Q+A: Kevin Nathan
by Michael Sones | @IFmsones
This is Part One of a three-part series which focuses on the Sochi Olympic Games.
Kevin Nathan is the sports director at WVIT, the NBC affiliate in Hartford, CT. A six-time New England Emmy winner and also a six-time recipient of the Connecticut Sportscaster of the Year award, Kevin traveled to Sochi to cover last month’s Olympic Games.
I recently spoke with Kevin about his overall experience, specific highlights from the Games, and efforts to learn the Russian language.
First off, tell me about the overall experience.
Kevin Nathan: It was an awesome Olympics, my best one yet. First of all, just to see a different part of the world was awesome. The Russians were great hosts for the Olympics. The first highlight for me was working with peers from the Comcast/NBC-owned affiliates. The second highlight was that we had 18 Olympic athletes from Connecticut. I would say 99% of what we did was hyperlocal, and that to me was why we were at the Olympics. The third thing was that I was 15 feet away from Vladimir Putin at an NBC hospitality event. To be that close to such a powerful man was pretty unique.
Which individual events or stories did you cover?
Nathan: The events didn’t drive us. We didn’t make it event-driven, we made it people-driven. For us, everything was predicated on who from Connecticut — or with ties to Connecticut — was competing. We had a lot of snowboarders from the state, in addition to aerial skiers and luge participants, so those sports became the focus. We had a ton of hockey players from both the men’s and women’s team, so we’d focus there as well. We let the people with Connecticut ties dictate our coverage more than the actual events. What can we give viewers that they can’t find elsewhere? If we do a story on Alex Diebold, a bronze medalist from Branford, CT — who subsequently may have a pizza named after him at the famous Frank Pepe Pizza in New Haven, where his uncle is a part owner — that’s a nugget of information you’re not going to get anywhere else.
Were you able to explore the surrounding areas?
Nathan: I did get one full day off and decided to put skis on for the first time since the ’02 Olympics. I hit the easiest trail on the mountain, a beginner’s slope because I didn’t want to end up in a hospital somewhere. We also got to walk along the Black Sea, which was really unique because you have the beautiful sea on one side, and then your eyes look the other way and you see the mountains 25 miles away. It was really a beautiful spot.
Did you learn any Russian while you were over there?
Nathan: Well my oldest son is 17 — he is a junior in high school and has been taking Russian since 7th grade. So I went to his class before the Olympics and we shot a couple of TV pieces where they gave me notecards with words and phrases. One word that I definitely used repeatedly was “spasibo”, which means “thank you” in Russian. I don’t think I had the intonation quite right because the Russians always laughed at me when I said it, but I made an attempt to say “thank you” as often as possible.
Stay tuned for Part Two…