Editors at Work: Cengage Learning

Ed Dodd, ’93, is a freelance content developer/editor for Cengage Learning and has worked in the publishing field for almost 22 years. He was an English major at Saint Joseph’s University.

After graduating from Saint Josephs, how did you end up in editing?

One of my radio station [WSJR] colleagues had found work as an editorial assistant at Saunders College Publishing, a college textbook publisher imprint of then Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. She told me that the company was looking for summer interns, and while the job paid very little—if I recall it was either $7.50 or $8 an hour with no benefits whatsoever—it sometimes led to actual job offers at the end of the summer to become full-time editorial assistants. I was an editorial assistant for almost three years before I was named a development editor for physics and chemistry in 1998. I worked in-house for a little under three years before going freelance and working on my own in May of 2001.

What is your role in the editing process?

As a content developer, I’m the primary point of contact with the author on behalf of the company. The company sets the agenda for the new edition or revision in consultation with the author, and a “revision plan” is drafted. Once a manuscript comes in for a certain chapter or chapters, I’ll read it over to make sure the plan is being followed and then prep the text manuscript and the art manuscript for the production process.

What is the relationship like between editor and writer?

A lot of your job is convincing the author of something through emails you write or conversations you have. The emails you write and the arguments you make have to be well written, and in this age of very short attention spans, you can’t send a three-page email because no one is going to read it.

What experiences have made you into a talented editor?

I’ve now worked on textbooks in physics, chemistry, astronomy, earth science, statistics, calculus, business writing, technical communication, TV production, theater design and nonfiction essay compilations, and I think having that sort of range helps keep me marketable as an independent contractor who has to hustle for his next contract the same way a roofer has to find the next guy who needs a roof for his house.

What is your advice for an aspiring editor?

Self-mentoring is really the thing that I would suggest. No one is going to sit down and mentor you because that doesn’t happen. You have to be self-motivated, and you have to mentor yourself. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask. I also won’t pretend it’s all fun and games. It isn’t. There is tediousness, paperwork and annoying corporate bosses, but you still do what good editors do: Keep authors focused on what they do best—writing—and try to be the best advocate for authors and their needs within the corporate structure. If you’re successful in these two tasks, I think you’d probably be a good editor no matter what the prose you are working with, fiction, nonfiction, children’s books or textbooks.


Internships available at Cengage Learning can be found here.

—Ashley Cappetta, ’17

Editors at Work: Star Tribune

Laurie Hertzel is books editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

What does your job entail? 

We review books three times a week, which is a lot for a regional paper. I also write a weekly column. I write book reviews myself. I also do author profiles. I get about 1,000 books a month in the mail, and I look at every book and make a decision as to whether or not we’re going to review it. It’s a lot of trotting around, and it’s a lot of organizing, but the wonderful part is I have access to so many books. For me that’s just heaven. When I took the job, one of my editors said, “At some point, you’re going to stop looking at these as books, and you’re going to think of them as tonnage.” And I said if that ever happened, I would quit, and it has not happened.

What about a book makes you decide to review it?

I’m looking for a mix so I have something for everyone. I do pay attention to who the author is. If it’s somebody important and noteworthy, we will probably review it. However, it’s very important to me to not just review the books that you probably already know about or will have seen somewhere else. I also look for books where the author is either from here or is coming to town.

Is there a project that you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?

I wrote a book that came out five years ago called “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist,” and it was about how I became a journalist and how I kind of fell into newspapers by accident. Then I would say that the pivotal moment for me in my career was when I was working in Duluth, when the newspaper sent me to the Soviet Union to report, and that opened a lot of doors for me.

Who makes a good book editor?

I think somebody like me who is obsessed with books and doesn’t mind working on their own time. You need somebody who is a journalist, really, because a big part of the job is making decisions—news decisions, really. What stories am I going to write? Which writers am I going to profile? [You need] somebody who has a broad taste in reading.


