Q&A with Chad Millman, Editor-in-Chief at ESPN The Magazine

A 1993 IU Alumni, Chad Millman got his first job as a reporter for Sports Illustrated three weeks after packing up his bags and moving to Manhattan. He was hired as an associate editor for ESPN The Magazine in 1998 and has since been promoted to editor-in-chief. He has written and co-authored several books and now writes a daily blog that explores the culture of sports gambling.

ED: So Ed knows that you’re an IU alum! What kind of journalism experience did you get during your time in Bloomington?

Chad Millman: Mostly I worked at the IDS. Beginning the second semester my freshman year I joined the sports desk and covered baseball. Loved it. The advisor for the program used to grade every story in the paper and then throw them up on a bulletin board in the newsroom. The first time he said something nice about one of my stories I was shocked, only because it was my first experience of someone reacting to something I wrote. I covered men’s wrestling and women’s volleyball as a sophomore and then skipped junior year because I studied in London. When I came back I did a couple of features, but nothing on a daily basis.

ED: With which publications did you intern, and what are a couple of helpful tips you learned along the way?

Chad: I interned at Pro Football Weekly between my freshman and sophomore year and at Sports Illustrated in Barcelona for the Olympics in 1992, after my junior year. What l learned was say yes to anything that is asked, do the task with a smile and be valuable. Which means looking for ways you can serve the product you are working for, not just what you can get out of it to put on your resume. Pitch a lot of ideas, even if you don’t get to write them, because editors need ideas and appreciate people who feed them. Eventually, you will get a chance to write something or edit something because editors will recognize your skill set and the way you think in your pitches.

ED: What other magazine experience did you have prior to joining the ESPN team?

Chad: I graduated in 1993 and went to work for Sports Illustrated. I worked there and at a now defunct sports network that was a partnership between CNN and SI for a total of five years, before joining ESPN in 1998. I also wrote for other magazines, including Details and Esquire.

ED: What would you say drew you to wanting to be a sports magazine editor? Have you been a life-long sports fan?

Chad: I loved sports, love magazines and especially love sports magazines. When I was a kid I read SI the second it came in the mail but also read Inside Sports and Sport and The Sporting News. To be honest, I never wanted to be an editor. I was a writer and an editor at ESPN The Magazine convinced me to try it before he hired me. All during my tenure with ESPN I have written frequently — for the magazine, for the website and some books. Right up until the moment I was offered the editor-in-chief job I assumed I was going to go back to writing full-time eventually.

ED: We’re all dying to know… what is most fun to you about your job?

Chad: The mag is like a big puzzle and you have no idea if it is going to come together. I am pretty sure everything we are doing stinks until sometime during the second week of our close cycle (we are bi-weekly). Although I can’t really say “we stink” anymore because it’s become like I am crying wolf. People at the mag just laugh at me when I say it. I love seeing the cover for the first time, because I think that is one of the greatest commodities a magazine has vs. other mediums such as TV and Internet. Magazine covers still matter, to readers and to athletes. But, really, I just love when I know the issue is going to be good, and that’s a pretty elusive moment.

ED: Do you have any advice for college students pursuing internships at a sports magazine?

Chad: Grind, grind, grind. Send emails, send follow up emails. Emphasize in those emails what you like about the publication you are applying to, be aware of stories it has done in the past, be specific about pieces that you liked. Explain how your skill set can be of value to the place you are applying. And if you want a full-time job somewhere, go to where the jobs are. I didn’t get a job at SI until after I had moved to NYC. I don’t think I would have been considered if I had stayed at home in Chicago after graduating.

ED: We have to ask, how are you feeling about IUBB this season?!

Chad: Thrilled with the progress. Love the team that is being put together. But I would like to see more consistency.