I went through a good amount of the questions on you're blog and you seem very informative so I thought that I would give this questionnaire thing a shot.
I am currently a Junior in High School and my dream ever since I was little was to work for ESPN. I do not even need a role on the television show itself, just to be a blogger and maybe the every-once-in-a-while one minute segment with the blogger from ESPN-Philadelphia (aka me... hopefully). I know I am young but CollegeSearch mania is coming around my high school and I want to know what to look for (as in major/minor and how to I get in touch with such a big company).
Honestly, any advice you can give me would help. I'm just so sick and tired of hearing "Well you should always shoot for your dreams buddy from my creepy 70 year old guidance counselor/Catholic Brother at my school.
Hi, Matt, thanks for your question and for reviewing posts before posting. Here are some recommendations on a timeline:
JUNIOR YEAR - great that you already are working with a counselor towards college apps. (Don't let anyone restrict your college list due to financial reasons; financial aid is a complex and sometimes amazing thing. Apply to a broad range of schools, including private ones that may have more money and broader reasons for giving it out. Also, don't think your family makes too much money to get aid; not all aid is need-based, and the elites have a very high income threshold! Finally, LEAVE HOME IF YOU CAN AND GO SOMEWHERE NEW.)
Your goal this year is to get some or more tech training, believe me. The top of the list would be a foundation in digital/social media analytics. Where are you in math right now? How comfortable are you with stats and algorithms? Nothing will prep you for a broader range of careers in the media than understanding exactly what the numbers mean behind all of the text on digital screens. Who is coming to ESPN.com (or your blog) from where, how long are they staying, how deep do they dive, where do they go next, what combination of content yields the behavior you seek...? This is where all of the power (and the monetization) of digital content resides. At minimum, find free online resources to understand Google Analytics. No matter how you feel about math, find a way to understand how numbers are crunched behind digital content.
Next on the list would be code. Learn a programming language (pHp, Perl, Python, etc.), if you don't already know one, so you can understand what is happening underneath the pretty pages that you see (lol). If you know one of the above, add SQL. If you know SQL, just go get a job and start saving for college now; you are way ahead of the curve.
If your school doesn't offer such classes, the local community college probably does. If you're already a geek, all is good. If you're not, stretch yourself. Stanford University offers their intro Computer Science class for free online. Take it. Just understand computers and how digital actually works. If this sounds very advanced, at least set up a WordPress.com account and take some free webinars to learn the blogging lexicon (which you may already know), then add Google Analytics to your blog and go.
Finally, I am guessing you already are in a creative writing or journalism class. If you aren't, make sure you are learning how the experts do it. Learn classic journalism FIRST. What are the time-honored rules of reporting in print and on camera? Then explore digital journalism. Think of it is a second language; if you have a foundation in the roots of journalism, learning the social version will be easier and have greater context.
All right, on to summer after junior year. Go work for free somewhere that either does social media or journalism, or ideally both. If money is an issue, get a job now and save up so you can spend at least four weeks helping and watching people who pay their rent in this industry (college and high school programs are wonderful, but get into the real working world to see this). Don't try to start on camera; learn what people are doing, then test/push yourself to do it on your own time first. Know how to light, shoot and mic yourself, based on the professional standards and actual equipment used in the industry. Be relentless - before you ever help a team out on set or in the field, you should have YouTubed three-light interview set-ups, for example, and know every term they are going to use ("You need me to re-position the fill? You got it!").
SENIOR YEAR - when you start apps in the fall, be prepared to major in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) majors. Be prepared, as in, have strong enough grades in Math (or improving ones if you aren't already doing well - get a tutor if you must, just be at Bs or higher), coupled with the initiative you've shown by learning analytics and/or code on your own. Go after STEM, and your admissions possibilities (and financial aid, if it's necessary) completely skyrocket. You also can study all of the writing and journalism you want - double-major, minor, it doesn't matter. But get that STEM degree as at least one of your degrees. STEM majors can become journalists, but Journalism majors can't easily become engineers, so get the degree that opens the most doors.
Once you are in college, apply to the ESPN internship program and programs at other networks with sports content. You will be beyond competitive (and you also will have been exposed to dozens of other career possibilities in your exploration and training where you can search for internships).
All the best with this, and congrats on beginning your college journey.