Inside Sports recently interviewed the Kansas City Star‘s Aaron Reiss and Alex Schiffer. Both Reiss and Schiffer graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism in May 2017 and started at the Star covering Mizzou athletics after completing summer internships at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Washington Post, respectively.
Inside Sports: How did your Missouri School of Journalism education help you get a job at the Kansas City Star right out of college?
Aaron Reiss: I learned from Greg Bowers, my editor at the Missourian and my greatest teacher, that the best way to learn, to get noticed and to have fun is to write stories no one thinks to do. I’d like to think I did that enough that editors noticed.
Alex Schiffer: The J-School helped me get hired by The Star by putting me in a position to cover a college team right out of college. The classes that taught me how to shoot video, decipher what is and isn’t a story and how to handle sources and delicate situations are things I draw upon every day on the job. The J-School also gave me the opportunity to take risks with my writing and diversify my portfolio, which allowed me to get big internships in multiple beats.
Inside Sports: What experiences during your time at Missouri put you in a position to get your job so quickly?
Reiss: The Columbia Missourian pushed me in every way – as a writer, as a reporter, as a worker. So I feel totally prepared to do this work, and I think editors can sense that.
Schiffer: I think having internships at places like The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times really helped me because it taught me how to succeed in a bigger newsroom and how to write both to both a national and local audience. Since the Missouri beat has been in both lights in recent years I definitely think my experiences at both places played a factor.
Inside Sports: Why did you decide to work in the print/digital industry?
Reiss: I actually graduated with a magazine degree – the coursework just seemed cooler – but I knew I wanted to do a lot of work at the Missourian because of all the people I admire who have said covering football for the Missourian was one of their most formative experiences. And I knew I wanted to work at newspapers after college because they offer the most writing practice.
Schiffer: I’ve always loved reading, traveling and getting to know people and how they got to where they are. I always thought storytelling was the combination of all three things and that print/digital would be the best medium for me to carry through with that.
Inside Sports: What advice would you offer to recent graduates hunting for journalism jobs?
Reiss: Reach out to the connections you have – editors, professors, people who graduated a couple of years ahead of you. Ask them for help. Let them know you’re looking for work. When I was looking for jobs, very few of them were formal postings.
Schiffer: Network, network, network. So much of how you get noticed in this business is by reaching out to professionals in the field to get a cup of coffee or lunch. Everyone seems to know somebody that does something close to what you want and you never know who is going to come through for you. Get to know as many people as you can and keep in touch with them even if it’s just a couple times a year.
Inside Sports: What should current journalism students do to set themselves up for a sports journalism job?
Reiss: Apply for internships every year, even ones that you don’t think you’re going to get because you’re too young or inexperienced. You meet editors that way, people who will keep tabs on you and be willing to give you advice. When I was a sophomore, I applied for an unpaid internship in the Star’s sports department. I didn’t get it, but everything turned out OK.
Schiffer: I’d start with the answer to question four but also don’t be afraid to do anything. It’s highly unlikely your first job will be covering the NBA or NFL so don’t put yourself above anything. A job is a job, and as long as it’s a gig that allows you to grow, take risks and get feedback, that’s a great job. So understand that it’s a long way to the top.