Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Under Further Review No. 3: Kami Mattioli



In just a few short years, Kami Mattioli has gone from a writer at Temple University's Owlsports.com to the college basketball editor at Sporting News. She has the unique perspective on writing from inside an organization that the traditional "news" media covers and now for an outside, news-gathering media. Earlier in the week, she spoke with us about the difference between working inside and outside, content generation and her new position with Sporting News.

Kevin Rossi: We both know Larry [Dougherty] very well and I know he was a big mentor to you. Was that (Temple) your first working experience with writing and getting out there with the athletes? What was that experience like for you?
Kami Mattioli: That was my first experience in terms of actually being involved in the sports world. For me, that was a lot of figuring things out on the fly and finding content that people were interested in. Before I had just had journalism classes where we were given a prompt or given a specific thing to cover with guidelines where this is what the professor wanted and how many words on this topic and here's who you are going to interview. In class, it was all pretty straight-forward and laid out, but that job was the first time I was given free reign and told, "We want something interesting" or "Tell us what's going on in this game." I wasn't writing game stories; I was mostly just looking for things that were kind of off the cuff or a little bit different than here's the game and more of an important moment or person that had a critical play or just something that could add a little bit of flavor to the game story.
KR: You get your start there, and working for the athletic department you get really great access to everything. With your other experience where you're an 'outside' news organization looking in, how is it different having athletes so readily available and that kind of help from the department.
KM: I didn't really have a game-plan in terms of breaking into sports, but I think it worked out perfectly for me because I learned a lot being constantly surrounded by athletes. I traveled with them on the plane. We stayed in the same hotel. I basically had whatever access I needed, because I was a part of the athletic department. So, I saw a lot of things that I couldn't necessarily write about, and that wasn't a good thing or a bad thing, it was just part of the experience. Going through all of those motions and seeing how a program like that operates from the inside out before coming to a national outlet, it kind of shed a different light on the experiences that athletes go through. Just being more cognizant of their time and understanding that the type of access you may or may not get. On any given day, an SID can send me an email and turn down an interview request. Knowing that that's a possibility and knowing how SIDs work and the way their workload is set-up, it helps me be a little more cognizant about how to approach situations. I'm not going to send an SID a request during March Madness for a story that could be run in June or July. If I hadn't had that experience, I may not know those little tips and nuances in the business.
KR: I think Temple is a unique situation because you have Division I football and then obviously you have this historic basketball program, but they don't necessarily operate the same as the major SEC or Big Ten schools. It is kind of a smaller operation, so you do get to see that when you're working there.
KM: It's interesting too because I don't know if I would have been given all of that access at an SEC school. In some ways they do operate in the same way in that everything is money-based, maybe not to the same extend, but there's still certain things that you can and can't do within the program and there are people who off limits in terms of interview requests. There definitely are some similarities, but the scale to the similarities run is a little bit different.
KR: You take this Temple opportunity as a springboard to Sporting News. How has the transition been for you, especially leaving Philadelphia and going down to Charlotte?
KM: I really had never been to Charlotte before. It was not a city that was on my radar. I really wanted to move to somewhere like Florida, I thought. The thing about working in sports is you have to be really flexible, and you have to be willing to accept what you think may make you better, even if it's not necessarily in a place that you thought would make you better. That being said, I can't imagine turning the opportunity down because I've learned so much and I love the city of Charlotte. For me to have said, "No, I'm not going to go there," that would have been a big mistake. It was funny because when they offered me the job, they told me they needed me down here in two weeks. So, I needed to find myself an apartment and I wasn't able to fly down and fly back because it was too far, so I just had to go online in a city that I'd never even really been to try to find a place to live and sign a lease without even having seen the apartment. There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but they ended up not. It ended up being great. I think you really just need to be resourceful and just kind of deal with things that are a little bit unexpected.
KR: Be willing to take that risk.
KM: Definitely and it really does pay off.
KR: Absolutely. It's something I've realized that in my mind I understand I need to take a risk to make it, but I don't feel like I'm quite there yet in my actions. I still stay on the safer side.
KM: The big thing about is you'll know when you're ready. For me, when that season ended two years ago, it was April and we had just gotten back from losing to Indiana in Dayton, and I really didn't know what was next. But I knew that I didn't think there was anything Philadelphia could offer me. I remember sitting around thinking, "I don't think there's anything left for me here, so I'm ready to go somewhere else." If you would have asked me a year before or even six months before, I don't think I would have been ready. It's just something that you come to terms with, and it seems lame, but you really do know when you're ready to go. If you try to do it before you're ready, I don't think it will be as successful. For me, the transition was just so seamless because the timing was right and everything just kind of fell into place.
KR: And now you have done your job well enough to warrant a new position at Sporting News. What's going to be different now to being the college basketball editor as opposed to the social media editor?
KM: The main thing for me is the hours are going to be a lot different. Right now, we have three social media people. We have my boss, Chris Littmann, and we report to him, he's our 9-5 Monday through Friday guy. There's also myself and another guy, Troy Machir, and we share the evening and weekend duties. My normal schedule is 3:30 to midnight, and I do that four days a week and come in Fridays during the day. I don't have a normal week because, obviously, all of the sports happen over the weekend. Just adjusting to a schedule where I'll have an offseason and I won't constantly have to chase stories every single day I'm in the office. I'll have more to plan out long-term stuff and some bigger projects, because I'm not constantly trying to chase what's happening in whatever sport. It will also be nice to focus on one sport and just know everything about one sport as opposed to trying to know everything about six or seven sports and knowing [hypothetically] if this NFL player is cut, is it incredibly newsworthy or just a little bit newsworthy or not newsworthy at all. I think the day-to-day decision-making process will be a lot easier and a lot more streamlined, which is definitely a good change after about a year.
KR: And college basketball is more of your comfort zone, right?
KM: Yea. Having spent the two years at Temple and then coming here, it was definitely something I had hoped would be in the future, but I didn't know it would fall into place so quickly. College basketball has always been something that has been my passion in terms of sports, so it will be nice to transition back into that full-time.
KR: As a culminating point, you have experience on both sides in providing content for a news site where their job is to gather this content in Sporting News but also at Temple in that we're kind of seeing a shift in schools and teams creating their own content. Do you see those kinds of organizations as competition or do you rely on others to know that it's a bit PR-driven and more controlled?
KM: It's almost mutually beneficial because if it's something that's interesting and something that's compelling or even something that's easily shareable that doesn't require too much research on our behalf, then we can share it and it will bring page-views to us but it will also bring awareness to that school. So, I do think it's mutually beneficial for Sporting News and for the school because if they make content that's creative enough, then a lot of news outlets like SB Nation or Sporting News will help share it and that's more eyeballs to their website as well. I think that's a great trend and as long as you're doing correctly and you're doing it well, then I think those schools are going to be rewarded.

Thank you to Kami for taking the time to speak with us about her career path and about the sports journalism industry. For more from Kami, check out Sporting News and follow her on Twitter @kmattio. But you don't need me to tell you that.

Under Further Review:
No. 2 - Aaron Bracy
No. 1 - Adam Hermann

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Kevin Rossi is a senior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Business Administration. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to President. Currently, Kevin is serving as the Sports Information Assistant for Drexel Athletics and will also intern at Comcast SportsNet in web production later in the spring. Kevin has writing experience with Philahoops.com, The Triangle, Temple University, and various outlets in a freelance capacity. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Connect with Kevin Rossi on LinkedIn.

2 comments:

  1. Not enough about how she ruined the lives of a family during the Boston Marathon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A thousand times yes.

      Delete