People ask me all the time: “How did you get into journalism?”
I think it fascinates people why anyone would choose such a thankless profession where the only certainty is uncertainty. Anyone lucky enough to even find work in this endangered field knows all about long hours, endless flak from critics, and living paycheck to paycheck.
My answer is twofold.
First, is it any wonder that a kid who grew up idolizing Rocky Balboa and Batman viewed himself as an underdog with uncompromising ethics?
Let me tell you a story about the latter. I once interviewed an elected official in Panera. When I arrived, he was sitting there with two coffee cups, one of which he presumably bought for me. So, what did I do? I went to the counter and bought my own, of course, kindly explaining to the councilman that I cannot accept gifts from sources.
If you think this sounds incredibly awkward, it was. Even the strictest ethics professors will tell you that anything up to $5 is safe. But I’m not completely unreasonable. I’d like to think I’d accept a water bottle from a source if I was dying of thirst, but that theory has never been put to the test.
Self-psychoanalysis aside, the second reason is much more obvious: SPORTS.
I’ve been writing about sports since the day I graduated from tracing letters to writing full sentences. As a high schooler working at Turco’s, I would spend my lunch breaks sitting in my car consuming an unhealthy amount of sports content. I would toggle back and forth between WFAN and ESPN Radio while reading ESPN the Magazine or Sports Illustrated. I would send endless emails to my favorite radio hosts and writers, some of which they would read on the air or reprint in their columns.
My friends and I also launched a website called The Fantasy Pulse. I didn’t know much about building websites, but I learned how because I needed to.
The world didn’t need, nor did it want, fantasy articles authored by John Russo, Chris Marschhauser and Brian Marschhauser. But I needed to write about sports, even if nobody was reading. It’s like air for me. It always has been.
I wasn’t blessed with athleticism or hand-eye coordination, so playing sports was not a viable career path. But talking about them was.
So, when it came time to choose a college major, I asked myself: What is the likeliest route for me to enter the world of sports media?
In 2007, while a journalism student at SUNY Purchase, I was still spending my spare time listening to talk radio in between classes and creating sports websites that nobody visited. By chance, I had my dial tuned to ESPN Radio when Max Kellerman said his show was in desperate need of competent interns. I saw my opening and took it. I emailed the same day with a similar spiel to the one I’m giving you now.
I landed the internship and clung onto it for as long as possible, but it ended. My time working closely with broadcasters like Michael Kay and Stephen A. Smith was over.
Contrary to what you might be thinking, I wasn’t down. Why should I have been? I had no reason to think it would be my last chance to work in sports. I was a naïve 21-year-old with another year of college to go. “Getting that first internship was easy,” I thought. “I’ll get another job in sports when I graduate.”
But perception was not reality. I got a job working the graveyard shift at Old Navy. Done by 10 a.m., I spent the rest of my day crafting original cover letters to go along with hundreds of resumes, all of which went unanswered.
I suppose I always did like being an underdog.
With the bank account running dry, I turned my attention away from ESPN to something a bit more realistic. I reached out to Patch, a hyperlocal online news source, which brought me on a freelance writer. My work there landed me a full-time gig at the Daily Voice, which brought me to Yorktown News in 2013.
And here I’ve been ever since, writing about local elections, school boards, fund balances, RFPs, wetland violations, new developments and other topics of vital importance to a functioning town, which I didn’t care for or understand at first but now fascinate me endlessly.
I never felt bad for myself or lamented my situation. I took advantage of the faith Halston Media showed in me. I threw myself into a world I knew nothing about and continued to improve, winning awards for investigative journalism, government reporting and photography.
But I always held out a sliver of hope that I’d have another chance to write about sports.
I’m excited to announce that day has come. Beginning Wednesday, I will leave my posts as editor Yorktown News and The Katonah-Lewisboro Times to become the sports editor of all five Halston Media publications.
It’s been 10 years, but I’m finally getting the call back to the Big Leagues.
If you have sports news tips or just want to say hello, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.