Fall 2017 Stories

The Story Of Brittany Bissell

By Emily Frazzini

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio: It’s a crisp, fall Friday night. Fans are in the stands covered in blankets, and you can hear the roar of school spirit among the crowd. The scoreboard buzzes with excitement as a football team takes the win. You rush home to turn on your television to 21 WFMJ to watch your football team’s highlights.

Upon the screen is a reporter who puts their heart and soul into each annunciation of a player’s name and an uncanny ability to describe a game to make it feel as if you were there watching it firsthand, unfold before your eyes.  

What you don’t see is the people behind the scenes capturing all of the moments, while  working under a tight deadline, to make sure everything is in order to the best of their abilities. These people try to give you, the viewer, the absolute best highlights.

Brittany Bissell grew up 50 minutes south of Youngstown in Wellsville, Ohio. Her small town graduating class had around 53 students walk across the stage with her to receive a diploma.

Bissell was always involved in extracurricular activities in grade school, and she participated in volleyball and cheerleading. In high school she took her talents to basketball and served as captain of the team. Not only did she play for her alma mater, but during her off season, she played AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball for the Columbiana Ballers. 

Bissell gives credit to her older brother for her love and passion for sports.

“I grew up with an older brother who played every sport under the sun pretty much,” Bissell said. “When you grow up with an older brother, it’s hard not to become a tomboy and follow all of his interests.” 

In her earlier years, Bissell had a different ambition she wanted to embark on for her career. She said when she was younger, her dream job was to keep playing basketball her entire life. When she got to high school, she realized she wasn’t good enough to do so. This was when she decided to take a job working in sports. 

“For me, seeing a woman like Erin Andrews on the sidelines gave me the hope that I could do a job like that too,” Bissell said. 

After high school, with a goal in place, she enrolled at Youngstown State University. Bissell found a home in telecommunications after bouncing around between a couple of different majors to start college. 

“I loved having the opportunity to work in the TV studio,” Bissell said, “and professors spent a lot of time outside of class, teaching me how to operate cameras and use the editing systems.”

During college, Bissell had the opportunity to intern in the sports department at 21 WFMJ-TV. 

“I would say that turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done,” Bissell said.  

She interned in December of 2014 until June of 2015.  After the internship, a sports multimedia journalist position opened up that following August. Sports director, Dana Balash contacted Bissel about the job. She auditioned and got the job one month later.

I think this goes to show that you should take your internships seriously and learn as much as you can because you never know what they could lead to,” Bissell said.  

Bissell not only has a dream multi journalist sports job, but it’s also a trailblazer. She is the first ever woman to be hired in sports at WFMJ.

It means a lot to be the first woman ever hired in sports at WFMJ,” Bissell said. “It’s important to me to show the girls coming up after me that you can do anything you want.”

Bissell said we have come a long way with women in sports and she’s happy to be a part of that. For her, it’s a big accomplishment, but it has come with challenges. As many people know, there are still plenty of people who think women don’t belong in sports and have a lack of respect for women in sports.

Bissell said the job requires thick skin and for women to be over-prepared in a way they can minimize mistakes. She said people are always going to come down harder on a woman who makes a mistake. 

Throughout her journey in the broadcasting industry, Bissell always has someone she looks up to.  Her go-to person is Jeff Holenchick, a sports videographer at 21 WFMJ-TV, for many years. 

He taught me so much about this business during my internship, and my first year employed at WFMJ,” Bissell said. “He taught me everything from how to shoot and edit a package, and just helping me relax and be myself on camera.”

Bissell also looks up to women on ESPN and FOX Sports and tries to observe how they execute a great story.  

When asked about what she would tell a younger person who wanted to go into sports or anything in journalism, Bissell said she would tell them to learn every aspect of the business from writing, shooting and editing.

“Don’t just learn how to be an on-air talent,” Bissell said. “Employers want you to be versatile and a ‘one-man band.”’

Bissell said this makes someone more valuable to them. She also said she would tell them to always be prepared.

“When you are prepared, you are confident, and when you are confident, it shows up in your work,” Bissell said. 

Along with working at 21 WFMJ-TV, Bissell also currently works at CBS Radio – 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. There, she covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Panthers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only does she cover and attend the games, she interviews players and covers practices.

Along with WFMJ and CBS radio, Bissell had an internship in 2016 many people could only dream about. Brittany worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers during their Championship season in 2016.  She was apart of the Cavs Crew, working on promotions and in game entertainment. She has a championship ring to go along with work experience with an NBA Champion team.

Here’s a quick recap of Bissell’s accomplishments: she is the first woman to work in the sports department at WFMJ-TV 21 in Youngstown, Ohio. She has covered everything from producing sports casts, anchoring, covering high school state championships, YSU sports, Indians games, Cavaliers and Pirates.

Not only is she a great worker, and has a plethora of experience in the field, but she is a trailblazer. Bissell is the perfect role model for any woman, and has started a path and opened a door for women for many years to come.

To see Bissell in action, watch the video below.