How to Write for Sports Illustrated Magazine

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With more than 3 million readers as of June 2013, Sports Illustrated is the most-read sports magazine in the United States, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. If you want to write for the iconic magazine, which was launched six decades ago, you must prepare to work harder than everyone else. It may take years to achieve this goal, so you should start planning before you graduate.

Ground Rules

As of July, 2014, Sports Illustrated contributing editor Chris Hunt was the person in charge of reviewing story pitches. You can reach him at [email protected]. Before sending that email, he recommends that you pitch a story related to one of the major sports, such as football, baseball or basketball. Sports Illustrated is looking almost exclusively for stories that cover college or professional sports. In the body of your pitch, explain your idea concisely and note how it fits the magazine’s mission. Important: Think like a journalist, not a fan. Your editorial opinions won't carry the day. Instead, present a solid reporting plan. If you want to write for the website, the contact in 2014 was executive editor B.J. Schechter, who can be reached at [email protected]. Since roles can change without notice, check with SI to find out who holds these positions before sending your pitch.

Path to the Pros

Chris Hunt explains that most of Sports Illustrated’s content comes from staff writers. These writers are culled from what Hunt calls the magazine’s “bullpen” of young contributors, many of them hired right out of college. Of the three reporters hired in January 2014, two of them – Joan Niesen and Lindsay Schnell – worked for SI as interns. The third, Greg Bishop, spent six and a half years covering the New York Jets for the New York Times. Hunt acknowledges some SI staff writers have come from newspapers and websites where they established their reputations and built followings. Executive editor Jon Wertheim took an unusual path to his present role. He went from law school to SI intern, and then from an SI “sports and the law” writer to general sportswriter.

Cyber Readers

Social media and reader engagement play huge roles at Sports Illustrated, according to Jon Wertheim. The website was redesigned with social media in mind. The idea is to attract readers through the “side door” whenever they’re tweeting about an athlete but not necessarily using Sports Illustrated as their primary information source. Most SI writers and editors are active on Twitter, and their stories usually include a social media plan. So while your writing and reportorial skills will count for a lot, you also should be tech and social media savvy to succeed at SI.

Find a New Way to Say It

Chris Hunt emphasized how your story should reveal something most readers don’t know about a sports figure, event or team. Jon Wertheim advises writers to find the courage to be different. Introduce something unconventional in a seemingly conventional story. Attack the story with a distinctive voice or a perspective. No matter how unusual, Wertheim assures writers that their ideas will receive consideration.

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