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Media Monday: Justin Wise

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For this week’s Media Monday, we’d like you to meet Justin Wise, a freelance sports journalist whose work appears in publications such as Sports Illustrated and How did you find yourself as a journalist? I found myself as a journalist the conventional way: by writing. As I began to immerse myself in the sprawling […]

For this week’s Media Monday, we’d like you to meet Justin Wise, a freelance sports journalist whose work appears in publications such as Sports Illustrated and

Justin Wise

  1. How did you find yourself as a journalist?

I found myself as a journalist the conventional way: by writing. As I began to immerse myself in the sprawling world of college athletics while working for the University of Oregon’s student newspaper, I realized just how far my curiosity could take me if I was constantly asking questions and writing stories. Someone once said to me, “writing’s a muscle, it needs to be worked at like anything else.” I’ve lived by that philosophy as an editor and writer, understanding that your role as a journalist is essentially what you make of it.

2. Which of your stories are you most proud of?

The story I’m most proud didn’t derive from any of the traditional tools of journalism. I didn’t interview anyone. I didn’t thoroughly research a subject. Rather, I just wrote about what I felt a few months after my father died. With his absence, I became keenly aware that the thing that had always attached me to sports wasn’t the competition, but the conversation. The reception to the piece was one I could never have expected. My Twitter and Facebook feeds became engulfed with responses telling me how relatable my experience was. I was honored with a Hearst Award in the sports writing category. It dawned on me that the stories with the most power didn’t need to be a meticulously scrutinized exposé on a controversial topic. It just had to be meaningful; readers recognize that.

3. What is your favorite thing about journalism?

I recently came across this quote from the legendary sports writer Frank Deford in his obituary. “That’s why most of us become journalists—because we’re shy, but we’re also curious, and if you have a press card, then you have a professional excuse to ask questions of strangers, which you don’t have the nerve to do in life at large.” The statement embodies my favorite trait about this industry, because if you show a persistence to find interesting topics, you have an opportunity to talk with all sorts of compelling individuals. It’s led me to dive deeply into subjects such as business matters related to the NCAA and a multi-sport athlete’s quest to the Olympics, areas where I got to speak with all sorts of unique characters.

4. What is your interview style?

I’ve experimented with multiple interview approaches because I’ve always felt like it is circumstantial. In some cases, it feels necessary to be more conversational.  Other times, I’ve felt like it’s necessary to just get to the point. But more importantly, I’ve always placed more emphasis on the research required before the interview. People appreciate if someone has done their homework, and it may lead to a subject becoming more open about the questions you’re asking. During my time covering the Giants for last summer, I also recognized how important cultivating relationships can be. Regardless of your interview approach, Madison Bumgarner is going to be much more candid with the reporter who’s wandered the clubhouse for over a decade versus someone who just entered it for the first time.

5. What do you look for in a story?

I really have tried to gear my efforts towards stories that can either start or keep an engaging conversation going. And that doesn’t mean just writing about the most famous personality. It many times has meant writing about topics that don’t receive as much attention, such as a former football player’s ongoing physical battles due to the concussions he incurred in college or the cutting edge nutritional programs being installed in NCAA programs around the nation.

6. What is your day like for you as a reporter?

I’m currently a freelancer, which means my day-to-day isn’t as structured as it used to be. But while I was a reporter for, my workday consisted of arriving at the ballpark and heading to the clubhouse to interview players and the manager before the game. If any important news came out of those sessions, or if I was working on a feature story, I’d write a pregame story before the game began. After its conclusion, I’d send my game story to my editor and scramble down to the clubhouse, before racing back to the press box to write a more thorough story including players’ comments.

7. Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?

I feel like this answer changes quite a bit. But right now, I’d probably say CNN media reporter Brian Stelter. He’s acted like a journalistic machine both during the presidential campaign and after the election. His nightly newsletter dives into many of the pressing questions of the day, but through the lens of how this affects the media and its audiences. It seems like he’s invariably keeping track of the key issues prevalent to the media industry. He’s also shown that the best journalists in this age will write, podcast, appear on television and do just about everything in between.

8. What is your favorite news outlet?

The New York Times. The organization has such a comprehensive grasp of every topic domestically and abroad. Its podcast, The Daily, is the first thing I listen to every morning and they’re normally the first place I go to for political or media-related news. The reporters offer such fresh perspective, and the Times seems to always be at the forefront of innovation within the industry.

9. Fill in the blank:

  • If I’m not reporting, I am…probably reading. I just finished Frank Deford’s memoir, Over Time, and at the suggestion from a friend, recently began a biography about George Washington. That should be interesting.
  • If I could interview anyone, it would be…I think I’d select Mark Zuckerberg. It’s no secret that social media has altered the way our society ingests the news, and Facebook’s role in this has placed Zuckerberg front and center as an individual who can significantly impact this issue. He’s expanded at length about this critical moment, but I’m especially interested in his efforts to positively affect the ever changing media landscape. Zuckerberg launched a Facebook Journalism Project for this exact reason in January, and I’d love to understand what his long-term ambitions are for this undertaking.

10. What is your guilty pleasure?

I’ll buy a pint of Talenti ice cream (any flavor, but favorite is Chocolate Peanut Butter) and eat it all in one sitting. I’m told a pint doesn’t mean single serving, but I’m skeptical.

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