The Star Tribune offers paid newsroom internships for seniors in college who have worked for a college news outlet and have interned with at least one other professional news organization. If this sort of internship sounds appealing but you want to stay closer to home, the Philadelphia Inquirer offers similar internships.

—Sarah Sutherland, ’16

Editors at Work: MarVista Entertainment

Michael McGahey is vice president of Series Development and Production at MarVista Entertainment. A Temple University graduate, he convinced a former boss to take a chance on a script by Michael Arndt that became the 2006 hit film “Little Miss Sunshine.”

What does an average work day look like for you?  

In a typical day, I have general meetings or project-specific meetings with writers, producers, directors, actors, managers, agents, network executives and studio executives, or I will have internal meetings with my team. The purpose of my job is to identify, develop, package with talent, sell and ultimately produce TV series and movies for networks, both domestically and internationally. I spend a lot of time meeting with people, corresponding, reading, giving notes and selling a variety of different projects.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

The creative part of the job is the most fun. “Spitballing” ideas with creative people is my favorite part. Negotiating deals is probably my least favorite.

What kind of classes did you take at Temple?

I was really interested in writing and directing, so I took a lot of screenwriting classes and also took classes in the English department, like prose writing and poetry writing. I was really concentrating on writing actually. It was the thing that was most important to me. I did take film editing classes and directing classes and all of that.

How is your job similar to an editor at a publishing or magazine organization?

I read written material, and then I work with the writers to develop that material into something that we can turn into either a television show or movie.

What is the story behind “Little Miss Sunshine”?

“Little Miss Sunshine” was sent to me by an executive at Bona Fide Productions. I read the script, and our development team and assistants all read it. In total there were probably about 10 or 11 of us who read it and weighed in. At the time, I was director of development, and there were two execs above me who didn’t support buying the script, but I fought for it, and ultimately, the partners agreed with me. That was gratifying for me early on in my career. It taught me that you have to have good taste and fight for what you believe in, which doesn’t happen every day.

Why did you make the shift from from movies to television?

I love the theatrical movie business and would have happily stayed in it. The problem is that it’s a business in retreat, so there are not as many job opportunities as there once were because there are fewer and fewer movies being produced. The only reason “Little Miss Sunshine” got made was because my boss was willing to finance the movie out of pocket. That’s a huge gamble, and usually you don’t have a success like “Little Miss Sunshine” come from a gamble like that. TV is just a more robust business presenting more opportunities for success than the feature film will ever likely have again.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I will likely be more actively producing current TV series for my company, as opposed to developing and selling, and probably managing a larger TV series department. Secretly, I hope I’m on an island in a hammock someplace, but I’m more of a workaholic than that.


Want to try your luck in Hollywood? Students interested in internships at MarVista Entertainment in Los Angeles should visit the MarVista website.

—Katherine Ricchini, ’17

Editors at Work: Harcourt

A long-time editor, publisher and writer, Jane Isay served for seven years as editor in chief of Harcourt, where she edited a number of best-sellers, including Buzz Bissinger’s “Friday Night Lights.” Isay is currently on the editorial board at The New Press.

What makes you good at editing?

I think it’s love that makes you good at this. I was the kind of girl who read while I was tying my shoelaces. Books have been my salvation. I fit right into publishing, and I knew this was going to be my lifetime work. I also knew what I thought. Being a person who comes to an opinion and trusts it—that’s the first thing about being a book editor. So when there’s a book or a manuscript, if I’m bored, I know it’s going to bore other people. And if I’m excited, I know it’s going to interest people.

Is there something special that makes a particular nonfiction manuscript stand out?

