Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Under Further Review No. 8: Andrew Albert

Newspapers aren't dead yet. Chuck Bausman, sports editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, is quick to remind you when chatting about the industry. Andrew Albert is one of the young Daily News talents playing the role of keeping it alive.

Albert has been an intern at the paper since last year in addition to his roles as senior writer for City of Basketball Love and as a student at La Salle University. The Syracuse, N.Y. native has grown to love the Philadelphia sports landscape and has already done a tremendous job covering it alongside some Philly sports writing legends. Albert spoke to the SMTSU about his start in the industry, learning as a new writer and the state of the newspaper industry.

On May 23...
Kevin Rossi: From my standpoint, you've been pretty successful with your internship. You've been able to gain responsibilities, cover more events. How has your time there progressed and how have you tried to put your best foot forward?
Andrew Albert: They kind of threw me into the fire right away when I got there. My first assignment was Eagles rookie mini-camp, so it was like, 'Oh, wow, this is real. This isn't a joke. This is the big leagues.' Kind of my big break with the internship was covering the U.S. Open. I was talking to my boss, Chuck Bausman, and he said, 'Are you a golfer?' I said, 'yea', and he asks, 'Oh, are you excited for the U.S. Open?' I said, 'Absolutely. I wouldn't miss it for the world. I'm going to watch every second of it I can when it's on TV.' He asked if I wanted to cover it and I said, 'Yea, I would love to cover it.' I got passes for all seven days, and I sat there and I worked my butt off when I was there. When they said they weren't sure if there needed to do a story, I said I'd do it. Whatever they needed, I'd do it. Some of it was typical intern work like running passes here or running passes there, but it was an awesome experience just to be there. There were eight guys from the Daily News there everyday, so I got to know them and I got to know a bunch of writers and my boss was there. I ended up writing 23 stories over the course of the seven days at the U.S. Open. It was intense, but it was what started the internship off on the right foot, and it's continued from there more than I could have ever expected.
KR: I'm really jealous that you were there last year, that's awesome. And along the way, I think one of the things with younger writers is we tend to not want to cover some sports because we don't know them as well. Have you run into any sports that you don't know as well as others, and how did you handle those assignments?
AA: I like to think that I know all of the sports somewhat well, but I definitely know my weaknesses. Hockey is one of my weaknesses, and with such a following as the Flyers if you slip up even a little bit and sound like you don't know what you're talking about, they'll just rip you apart. Flyers fans are brutal. My boss -- who has been great, probably the best boss I've ever worked under -- asked me what my strengths and what my weaknesses were, and I told him hockey isn't really my thing. So he kind of steered me away from hockey, which was very nice of him. There were a couple of occasions where I had to go, like I was at the Rangers-Flyers on Easter in the playoffs. What I did was I talked to the guys next to me and tried to get as much knowledge as humanly possibly about what I was going to be writing about and the game. I still know the game; I just don't watch it as religiously as I watch basketball or baseball or football. So I just tried to learn from the people around me. They're more than willing to help a young guy who is willing to learn. If you go in there and act like you already know everything, then it's just not going to go well for you because nobody is going to want to help you. But if you're humble about it and say, 'I just don't know as much about this team, can you help me?' it works out well and they're willing to help.
KR: I've kind of noticed that too. The industry as a whole, now more than ever, is so competitive because people are looking for paper buys or magazine subscriptions or pageviews online. But if you go in there and say, 'I know I'm young, but I want to learn,' people are helpful towards that kind of attitude, and it's cool in a competitive environment.
AA: Exactly. It's fun. There's a lot of guys and girls out there who are willing to help. I know a lot of writers get a bad rep, but if you go in there and be honest and ask them for help, they're more than willing to help you because they were there once. Nobody knows everything right away.
KR: And I know as a younger writer starting off, obviously I've covered more basketball games than any other sport, so immediately when I would get something that's not basketball there would be this sense of anxiety. I kind of did what you did. Read up on it, get to know the names and go in there and talk to the people who know it. Because why not learn from the people who know it.
AA: Exactly.
KR: I met Chuck once, I interviewed him for a class paper. One of his big points that he kept reminding me of was that newspapers aren't dead just yet.
AA: [Laughs] They're not. They're still around.
KR: In your short time there, how have you seen how the newspaper industry works compared to, say, online, because I know you've written online as well.
