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Ian Levy is a Senior NBA Editor for FanSided and The Step Back.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I was working as an elementary school teacher and really struggling. I found the job emotionally exhausting in a way that I didn’t really expect as I was preparing for that career. A few years into teaching I started a personal basketball blog and began writing during my lunch breaks. I found it to be really rewarding creatively and intellectually and gradually I began spending more and more of my time before and after work writing as well.
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After about a year of writing on my own blog, I began receiving invitations to contribute to other outlets. That slowly morphed into paid freelance work and opportunities to serve in editorial roles at other websites. I kept doing it mostly because it was a psychological relief from my day job. After about five years on this track, I reached a point where it felt viable to take a dive into this full-time. I took a leave of absence from teaching and freelanced full-time. After about eight months, I received a full-time offer from FanSided and I’ve now been there almost two years.
I still have to pinch myself almost daily to believe that writing (and editing) about sports is really my job.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
My workday starts between 7:00 or 8:00 once the kids are off to school. My morning routine is a lot of “housecleaning” — catching up on emails, editing content from the night before, scheduling our content for the day, scheduling things on various social media channels. The meat of the day is following news, assigning things out to our newsdesk writers and planning longer-term content. If I’m lucky in the afternoon there’s time left for me to do some of my own writing. I usually wrap my day around 4:00 when my kids get home from school, but it doesn’t always end there. In the evenings I’m often watching games and tracking social media, re-pushing relevant content and assigning topics to writers for the following day.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE?
All of our forward-facing content is run on WordPress and we have a great product team at FanSided who manages that. Longer internal communications are by email but a lot of communication with writers is done through Slack. We track things in Google Analytics. There is lots of promotion work to be done on Twitter and Facebook. Photoshop, Excel, Tableau are also open on my computer almost all the time.
WHAT DO YOU TO GET INSPIRED?
Since my focus is on basketball, watching games are where I draw most of my ideas and inspiration. Reading some of my other favorite sports writers helps too, and keeping up with the stats and analytics side of things as well.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
I don’t know about a specific quote but these two pieces by Brian Phillips (on Jonathan Martin and Katie Ledecky) are my favorite sports pieces of all time.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
I love a good interactive data visualization. The now-defunct site Hoopism did this better and more creatively than anyone I’ve seen before or since.
WHAT’S THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
How to make the most of the resources I have available and differentiate the site and verticals I run, in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS JUST STARTING OUT?
There are thousands upon thousands of people seeking the same opportunities you are. Figure out what it is you’re can do that sets you apart from everyone else. In sports writing, it has to be something more than the strength of your convictions or the passion with which you argue your ideas. Everyone can yell loudly.
Once you can see what your niche is, be ready to grind to get there. Write as much as you can. Read as much as you can. Always be thinking about what you can do better next time.