Women’s History Month: Q&A with New Jersey Native, USA Today Reporter, Nicole Auerbach
Added by Matt Kardos on March 1, 2013.
Everyday this month, Double G Sports will be featuring interviews from prominent women in the sports industry as our way of celebrating Women’s History Month. This project is in its 2nd year. Today’s interview is New Jersey native and current USA Today reporter, Nicole Auerbach.
Nicole covering the women's tennis final at the London Olympics
1. As a girl who grew up in Jersey, in the metropolitan area, with essentially two professional sports teams in every major sport, who did you grow up rooting for?
That’s an interesting question, because allegiances in my family sort of shifted throughout the years. I started out rooting for teams and then, once I got more into sports, I started rooting for players – some who didn’t play for New York/New Jersey-area teams. My parents took my sister, brother and I to Yankees games a lot growing up. We’d do Mets games occasionally, but mostly Yankees. My dad had season tickets for the Jets, so we’d go to games there, too, and he taught me the rules of football over these Sunday outings. We went to some Nets and Devils games, but my family was definitely more of a baseball/football family. Once I got into football, I started watching Monday Night Football and more games on Sundays. I loved Peyton Manning and good quarterbacks in general. Then, I started rooting for the Colts, and, when his brother came to the Giants, I continued rooting for the Manning family. By the time college rolled around and I started covering sports, I lost pretty much all of those rooting interests. I root for stories now, like most sportswriters do.
2. How big of an impact did sports have on your life growing up? Did you play?
I loved sports growing up. My parents were/are active, and they encouraged my siblings and I to play whatever sports we were interested in. I played a lot of softball, tennis and basketball as a kid. My sister and brother were both really into softball/baseball as well. My parents coached us, and they’d also take us to games and watch them with us on TV as well.
3. How old were you when you first started writing or gaining an interest in it?
I had a diary when I was little and enjoyed writing essays as much as the next kid growing up, but I never really got into journalism until college. I met someone right after I moved into my freshman year dorm room, and she asked me what my dream job was. I told her it would be to work for Sports Illustrated. Her friend worked for the campus newspaper, so she put me in touch with the sports editor. It all started with that.
4. Growing up, is sports journalism a topic that was of great interest to you? Did you ever imagine this would become your career?
Not really. Like I said, I loved Sports Illustrated, and I’d read it cover to cover every week in one sitting, but I didn’t connect the dots that I could do it myself until college. I fell into it my freshman year. I got lucky to discover what I wanted to do so early in college. I had a lot of friends who had no idea what they were passionate about.
5. At what point in your life did you realize that this is definitely what you wanted to do?
The summer after my freshman year of college, I interned at The Trentonian in Trenton, N.J. I covered a lot of minor league baseball (plus Little League, drag racing and some other random sports), and I realized that I really enjoyed going to a press box every night, watching a game, interviewing players and writing about it. I sat there and thought, ‘Wow, I could see myself doing this for a career.”
6. In your young career you have obviously traveled and covered events all over the country. Describe how different the media markets are around the country and what do you think makes them so different?
People are different everywhere, I guess. I don’t really think about different media markets. Some are more competitive than others because there are more reporters competing for the same stories (ex: Boston, New York) but that’s about it. I have sportswriter friends all over.
7. Have you ever felt that because you were a female that somehow you were an outsider in the world of media, particularly in the area of sports?
No, I really don’t. There aren’t as many female sportswriters as there are male sportswriters, but I don’t feel like an outsider because of that. Colleagues and coworkers have been kind and respectful. Athletes and coaches I’ve covered are, too. I have heard stories from older female journalists about things not always being like that, but right now, I think a lot of the guys around sports (journalists and those playing/coaching/etc.) are all pretty familiar with women being around.
8. What do you think your most memorable experience in your career has been thus far?
Covering the London Olympics. They were grueling 17-, 18-hour days but still an incredible experience. I loved seeing so many journalists from all over the world converge to cover one giant event, and I also loved covering something that so many people cared about.
9. What qualities do you think a sports journalist has to have to thrive, particularly a woman?
Sports journalists need to be aggressive, passionate and (sometimes) perfectionists. If you aren’t trying to get better as a reporter and writer every single day, you aren’t going to advance or get where you want to be. You need to be willing to make that extra call or wait outside that clubhouse for an extra hour to get the interview that makes your story stand out from the rest.
Like I said earlier, I don’t think women are outsiders in this field or that we get treated that drastically differently than men. Still, female writers are more likely to receive occasional inappropriate comments (particularly on Twitter) than their male counterparts, but that’s part of the job, too. Thick skin is a must for anyone who’s writing for public consumption, and that’s very true for women. People have occasionally questioned my general sports knowledge (or tried to quiz me to prove that I knew college basketball) because of my gender, but I can’t let that bother me every time something like that happens. I know what I know, and so do those who matter – my editors, my colleagues and the people I cover.
10. Who was your biggest mentor when breaking into journalism and what has their lasting impact been on your career?
Michael Rosenberg, who now works at Sports Illustrated. I met him when I was a student at Michigan, and he worked for the Detroit Free Press. He’s one of the most talented and kind writers out there. He always offered to help out younger journalists. Even though he was a busy guy, he’d always take time to talk to me about stories I was writing or questions I had about the industry in general. He still does. He’s a great sounding board, and even better, I learn every single time I read one of his columns or stories. He’s taught me how to get better as a reporter, how to write things that will resonate with other people and how to stay positive.
11. What is the most important lesson you have learned working in this business?
It’s that saying, “The harder I work, the more luck I seem to get.” None of this stuff is handed to you on a silver plate. You have to work for every scoop, every exclusive, every fantastic quote you get. But if you work hard, go about things the right way and treat people fairly, you will be able to find success in this field. Don’t give up because people tell you journalism is dying. Every single person I know who’s graduated in the past five years and wanted to go into journalism has found a job in this field. If you’re good, you’ll get something. It may not be your ideal first job, and not everyone is going to start out at the New York Times, but you have to remember that if you work hard, you will come across opportunities to advance.
12. What advice would you give to a young journalist trying to break into the business?
Write a lot. Read a lot. Figure out the difference between a great story and a mediocre one (Hint: It’ll be the reporting). Meet people when you’re covering events. Don’t suck up to anyone, but be polite and interested. I met a lot of great national sports reporters as a student and still maintain friendships with them to this day. You never know when someone who follows you on Twitter will recommend you for a freelancing gig or a job.