It’s more complex than what you get in a textbook

By Christopher Gaine

Learning out of a textbook can be useful. It can give you the foundational understanding of a subject. The journalism school here at Stony Brook has given me a terrific foundation of journalistic knowledge throughout my time here.

But learning on the job has been equally valuable—if not more so—to my development as a professional. Journalism in practice has allowed me to apply my Stony Brook education to into the real world. My internship at Complex Media—one of social media’s premier news outlets—has been a spectacular way to not only apply the knowledge I have, but also to accumulate more by virtue of being in a professional 21st -century setting.  

At Complex, I have done a variety of work for the company’s sports section, where I intern. I have worked in collaboration with my section editors on a variety of projects for the site. The task most frequently assigned to me is research for features. For example, if one of my editors is interviewing a particular subject, I will often be tasked with discovering as much as possible about the subject. This will allow for the site to explore multiple angles for stories—ones that may not have been explored yet. The editors have also allowed me to sit in on their meetings.

I have also been lucky enough to have written several stories for the website. Since Complex Sports covers the intersection between sports and pop culture, I have often come up with alternative angles to stories that are in the news. You can’t just write a thousand-word piece on the field goal percentage Charles Barkley had in the 1996-97 season. Pieces like that aren’t going to garner much traffic.

In one instance, I felt that a story pertaining to Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter two weeks ago would suit the site. But since Complex doesn’t do much baseball coverage—they focus primarily on football and basketball—I figured it would be a good idea to see equivalents of no-hitters in other sports. For example, a 55-point game in the NBA requires similar skill and occurs at the same frequency as a no-hitter. I pitched the story the day after the no-hitter and the editors ran it that day.

Writing on an established platform has been a fantastic experience. Without sharing confidential company information, I have been told by my editors that several stories have done very well in respect to site traffic. I have been featured on the front page of the site several times. My articles have been retweeted hundreds of times.

I was told at the start of my internship that I might get to write for the site a couple of times, but I never thought the editors would be so receptive to my pitches and let me contribute to the site frequently. This has been a very pleasant surprise aspect to the internship, one that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

In addition to dealing with my own editors and interns, this position has also allowed me to deal with public relations professionals from places like the NBA. This has opened my eyes to how the business works. You have to stay on good terms with these people if you want to get solid sources for a story. Getting this kind of access isn’t always easy, so you have to do what you can to make the source happy while maintaining your independence as a journalist.

This is an ideal internship for any student, as Complex is a publication well equipped for the future. The site is active on social media, and it is growing at a time when many media outlets are not. The @ComplexMag Twitter handle has over 900,000 followers, and its Facebook page has over 3 million likes.

This is why it’s important to prioritize and capitalize on the content that is trending throughout the day. Knowledge of the trends allows the site to capitalize on the day’s news cycle. I have gotten a very good sense of this working at Complex.

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to find out that Complex was taking me back for the summer. I’m thankful for that, and am looking forward to all of the experience that will come with it.