AA: There's a fine line. I was actually in Chuck's office the other day and he was outlining all of the things we had lined up for the paper the next day, and he turned to me and said, 'If this isn't worth a dollar, then call me an idiot.' There's so much great stuff you can find in a newspaper. Tons of good stories. One of the reason, maybe, that people don't buy newspapers in Philadelphia is because of, because the Inquirer and the Daily News feed into that. I don't have a strong opinion about it, and I know some people who do. From a business perspective, they are giving the content out for free. There's so many things that we do in the paper that you can't do online, like different visuals and graphs and pull-outs that you can keep. I know some of the older generation who still have an Inquirer subscription because they like to hold a physical paper in front of them. You and I, we grew up with computers and the internet. There's been a shift, and with the technology it was inevitable. I'm not the biggest fan of paywalls, but the industry needs to adapt to keep newspapers alive. They're not dead yet, but with the internet and all the free content that's out there, there are things that have to be done. The Wall Street Journal was one of the first papers to use a paywall, and being a business newspaper, they understood where this was headed and where it needed to go.
KR: From what I've noticed too, some papers have implemented to paywall idea better than others. It's a touchy subject. And when I talked to Chuck, I had never really realized or thought of it before, the Inquirer is heavily subscription based while the Daily News is heavier in street sales. Have you seen ways the Daily News tries to implement more creative content into their pages that jumps out to readers when they're walking by?
AA: I think that's why the Daily News is still here, because it jumps out to people. They have the back page, they have the full visual on the front and back, which the Inquirer doesn't have. But the Inquirer is the more stable newspaper in Philadelphia because it has a more subscriptions and more circulation. What the Daily News really strives towards is being the 'People's Newspaper.' They write stories that people want to hear. Obviously the Inquirer is great with news and sports and everything, but the Daily News finds those sometimes weird, quirky stories that people want to read about and makes their name that way. If you had two of the same newspaper with the same types of stories, one of them is going to go out of business because there's no reason to have two, So the Daily News sort of takes the people's angle instead of the hard news angle, which is awesome and there's great stories all the time. They sell a lot of newspapers to people on the corners or at gas stations because you see it. You'll see Nerlens Noel or LeSean McCoy on the back page, and think, 'I want that.' When the Phillies won the World Series, on the back page is Brad Lidge with his arms in the air, you keep that. To answer your question, honestly, I don't know. I've thought about it. The other day I walked out of where I'm staying this summer and I saw an Inquirer on the ground and I wondered, 'Why don't people get Daily News subscriptions?' There's the economics of everything, but I honestly don't know.
KR: I guess if you did have the answer you wouldn't need the whole college thing.
AA: Yea, I'd be in a better spot.
KR: One thing I've tried to work into each of these interviews is a tip that the writer has for really any writer looking to work their way into the industry, something that you did that you thought set yourself apart or something that somebody else could really pick up on.
AA: Just write. Write all that you can. I got my start with Josh Verlin (see Under Further Review No. 4) at City of Basketball Love, and Josh really put me to work right away, and he'd say, 'Write this, you have to get better, you have to get better.' The only way to do that is by writing and practice. Find somebody who is going to let you write a lot, even if you're just writing for practice. I wrote for the La Salle Collegiate during my freshman year, and they were probably the worst articles I've ever seen in my life. Then Josh started City of Basketball Love in the summer after my freshman year, and he really helped me a lot. Take guidance from guys and girls who are willing to help you because it's invaluable. Work all you can and don't get an attitude that you don't need to learn anymore. Everybody is still learning this field. The way that people write stories are different every time. You don't know everything, and once you think you do, you're going to get in trouble with your career. Learn from everyone. There's a lot of people out there who have good knowledge that you can learn from. Your writing is not going to be perfect the first time you open up a Word document, so just understand that and work your butt off until you sit back and say, 'Hey, I'm getting pretty good at this, now where can I go from here?'

Thank you to Andrew for taking a moment to speak with us. You can find his writing in the pages of the Philadelphia Daily News or online at City of Basketball Love. He's also a good follow on Twitter @AndrewJAlbert01.

(Ed. Note: The parent company of the Inquirer and Daily News, Interstate General Media, was sold at auction for $88 million on Tuesday, May 27.)

Under Further Review:
No. 7 - Travis Waldron

No. 6 - Patrick Hruby
No. 5 - Greg Hanlon 
No. 4 - Josh Verlin 
No. 3 - Kami Mattioli
No. 2 - Aaron Bracy
No. 1 - Adam Hermann


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  intern at Comcast SportsNet in web production. Kevin has writing experience with, The Triangle, Temple University, and various outlets in a freelance capacity. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Connect with Kevin Rossi on LinkedIn.

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