Adam Schefter, a graduate from Medill (MSJ '90), is a football analyst for ESPN, and is included in Sports Illustrated’s “Power 40+," where he is named as one of the most influential media members of the NFL. In February 2014, Schefter was selected the “Most Influential Tweeter in NY” by New York Magazine.
When did you find yourself moving towards pursuing a career in journalism?
It’s a tough thing because I didn’t go to college setting out to do that. It was not what I aspired to do when I got to the University of Michigan, and through a bunch of circumstances, I wounded up down on the student newspaper. When I began writing for the paper, it was very challenging, overwhelming and intimidating at first. I didn’t know that I would wind up sticking with it, but I did, and the more I stuck with it, the longer I was around it, the more it intrigued me, the more I spoke to people and the more knowledge I gained about it. And eventually, it got to the point where there were some people that were influential in my career, like Thomas George and Mitch Albom, both of whom worked for the Detroit Free Press at the time, they both said this is the place where you can make a living and you can do this if you want, and I was like, “Wow you can do this for a living?” And I know that sounds crazy, but I thought that other people had those jobs, like those weren’t real jobs. I know that sounds odd and confusing, but it never seemed real because I never knew any sports writers. It seemed so appealing that it seemed unattainable. I found out it was in reach. One thing I learned was that anyone can do anything they want.
What was your experience like here at Medill?
I went to Medill because I couldn’t get a job. I was leaving Michigan and I sent out a bunch of resumés and clippings and couldn’t get a job anywhere. So I went to Chicago and went to Medill and got a job writing for the Chicago Tribune on the side on the weekend, stringing for the paper. I was doing all of the assignments that no one in sports there wanted to do; for example, covering high school basketball games, and fencing and curling matches. I was afforded a dual education, the first education being from the school and the second education from working for the Chicago Tribune. I said this when I spoke at Northwestern a couple years ago; I still never went to my Northwestern graduation. I got an internship in Seattle and to this day, it disappoints me that I didn’t get to take part in that.
What advice would you give to those pursuing a career in the field of journalism?
Number one, you can do anything you want to do, don’t let anybody stop you. If you want to become any part of anything in journalism, go do it, it’s there within your reach. That’s something I think that people don’t realize but it’s really true. I mean, go do whatever you want to do. Number two, make sure while you’re in college to use that experience and make it worth while, doing things, trying things experience things, and get to meet people. And then in the summer, another huge thing, make sure that you get internships. I don’t care if it’s fetching Starbucks for the local TV anchor or cleaning up the mailroom in the local radio station. Go do something in the summer, be around a field you want to be in, watch how people do their job, see how people operate and see what the field requires. Take every summer as another learning opportunity. Maximize your exposure to that field and the people in it. Do that you’ll be ahead of the game as well.
Can you elaborate on your experience with the shift towards social media and breaking news through Twitter?
Eight years ago I moved to New York. I wasn’t on Twitter; I was working for NFL Network. I had spent 15 years in newspapers, and the world that I once worked in was so different than the world I work in now. And it’ll probably be much different ten years from now. People absorb and digest information in different ways. My job is to just come up with as much information as I can for ESPN. People know that if they tune into ESPN, they’ll get a lot of explanations. They know on twitter I try to be short and to the point … We have different explanations on television, and a little bit more analysis. I don’t know where all of this is going, but I know it has changed quite a bit already and it has given everybody a voice, an outlet to report things, photograph things, play things and try things. Everybody is a reporter these days, so now you’re not just competing with people in your industry, but you’re competing with the whole word because anyone can get a football story now. There can be a Chicago football player who gets in trouble right in front of you and all of a sudden, there’s your story. It’s just a different world, it’s a challenging world and a less patient world. You just do your best to evolve and stay up with it, which is not always easy.
What kind of criticisms do you as a sports journalist receive from the public?
I really try not to pay much attention. It’s the way it goes. People find fault with everything. All I try to do is work as hard as I can, put out the best information I can and if that’s not good enough for some people, then so be it.