Every so often, I’ve decided to drop in a Q&A with a reporter of my choosing to talk about what’s right and wrong with journalism, their interests and random other stuff. Some are friends. Some are just people who’s work I really respect. Some cover sports. Some don’t. Hopefully all will be interesting.
This week, it’s Lindsey Adler of Buzzfeed. Lindsey covers sports for the site, does really good work over there and has one of the most interesting Twitter accounts in sports media. You can follow her here. We talked about how she finds stories, her outspokenness, and San Francisco vs. New York.
You can check out the first Q&A, with the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond, here.
The questions are in bold. The answers are not.
1. How did you get into journalism and get to the job you’re at now?
A couple years ago BuzzFeed opened an internship for someone to cover women’s issues in sports. I figured that was the perfect intersection of my interests, and an entry level position in an industry that makes it tough to get them without a good bit of experience. I got that internship, went to VICE Sports for a bit after the internship ended, then our news director at BuzzFeed reached out after they’d decided to create a full-time sports position on the breaking news desk. And they’ve just let me be really flexible and grow from there!
2. When you first started working at Buzzfeed, how would people and sources respond to interview requests and your reporting? Did you experience any resistance or were people like, oh great, Buzzfeed is expanding its news-gathering now? There’s very good work being done there but there’s usually a lag in acceptance of new media organizations.
3. You have the luxury of covering every league and every sport. And the burden of not having a beat that can produce stories for you. How do you approach getting stories?
Not having a single sport/team beat is more of a blessing than a curse, but there are some downsides I see. For instance, as you mention, I don’t have a beat that just brings a daily news cycle to me. It is also harder to get like, deeply sourced in one area when I jump around. But the freedom and flexibility I’ve been allowed in my original reporting in the two years I’ve been at BuzzFeed has been so helpful and revealing to me about my interests, strengths, and weaknesses. I’ve really been allowed to kind of try my hand at a lot of different types of reporting, which is something I think is invaluable as a young reporter and something I will credit BuzzFeed with for the rest of my career, probably. I approach getting stories often by keeping an eye on off-hand mentions of some athlete’s weird interest or a cool initiative a team or league is doing. Because a lot of my friends also know I’m inclined to chase the stories about outsiders with unique backstories (Hi, I report what I am, I guess), they sometimes give me heads-ups about cool stories to check out as well.
4. How in the world do you find a college football prospect on a native American reservation? And then report it out?
This is funny, because my story about Bona Nez is actually a story that came to me as a suggestion from a friend/BuzzFeed colleague, Joel Anderson. Nez was on the leaderboard for I think a couple different categories of defensive stats last year on MaxPreps, and Joel is a huge high school football fan. (Hello, Texas.) He wasn’t able to get to the story at the time, so he was gracious enough to allow me to pitch it to my editor, who told me to hop on a plane and go for it.
Reporting for that story was interesting and fun. That Arizona-border corner of New Mexico is unfathomably beautiful, and a part of the country I definitely wouldn’t have seen without this story. But when I spoke with my editor, I asked for permission to spend at least a week down there with his family and in the area, because it is a community and culture that is so different from what I know. I felt a real imperative to get this story right, and I was just fortunate that the Nez family was so open and accommodating to me.
5. You’ve been very vocal and informative on women’s issues and representation in sports and media. Was there ever apprehension for you to be outspoken, especially as a young journalist still trying to find your standing? I’m sometimes more conservative in putting out my opinion on things just out of caution. Maybe it’s living in the (old?) theory of just wanting to focus on reporting but that seems to be a relic now on Twitter and for good reason.
I think I need to be less vocal, honestly. It’s something I’ve really worked on scaling back over the last few months, but I am outspoken by nature, and it often feels like a difficult process to keep my thoughts to myself. But I also think of all the people with experiences different than my own whose perspective I might not understand if they were not vocal, so I hope my outspokenness can be productive in that way for people who might care deeply about gender equality, but don’t have first-hand perspective. I think my outspokenness about gender issues actually *built* some of my standing in my industry as it kind of carved out a niche role for me, but I am careful now to pigeon-hole myself in that role, and I recognize that being openly combative in this industry is a disastrous career strategy.
6. This tweet really struck me, for obvious reasons. How much shit do you and other women reporters still have to put up with that men and people who don’t deal with this are just blind or ignorant to?
7. What do you think is over-reported and over-covered in sports and what needs more attention?
8. As a young journalist (I’m shaming myself just for using that term) and someone who also might need to spend oh god how many years until retirement, how much do you think about the unsteady nature of the field, its changing structure and what it means long-term for you?
Uh, I can’t believe journalism is the wagon to which I’ve hitched myself. I recognize that I’ve got a pretty damn good deal going at BuzzFeed News, but I look out at the sports media/media landscape at large and think, “Oh god, there are so few attractive options.” Right now, I just hope that I can continue to do work I find fulfilling.
9. Who is the best writer you read and who people should read who you think isn’t getting enough due? (And doesn’t work at Buzzfeed — because that’s not fair)
10. So you’re from San Francisco and moved to New York. How do the two food scenes compare? Dare I ask you to pick between them?