IU Alum Matt Dollinger’s Advice for Aspiring Magazine Writers

Matt Dollinger
Major in college: Journalism (2010)
Current job title: Senior producer, SI.com (Sports Illustrated‘s website)

Ed: What is the best part about working for SI.com?
MD: The wealth of resources and the eclectic staff. SI brings together such a diverse group of people — legendary magazine writers, editors at the top of their trade, up-and-comers straight out of college — it’s really an incredible meeting of minds. What brings us all together are sports and writing. No matter the background, everyone here eats, sleeps and drinks sports. Needless to say, the office can be a pretty fun place to work.

Ed: What is the relationship between SI.com and the print publication?
MD: “Integration” has been a buzz word around SI for years. We’re trying to combine and gel the print and online sides as much as possible. The staffs are separate (we even work on different floors) — but we do share some writers and have weekly meetings. Rarely do we have situations where we step on each other’s toes. I think the two complement each other pretty well, but there’s plenty of room for improvement as anyone at SI would tell you.

Ed: What career path did you take after moving to NYC that led you to your current gig?
MD: I was a two-time intern at SI Kids during my days at IU, so I had my foot in the door at the SI offices. Two weeks before graduating, I was offered a part-time job by SI.com to work in their Atlanta office, which runs the site during nights and weekends. I worked three years in Atlanta, covering just about every sport and contributing in every which way possible. But I always had my an affinity for the NBA. I pitched in wherever I could. When I was transferred to the New York office, my NBA allegiance was already known. I had been writing the Power Rankings for SI for a year and when the NBA editor job opened up, I was lucky enough to be considered.

Ed: What’s the best piece of advice about the job/internship search that you’ve ever been given?
MD: Don’t be afraid to call in a favor. I’m sure professors and class speakers have given you the networking schpiel about 1,000x by now — but they aren’t lying. If you’re a reporter, you need to be more than a good writer, you need to have contacts and sources. That’s pretty much the case with any journalism job. You can be extremely talented, but if people don’t know you, it might take awhile to get recognized.

Ed: What are a few of your favorite things about your job, and about the magazine industry?
MD: That I can go home and watch basketball games and tell my wife “I’m working.” Kidding! (OK, but not really). I’m lucky enough to do something I’m extremely passionate about. There are definitely times where the rigors of covering sports gets to me — the 24/7 news cycle, the 365-day season — but every now and then you take a step back and remember you’re doing something you love. I think it’s important — whether you’re a journalist or anything else — to identify what you’re passionate about and figure out what it’s going to take for you to do that for a living. It might not be easy, but the pay-off will be worth it.

Ed: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with you fellow Hoosiers who are thinking about working in the magazine industry?
Be willing to work for free. At least at first. The competition is so ridiculous for entry-level jobs that it’s unfortunately come to that. I took several unpaid internships while in college. And while I may have eaten more pizza and ramen noodles than I cared for, I can tell you the experience was worth a lot more than the minimum wage job I likely would have been working if I had insisted on getting paid. Working for free isn’t always practical, but when it comes to journalism (specifically writing), it’s sometimes a necessary evil. Exposure is key.

Carmen Huff