very well at SEC Country as its main Tennessee Vols reporter.
“On the Tennessee beat the past year, Mike has been a one-man wrecking crew,” wrote Ken Bradley, the SEC Country Deputy Sports Editor, in Griffith’s support letter. “Going up against competitors with multiple writers, he never backed down. In fact, he embraced the challenge. He stayed up late producing content to roll out the first thing the next morning. He thought of different ways to provide video content that others weren’t doing. He attacks every day the same way with the same goal — to inform, entertain and attract readers to SEC Country’s Tennessee coverage.
“A new job, with a new company mixed with modern-day digital journalism enabled me to cover college football a variety of ways this past year,” Griffith wrote.
Griffith’s duties on the Tennessee football beat include a daily podcast, attending and writing from football-related functions, Tuesday morning radio appearances on Huntsville and Nashville radio stations and Sunday morning appearances on Knoxville’s highest-rated local television sports show.
Special assignments involved travel to the homes of several signees as part of the “Next Generation” series, with Facebook Live presentation videos a part of the extensive interviews performed with recruits and their families.
In-season responsibilities also included taking pictures and setting up video to live-stream press conferences, team arrival at stadium and Facebook Live “stand-up” reports from after the head coach’s weekly press conference, as well as stand-ups from the pregame and post-game stadium field level and a co-host role on a Thursday night television show.
Griffith, a Michigan State graduate, was hired by Cox Media Group SEC Country in May 2016 after covering high-profile Michigan State football and basketball teams for MLive for four years. During his first stint in Knoxville, Griffith covered Tennessee football and basketball for the News-Sentinel for 14 years while also doing television and radio weekly.
Prior to Knoxville, Griffith covered Alabama for the Mobile Register for four years and Auburn for the Anniston Star, including Auburn’s unbeaten team in 1993. His first job out of college was covering Idaho State for the Idaho Falls Post Register. He worked all four years in college at the Lansing State Journal for Steve Klein, who went on to develop the blueprint for USA Today’s online product.
“When I think of Mike Griffith, eight words come to mind: talented, versatile, creative, hard-working, collaborative, professional and meticulous,” Bradley wrote. “If you were searching for a beat writer and could get half of those, you’d be happy. Mike brings all of that to the table every day.”