Gael alum finding success as sports journalist


Giovanni Paolo Tagliafierro, Sports Editor

It was regular school day in autumn of 2013 at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Just a few miles outside of the nation’s capital, sophomore Ryan McFadden entered the gym and stepped onto the court for the school’s junior varsity basketball tryouts.  

McFadden didn’t make it past the suicide sprints. After passing out from fatigue on the hardwood, he knew that his time as a high school ball player was all but over. While his game may have quit on him, his fiery love for sports persevered and pushed McFadden into discovering his new passion – covering and writing about sports. 

His journey as an aspiring sports journalist got underway at Iona College. Now, over six years since he began his education at Iona, McFadden is chasing his dream as a sports reporter for the Baltimore Sun, and even though he is no longer on the court, he is still very much in the game.  

Writing was always something that McFadden had a knack for, and in his junior year of high school, he was urged by his parents to join the school’s newspaper. It was a perfect match. He needed to build his resume for college, and he got to combine his love for sports and writing while doing so.  

Sports were also something that were a part of his life for as long as he could remember. A self-proclaimed, diehard D.C. sports fan since the age of three, McFadden has endured more than his fair share of heartbreak. This proved to only fortify his undying faithfulness to the games he loves. 

While still in high school, McFadden launched his own digital sports media brand “Inside the Locker Room” in 2014. He created it with the purpose of covering high school sports in and around the Washington, D.C. area, but also, according to his website, to also give his high school friends and fellow writers a chance to sharpen their skills and gain journalism experience.  

McFadden began attending Iona in the fall of 2015. During his time at Iona, he reached beyond the classroom for opportunities to strengthen his writing. He joined the Ionian in his freshman year, and in his junior year he was named as the paper’s sports editor.  

Over those four years, McFadden covered everything related to Iona athletics at least once. In his tenure as sports editor, he was also the beat writer for the Iona men’s basketball games. If Iona was playing in the Hynes Center, you could expect to see McFadden on the sidelines, prepping for his next article on the team. If his schedule permitted, he would even drive out to Riverdale to watch the Gaels face off against their Manhattan College rivals.  

The travel didn’t stop locally however, as McFadden covered four Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournaments in Albany, New York.  If Albany wasn’t far enough, he also journeyed to Columbus and Pittsburgh to cover the Gael’s two first-round matchups in the NCAA Tournament in his junior and senior years.  

When asked about what he learned during his time with the Ionian, McFadden emphasized how working on the newspaper taught him to demand more out of himself.  

“As the sports editor, I set a standard for myself,” said McFadden in a Zoom interview. “I wanted the people around me to follow that same standard, and if I’m doing less than the people working under me, then what kind of sports editor am I?”  

This mentality led to a lot of long shifts and late nights in the Ionian office in LaPenta Student Union, according to McFadden, where he did his best to emulate the styles of professional newspapers in his own sports section.  

McFadden also credited the Iona learning community and the Media and Strategic Communication department with helping him find his voice and pushing him to set the goals for what he wanted in life.  

After graduating from Iona in 2019 with a bachelor’s in mass communication, McFadden traveled back to his home state of Maryland where he enrolled in graduate school at the Phillip Merrill School of Journalism at the University of Maryland. During this time, he worked for notable media companies and newspapers like SB Nation, The Washington Post and even covered Super Bowl LIV for a wire service run by the university.  

McFadden earned his master’s degree in journalism in the spring of this year, while also representing Black journalists by being part of the 29th annual class of the Sports Journalism Institute for minorities and women. 

The institute then assigned him to an internship with The Baltimore Sun in May to cover local sports teams including the Baltimore Ravens, Maryland University Terrapins and the Baltimore Orioles.  

He has now risen in the ranks and is currently a full-time sports reporter for the newspaper, covering the Ravens and University of Maryland football. McFadden still finds it difficult to suppress the disbelief.  

“It’s kind of surreal,” said McFadden. “Not a lot of kids can come out of college and say they’re writing about the Baltimore Ravens or covering a Division I college football and basketball program.”  

The young sportswriter acknowledges the opportunity he has earned but refuses to let himself get too comfortable with where he is. After all, hard work is what got him here in the first place. He views his recent success as a testament to the work that he put in and believes that it’s a fairly simple formula to replicate.  

“Set that standard for yourself, and carry that standard wherever you go,” said McFadden. “It just goes to show that that pays off.” 

Eight years after that fateful JV tryout, McFadden still enjoys playing basketball in his free time. While his basketball caliber is currently unknown, it seems that his pursuit of sports journalism instead has served him well, and points to a bright future ahead for the Iona alum.