Read as website editor and writer Christine Feehan gets JobShadowed about her career. You can find Christine at www.skiracing.com and on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
I’m the website editor and a contributing writer at Ski Racing Magazine (skiracing.com) who has also published a non-fiction book about the unusual luck that has befallen me during travels around the world titled Life Gives Me Lemons: Adventures in Bad Luck and Bold Misfortune.
How would you describe what you do?
I’m a sports journalist who writes, edits, shoots photographs, interviews, rubs elbows, and gets to the bottom of stories that will engage the general public.
What does your work entail?
I wake up every day and either write or edit someone else’s writing before sourcing complementary photos and videos and posting those completed articles to our website. I promote our content to a wide readership as well as potential advertisers through social media, phone calls, and email. On really cool days, I get to wake up extra early in foreign countries and go to World Cup ski races.
What’s a typical work week like?
In the winter, typical can be anything from flying to Europe and tracking down international ski racing stars to driving around New England interviewing NCAA athletes. The summer is a bit more relaxed, but I still find myself on snowfields in Oregon or at conditioning camps in Vermont.
How did you get started?
I was an athletic coach who started writing freelance articles on the side, and it snowballed from there.
What do you like about what you do?
I appreciate that I have been able to combine two passions, writing and sports, into my profession. When I look around, it seems like there are very few people who are able to pull that off while still earning a living.
What do you dislike?
When I started out writing, I had to spend a few years proving myself to publishers and editors and accepting very low pay for what I brought to the table. Hard work paid off, but it took longer than I imagined it would.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I’m paid a yearly salary now, but I started out in the industry as a freelancer who was paid per article and/or on contract.
How much do you make as a website editor?
How much money did/do you make starting out?
When I first started as a freelance sportswriter, I made anywhere from $75-$250 per 700-1000 word article, when I got paid. I had to be willing to write some pieces for free just to get exposure at the very beginning.
A typical editor or writer has an undergraduate degree in journalism, English, or media studies. I majored in history in undergrad and then obtained a master’s degree with a creative writing concentration in grad school. Aside from being a competent writer, the most important skill sets for journalism these days are technology-based. Can you manage a platform-enabled website? Do you know how to use a DSLR camera? Can you edit video? I was never taught how to do any of these things in a classroom, but I was able to figure them out when my job depended on it.
What is most challenging about what you do?
I travel. A lot. Things don’t always go smoothly, so I need to be able to roll with a lot of last minute changes.
What is most rewarding?
When someone tells me they enjoyed reading an article I wrote, or better yet, learned something from it, that is one of the most rewarding things I can hear.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Study math and get a job in finance if you want to eat well. But if you want to collect unforgettable life experiences and can handle eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a month straight, pursue journalism.
How much time off do you get/take?
I’m never really off since news doesn’t sleep, but covering a mostly seasonal sport means I have more free time in the summer.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Everyone always thinks I’m going on vacation because I travel with ski equipment. It also bothers me when people approach me while I’m writing on a laptop in a ski lodge and say things like, “Leave your work at home!” That happens more frequently than you might imagine. People just have a very narrow view of workspaces.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Right now I’m focused on making skiracing.com the most highly-trafficked site for snowsports competition news while selling as many copies of my book as I can. If that leads to landing an agent and securing more book contracts in the future, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
The writer is never the famous person in the interview; humility goes a long way.