For me, there has to be something new that I’ve never thought or heard of before. Or there has to be, as in “Friday Night Lights,” a window into a world that people don’t know about. So the first is originality. The second is clarity of thought. Sometimes you read a manuscript and the author can’t seem to finish a thought in a paragraph. The writing is writing you could read anywhere. One time I was running a publishing company that was doing a lot of conservative books. And I thought, I’ll do one. They sell. I published a book about juvenile justice, written by a woman who has lately moved to the left politically. I hated everything she had to say. So how could I help her say it better? From that, I learned not to publish cynically. You have to have something in the manuscript that you like. You have to hear some language that resonates with you in order to make it better.

How do you approach authors when you see the need to make a substantial change to their writing?

First you tell the writer all the good things about the work. After all, as an editor, you would not have chosen to publish it if there weren’t good reasons. Then you launch in delicately and, as a colleague, not a judge, discuss some of the problems. Use the pronoun “we” instead of “you.” It’s a team effort.

When deciding to publish a book, do you always try to pick the next best-seller?

Nobody knows what a best-seller is, unless it is the fourth book of a best-selling writer, and even that can fail. A book can be a success without being a best-seller. It can change people’s minds. It can alter the public conversation. I am on the board of a publishing company called The New Press, and we published a book called “The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. The first printing was 3,500 copies, but it’s sold over a million by now, and it’s changed the world. We didn’t know it was gonna be a best-seller. We knew it was important.

What is your advice to young people pursuing a career in publishing?

Go to every website of every major publisher and see if they have an internship program. If you know anybody who’s ever written a book, use that contact. And if there’s a place that publishes a whole lot of books that you are crazy about, then make that part of your application. If you ever get to an interview phase, promise me that you will have studied that publishing company. Give them a sense that you are already engaged in what they’re doing. If you get any internship in a place that deals with words, especially on paper, do it. Because that will give you a leg up in whatever you want to do, especially as an editor.


Students interested in applying for editorial internships with The New Press should visit the company’s website for more information. Harcourt, now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, also offers internships at its various offices throughout the United States.

—Abigail Gorman, ’17

Editors at Work: Visit Philadelphia

Dan Wisniewski, ’08, is digital content manager at Visit Philadelphia. He previously worked alongside several other Saint Joseph’s English major alums at Progressive Business Publications 

When did you realize you wanted to work in the digital sphere?

When I worked at Progressive Business Publications, it was an actual publication. If you were an HR Manager, you received it in the mail. Then, we eventually moved it online. I think I would’ve ended up writing in the digital sphere no matter what. All the stuff I was doing for freelancing was stuff that would end up online and also in print, so it wasn’t necessarily a decision that was made so much, as the inevitable thing.

Is there a different learning curve for trying to write web content over print content?

Yes. At Progressive Business Publications, I was using Quark. So I was writing into the actual template of the print, and that was kind of a nightmare. Writing for online now, I have to know HTML. That was a decision that was made maybe a year ago, and I thought, “There is no way I want to do this. This is miserable. It’s going to slow me down so much.” But now I am super excited about it because it means I know a little bit about the coding that goes into how all these pieces work.

For annual events that Visit Philadelphia covers, do you ever feel like you are saying the same thing over and over again? 

We definitely do some repurposing. It is a small team. We have four people. We try to rewrite stuff when we can, and we’re able to use some of the information the communications and PR team put together since they work very far ahead for press. In terms of struggling to talk about the same thing in different ways, you just get used to it. The things that are interesting are always going to be interesting. You just have to keep trying different ways, and some work and some don’t.

 You’ve been successful in what you do. Is it just being a good writer?

 It’s just working hard. The way that I got to be what I think is a decent writer is I just wrote all the time, and I read stuff all of the time. Naturally, you just get better at it as you keep doing it. That’s how I think I ended up where I am today.

Is there a specific area you enjoy working on the most for Visit Philly?  

I really like history a lot, which is good because Philadelphia has the best history. Society Hill is like Disney World. It’s incredible. I also like craft beer, so I like writing about craft beer festivals and stuff like that. We should have a piece coming out soon on Uwishunu on the top 10 brewpubs to visit in a weekend.

