Sports Illustrated, an American sports publication, is adapting to the changing digital landscape of modern media by establishing a network of channels run by credentialed journalists to cover individual pro and college teams. These include sites for all 32 NFL franchises.
Jackson Thompson, a former community college transfer who just graduated from SC&I last month, is currently a staff writer and editorial assistant for the Sports Illustrated Giants Maven network, whose beat is covering the New York Giants football team. He also does a lot of video editing and voice-over work. Thompson has even had several pieces picked up by the Sports Illustrated national site and promoted alongside content from some of the industry's most accomplished professionals.
Thompson, who majored in Journalism and Media Studies with a Sports Journalism specialization and minored in Creative Writing, can trace the beginning of his journey with Sports Illustrated to last summer, when he spent a day at the New York Giants training camp for the Clyde Hirt Journalism Workshop.
There he met Giants rookie running back Jonathan Hillman ’19, a Rutgers alumnus and former football player for Rutgers and Boston College. The two schools were scheduled to play each other during the fall 2019 season. Thompson saw an opportunity and conducted a video interview with Hillman about what he expected to see during the game. Thompson then posted the interview on Twitter and the tweet went viral and was picked up by the Sports Illustrated Boston College channel run by AJ Black.
In the fall, while attending the Rutgers vs. Boston College football game as a spectator in the student section, Thompson posted videos of a touchdown from the game, which he noticed Black retweeted as well.
A few days later, Black reached out to him asking if he was interested in covering Boston College football and basketball for Sports Illustrated. Thompson worked freelance for him through Sports Illustrated during the fall 2019 semester until the end of the college football season.
During the spring 2020 semester, through a mutual alumni contact, Thompson established a connection with Patricia Traina, a famous Rutgers alumna and published sports author who has covered the local Giants for over two decades and runs the Giants channel for Sport Illustrated, one of the Network's most popular channels.
Due to their common connection as Rutgers alumni, and her interest in Thompson’s past experience covering Rutgers sports and Boston College sports for SI, Traina hired him as a staff writer and editorial assistant, where he continues to work today.
Thompson has daily responsibilities to produce written and video content, including a morning recap multimedia package titled the NFC East Morning Run, which recaps daily headlines from the NFL's premier division. Thompson produces video, voice over, and briefs in a suite that runs at 7 a.m. every day including weekends.
As a credentialed site, the job might even grant Thompson the chance to cover the Giants practices and games on site when and if the COVID-19 quarantine restrictions permit the return of media to the facilities.
So far, Thompson has had the chance to cover some of the biggest local sports news during the quarantine, including the NFL Draft, free agency, and how the Giants are operating as an organization during the pandemic.
“I am very lucky, not only that I had a great year covering Rutgers sports and Boston College football as a senior, but that I was able to go to a school that has this really great alumni history of sports journalism,” Thompson said. It's a network that includes the current sports editors for the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer.
During his time at Rutgers, Thompson said he learned many of the skills he uses every day as a writer for Sports Illustrated. During his first semester at Rutgers, he took Writing for Media with Karyn Collins where he learned AP style formatting and improved his writing overall. He took Steven Miller’s class, Critical Issues in Sports, that provided him with great video editing and teamwork experience. Introduction to Broadcast Media with Mike Pavlichko enabled him to practice recording himself, read newscasts, edit audio, and conduct voiceovers.
For students interested in the sports journalism specialization, Thompson emphasizes the benefits of taking Multimedia Sports Reporting with Mike McCarthy and Sports Writing with Lenn Robbins. Thompson said, “If you want to get into sports journalism, take these classes as soon as possible. These people are professionals who have written for The New York Times or USA Today.”
Thompson said he also developed his writing skills and gained experience by working for The Daily Targum as the Sports Editor, and he interned at different media outlets such as NJ Advance Media, 12up, and Double G Sports covering various teams at the Rutgers Athletics Department.
It’s also important to always be open to learning, Thompson said, adding there is always news to report on at Rutgers, but be modest, and do not seek to get dirt on someone just for the sake of clicks. “Be ambitious, be humble, and be hungry,” said Thompson, a quote he adopted from Rutgers women's soccer head coach Mike O'Neill.
He said he covered Rutgers athletics during the two best years, because he was able to cover historic Rutgers events such as the emergence of national wrestling Champions Nick Suriano and Anthony Ashnault, the firing of former football coach Chris Ash, the return of Greg Schiano and a historic men’s basketball season.
"Rutgers is one of the best sports journalism schools to go to and become a self-made journalist because there’s always drama and there's always engagement from the ride-or-die local Rutgers fans” said Thomspon. “When it comes to authentic necessary sports journalism, Rutgers is as big as it gets.”
When asked about what he loves about Rutgers and SC&I, he says that he is very grateful for the faculty and staff as well as the experience he had as a Rutgers and former PR chair for the Delta Chi Fraternity.
“SC&I makes the most of what they have, and the people here really care, they don’t do it for the money. They want to set their students up for journalism careers,” Thompson said. “I don’t think there’s any other school in the world that can provide a better journey than the one you get at Rutgers.”
For more of Thompson’s work in sports journalism. Check out his Twitter page.