In 2016, CJ McCollum launched a journalism program for Portland students called “CJ’s Press Pass,” providing aspiring writers, photographers and videographers with opportunities they may not have otherwise received, including working an annual “Journalism Night” at a Trail Blazers home game. From the moment McCollum was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in February, he began thinking of ways to continue those efforts in the Crescent City. With that in mind, on Friday, McCollum met with the organization JRNOLA, whose members are high school students exploring a potential career in journalism. According to its website, the program “empowers underserved youth ages 14 through 18 for careers in print, photography, and broadcast media.” McCollum will be working with the group throughout the 2022-23 season and beyond.
While speaking to the group of teens, McCollum recalled his own humble beginnings as a journalist, starting with working for the Lehigh (Pa.) University school newspaper, which is called “The Brown and White.” Entering college, McCollum had been modestly recruited and therefore not a lock to one day enjoy a lucrative professional basketball career, so he prepared himself for another potential path by training himself as a writer. McCollum noted that he covered Lehigh field hockey – a sport he was completely unfamiliar with a decade ago – as well as lengthy tennis matches.
“Lehigh sold me on academics,” the now 31-year-old said of his decision to attend the Bethlehem, Pa., school. “If I didn’t play basketball, I’d be doing (journalism) full time. I’m not just a guy who jumped in (on a whim). I was covering games (during college), writing stories, feature articles. I did all of that stuff. I have a good understanding of print journalism, being on camera, being behind the camera.”
During his first meeting with JRNOLA, the nine-year NBA guard also provided some advice to students, including emphasizing the importance of sacrifices made to put one’s self in the best position to succeed.
“Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, write it down,” McCollum said, detailing some of his own approach. “Then figure out what path you’ll have to take to get there, and what am I willing to give up to get this? Because everyone is not willing to give up something to get to (a major goal). There are sacrifices and give-and-take. The most successful people in the world had to give some stuff up to get there. You have to be comfortable with your plan and your path to accomplish it. You’ve just got to really lock in and do what you’re supposed to do. Everyone knows the path to success; it’s just a matter of paying the price to (achieve) it.”