To view current internship opportunities, check out VisitPhilly.com. If no internships are listed, email a quick note with your interests to jobs@visitphilly.com

 Lauren Carroll, ’16

Editors at Work: Global Press Journal

Krista Kapralos is managing editor of Global Press Journal.

What is the mission of the Global Press Institute which publishes the Global Press Journal?

The goal of what we do is to hire people in places that mainstream news organizations do not cover, or do not cover well. [In countries where] there is a lot of misinformation or no information, our goal is to provide news that you are not getting anywhere else. It’s very rare for us to tag along on big news stories. We try to find other stories that aren’t coming out.

Why is the perspective of journalists from countries outside of the U.S. so important?

All of our reporters cover their own communities. There are some cases in which Western journalists can effectively go and cover news in foreign locations, but in many cases, if not most cases, I think the most effective way of covering foreign countries is by having people cover their own communities. They understand the local languages, the local culture, the local context. At the same time, there is an added level of danger for them because they are not actually leaving. So when we think about how to cover stories, we think very long term, keeping in mind that our reporters live there and are going to stay there. That’s really core to who we are and what we do.

How did you get started working in journalism?

I started off just wanting to be a reporter. Some of my friends told me that at one point I said that I was going to be the owner and publisher of the Wall Street Journal. So I always had some reporting in my blood. I went to journalism school, then took a job at a small daily newspaper, which was the best decision. I’ll always encourage journalism students who want to become the world’s best investigative reporter, or best feature storyteller, to take a job at a daily newspaper where you will be the only person at work the day the mayor shoots his wife. That sort of stuff happens at small newspapers. You want to be the person there to take that gig when it comes along.

How did you end up at the Global Press Journal?

I called the founder and said, if you ever have an opening, I’d love to come on board, and before long I was able to. I started off building the syndication platform for Global Press Journal which is now known as Global Press News Service. That was a learning point for me because I had no interest initially in doing a job like that, but I wanted to be a part of this organization. When an opening was available to become managing editor, it was a natural fit. I had experience on both sides, and I had a much better understanding than I did as a daily newspaper reporter to how the business of journalism works.

How did you get interested in international journalism opposed to domestic journalism?

I’ve done a lot of domestic journalism, and I think that’s always really important. I started out covering small town city councils. I learned how to develop relationships with people there. A lot of people, particularly in small towns, tend to have a fixation on power, and they would hold it over the little journalist. After having all of these experiences, I wanted to expand. I always had an interest in refugees and immigrants. I spent quite of bit of time working at a refugee camp in Germany, and I developed an interest in international affairs. I figured out the stories that worked best for me to tell.

Do you do any writing still as managing editor?

I produce very little myself. I’m not out doing my own stories. I’m helping reporters develop stories on their own, figuring out the best way to get a story, figuring out the best avenue for a story, and all the technical details that go into it. So the story is still theirs. I think that was the surprise for me because when I was finding some success as a news reporter, I found that I couldn’t imagine being an editor. But I love seeing someone succeed.


The Global Press Journal offers internship opportunities in editorial, social media, and press freedom at their headquarters in San Francisco and in Washington, D.C. Opportunities will be listed as they are available for summer, fall and spring terms.

—Ayana Tabourn,’16

Editors at Work: Southwest Magazine

Brad Pearson, ’06, is managing editor of Southwest: The Magazine. 

Can you tell us how you got to where you are now?

After graduating from Saint Joseph’s in 2006, I moved down to Washington, D.C., with the intention of going to graduate school. Instead, I got a job writing for community weeklies, which ended up being a great decision. I was an international relations major at SJU, but I minored in English and focused on journalism. By not going to grad school, I had to become a reporter really quickly. At 22 I had to teach myself if the nut graph was working or if the syntax of my story made sense. My then girlfriend (and now wife) got a job in Dallas, so we moved down here. I got a job writing for the city of Dallas magazine called D Magazine, for which I wrote for three years on and off. I was an online writer, healthcare editor, senior business editor and front-of-book editor. When I left for the last time last year, I came to Southwest Magazine where I am the managing editor.

What does the managing editor do?

I’m not involved in magazine production. I edit personal essays, staff features and the front-of-book pages, including the “Eat, Drink” section. I still get to write some features as well, but they’re mostly small. I write cultural pieces but edit the serious stuff. As an editor, I see a mix of everything you could imagine going into a magazine.

How do you gauge the type of material people want to read while traveling on a plane?

Well, for starters, we can’t run stories about people being murdered or any type of death. That doesn’t necessarily mean we shy away from stories that are sad or depressing because that is still a human emotion often conveyed through a good story. We really like to write features that we feel like people should read, whether they’re on an airplane or not. One of the perks for working at an airline magazine is that we don’t have to rely as heavily on cover lines because we’re not forcing people to buy our magazine. It’s rare that a magazine has such a captive audience, but because it’s distributed on a plane, our readers can’t go anywhere.

Working for an airline magazine, do you get the opportunity to travel often?

In 2014 I was granted the Marshall Memorial Fellowship, where I got the opportunity to travel through Europe. I learned about the differences between the European and United States press. It puts into perspective how much more freedom we have in the United States press compared to publications in Europe. But for the magazine, I travel less than you would think. In the year I’ve been working here, I traveled for four stories. I always try to hit a few birds with one stone when I travel. For example, every December we publish a feature called “Spirit Guide,” so whenever I travel I frequent local bars and restaurants to find great cocktails to include in the feature. Being a top editor, the magazine can’t really afford to have me absent for a long period of time, so I always make good use of my time away.

Do you freelance at all? If so, how do you balance freelancing with your staff position?

Because I only write a few features for Southwest, I like to do some freelancing on the side. Having a staff position while freelancing is hard. I do a lot of research at night and on weekends. The best part about freelancing is that you can email an editor, say “this is my idea for a story” and get your foot in the door. This is an industry about connections, and by freelancing and reaching out to editors, you can meet people that you will want to work with for the rest of your life.

What’s your biggest accomplishment?

I wrote a piece for Philadelphia Magazine last year about the time I was kidnapped outside Saint Joseph’s campus. I worked on and off for about nine years, making sure the story was as perfect as it could be. I was lucky enough to have someone in my household, my wife, read every draft and give her objective opinion. In the last year of writing, I spent every single day thinking of my kidnapping, the reporting of it, making the sentences factual. I had to visit my kidnappers in prison. When this is haunting you every single day, the end product is that much sweeter. You know how much work you put into it. All writers are narcissists on some level, and it felt really nice to have a lot of people read your story, even when it’s about the worst moment of your life.

Are there internship opportunities at Southwest?

We have internships! And they pay. (Not great, and you have to come to Dallas, but they still pay).

—Madeline Morr, ’16

Editors at Work: Global Press Journal (Engagement)

Staci Baird is the engagement editor for the Global Press Journal.

Can you describe what the Global Press Journal does?

Global Press Institute
 is a social enterprise that trains women in developing media markets to be journalists. We employ them to become professional journalistsWe employ 100 percent of our graduates as reporters for our award-winning publication, Global Press Journal. Then, Global Press News Service helps expand our reach through partnerships with media organizations and brands around the world. We don’t ever send journalists from the United States to another country to cover a story. I think that’s really key for us because we’re helping these communities where we have trained journalists to tell the stories of their own communities and to tell us what the story is. We get a different set of voices than anything else you might read in other international or national coverage.

What are some of your favorite stories that Global Press has covered?

Two of my favorite GPJ stories are from the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC]: “In DRC, Electrical Shortage Powers Demand for Cellphone Charging Shops” and “Widow Fights Sexism, Earns Respect and Pride Repairing Life-sustaining Water Jugs in DRC.” I love stories about entrepreneurs who are starting their own businesses and developing their own solutions to problems in their communities. These aren’t the kind of stories you generally see about the DRC.

What are your job duties as engagement editor?

My day-to-day job is sharing Global Press Journal stories on social media, but it’s more than just crafting the perfect tweet or the perfect Facebook post. We’re thinking a little bit deeper about what that term “engagement” really means for us and using our stories to start conversations. My challenge this year is increasing our readership across the United States and the world. We’re experimenting with a lot of new and exciting technologies and techniques for reaching both local audiences and global audiences.

Do you run into any barriers regarding language or have any Google translate mishaps?

We tweet in English, Spanish and French. Sometimes we’ll get a tweet back in a language I can’t even decipher. Luckily, we have our reporters and translators to help me translate. There’s also a cultural consideration to think about as to why some tweets get more clicks than others or why some stories generate more conversation. So that’s been interesting for me to learn. The support for different fonts and characters on the web can be really challenging. But we’re working on expanding our language reach.

We’ve seen how Snapchat is used by many press outlets to keep readers invested and in the moment. What do you think the next big social media trend/app will be?

I’m no social media savant, but I think as technology continues to develop and evolve, and as more people gain access to the Internet, there will be more real-time conversations happening between people all over the world. This socialization of news and information is encouraging because I believe accuracy and verification, and thus journalism, will always be a part of it.


The Global Press Institute offers a variety of internship opportunities at their offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. For internship listings, check out the organization’s website.

                                                                                               —Cristiana Caruso, ‘16


Editors at Work: Running Press

Teresa Bonaddio is senior designer at Running Press in Philadelphia.

How did you get to where you are in the world of publishing and design?   

I started my publishing career as an intern in the kid’s editorial department of Running Press. Coincidentally, when that was ending, a job opened up on the lowest rung of their editorial department, and from there I moved up about three rungs to associate editor. Eventually, I went back to focus on the visual art aspect of life. My undergrad was a B.F.A. in printmaking and book arts from University of the Arts. I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art for a graduate degree in graphic design and then wound up coming back to Philadelphia to be a designer at Running Press. I reconnected with one of my coworkers, and they just so happened to have a job opening. So now I’m back, on the design side of things.

What is the process of making a children’s book?

A lot of children’s books are agented, especially middle grade and teen Young Adult, but there are also a lot of projects and ideas that actually come about through in-house development. We create the text or do a work-for-hire agreement, in which we find a writer who we feel is great for a project, and commission them to complete it. Then the company owns the project. In the children’s book world, you don’t have to have an agent, especially with picture books and illustrators. I think often times those types of projects can come into your inbox unsolicited in a way that’s serendipitous. It ended up with the right person for the right reasons.

How do designers work with authors and editors?

We go through various stages. When the designers get the manuscript, we’re faced with the task of creating a look and feel for it. We have conversations with the editor about whether the book will be done with illustration or photography. We bring options and samples to the table and have a group discussion about it. There is a step where we share options with the author. At these check-in points, we do design samples with sketches and illustrations, and then the designers lay it out and oftentimes come up with two or three variations for each page. We’ll review that and say what works and what doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s a mix-and-match game, and there is a lot of back and forth. But ultimately, the author is always consulted in some way because we want them to like their book and also do well in the marketplace.

How many book projects are you usually working on at any given time?

We’re usually working on 15 to 30 projects at various overlapping stages. For example, right now we’re working on getting spring ’16 out the door, developing fall ’16 and acquiring projects for spring ’17.

With all of these projects, how are you able to find time for your own creative work?

It’s an everyday challenge, but you have to create habits for yourself. I grasp any time I can, whether it’s my commute or my lunch break, for thinking or jotting down an idea. Sometimes I come home from work, take a breather and then say “okay, I’m going to work on my own project from eight to eleven.” It’s about establishing time for yourself, whether you’re doing it for more money or even for more work that’s gratifying in another way.

What advice would you offer to young people trying to get into the world of publishing?

The publishing world is a mentor-based industry, and most people start out as interns. At a publishing house, they take you under their wing. Publishing is a ladder-climbing industry in that you’re always looking to go up the next notch and take on more responsibility. I worked a lot of projects that I didn’t want to as an assistant, but I found that the more different people I worked with, the more I learned. Even if you have to start at the bottom, you can always learn from the people around you.


Running Press offers a variety of internship opportunities for college students in the fall, spring, and summer terms.

–Alyssa Evans, ’16

Editors at Work: ESPN The Magazine

Ty Wenger is deputy editor of ESPN The Magazine.

What does it mean to be a deputy editor?

Deputy editor is what we call a top editor in the magazine business. You work with writers, you assign stories. The deputy editor is basically the quality control. You work above the story editors, and it’s your job to help them craft the story ideas and be that second layer. Basically, you are the more experienced version of a story editor.

Do you have an accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I would say the piece on Yasiel Puig and his escape from Cuba that ran about 18 months ago. It was nominated for an ASME, a national magazine award, and was one of the finalists in reporting. The reason why I am so proud of that piece is because it was a story that hadn’t been told. It shed a new light on the plight of what Cuban athletes go through to get off the island. The writer, Scott Eden, declared to me when he filed the piece that his intent with the piece was to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The absurdity of the policy was such that to him, this story brought to light the human impact of that. Within a year, the U.S. embargo on Cuba was over. Whether that’s coincidental, I don’t want to confuse correlation with causality. I would say of all the pieces, that is what I’m most proud of because that actually ended up having real-life implications.

Is most of your work dedicated toward editing or writing?

Mostly I’m editing now. I don’t do much writing. I definitely think editors should continue to write because I think it’s very important to be able to understand both sides of the equation and empathize with writers. Sometimes the only way to do that is to actually write yourself. I think it is a mistake when people just go down the editing track because they can lose the connection with the reality of what it’s like to be a writer.

How do you break through the organizational walls to tell the hard, truthful stories about sports?

First of all, don’t be afraid to write around it. Most of our great profiles and features have been about subjects who have never cooperated with us. You don’t need the source at the heart of your story to tell a great story about that source. In truth, there are dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people around those people who know the narrative. The other thing, research the hell out of your subject.

What advice do you have for students coming out of college and looking to break into the field of journalism?

I could have answered this question better 20 years ago because the Internet didn’t exist, and there were very codified entry points. I think so many people ignore the old school ways, which is calling up [an editor] and sending a pitch traditionally. Nobody ever pitches me anymore. Fifteen years ago I would receive two or three pitches a day from writers I had never heard of.

Here’s the answer: Go and find the people at the magazines. There are books. Buy the book, find out who the editors are and go the traditional way. Put yourself in front of them and just keep throwing yourself out there, and eventually you will find an opportunity. If you don’t throw yourself out there to be rejected 17 times out of 20, then you’re not going to find that one time that you’re accepted. I think that’s the honest answer. It’s a lot of banging your head against the wall for the first couple of years. Getting in is the hard part, but once you’re in, you have the opportunity to prove what you can do. You learn, you get better, you grow, and then you potentially have a career.

What advice do you have for those interested in working for ESPN? 

ESPN absolutely loves to raise homegrown talent. It is a slow process, but it absolutely exists. There are ladders built within this company to allow people to enter early and ascend up through the company. You have to run the risk of potentially being annoying, but also understand that people will get that you’re trying to make a career. It’s a hard thing to get into journalism these days, really hard. But when you have that foot in the door, make sure you follow that foot up by sticking your whole lower leg in, then the knee, before trying to wedge the whole body inside.


Interested in climbing the ladder at ESPN? Explore possibilities with ESPN The Magazine and other avenues of the company here.

—Sarah Panetta ’16