A Complex and savvy internship experience

by Chris Gaine

When you think of a intern’s typical duties, the chores that often come to mind include getting coffee, answering phones or doing other miscellaneous deeds that the bosses don’t feel like doing. I am thankful that I did not have to do any of this during my summer interning for Complex Media’s sports channel.

My duties instead included working closely with the editorial staff, sitting in on meetings and contributing to the website with several published pieces over my internship period. By the end of this internship, I had become an integral part of day-to-day operations for the website. I came out of this internship far more equipped for the field than I was coming in.

It was a learning experience to be on the inside of a publication that is so prominent and, perhaps most important, so well-equipped for the 21st century. Complex is one of the larger and more active media outlets on social media, with just shy of 1 million followers on its main Twitter page and over 3 million likes on its Facebook page. So this is a publication that understands where the future is going.

I was happy to see that my editors were very receptive to my pitches. Since this was the case, I typically came to their desks in the morning with several story ideas that were not being talked about much that I thought could garner significant traffic. Turns out, I was right several times.

One story that I pitched included a story on how teams who set regular-season wins records in their respective leagues don’t tend to win championships. I noticed this stat—and how nobody was talking about it at the time—and my editors liked the idea. The story did well, accruing over 100 retweets from the Complex Sports page. Another story I pitched on why Alex Rodriguez should have his number retired by the Yankees also got the page a good amount of circulation around the Internet as well. I was happy that work that was mine—from beginning to end— was capable of doing well on the Internet.

I was also glad that as time went on, my editors placed an increasing amount of trust in me and even had me work on some high-priority stories. I interviewed several high-profile athletes for Complex, including Andrew Wiggins, Tracy McGrady and Jose Canseco. To interview guys I grew up idolizing as a kid was pretty cool, for lack of a better term.

Talking to people with nationally recognized names even earned me some national recognition. During my interview with McGrady, “T-Mac” expressed disappointment in Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors. My interview was covered by several national news outlets including NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Fox Sports and USA Today. The Score even mentioned me by name. Not bad for an unpaid intern!

Aside from the content end of things, working with some of the most innovative people in the industry gave me a good sense of where media is heading over the next five to 10 years. My editors are active on social media and have fairly high profiles themselves. They have a good sense of how outlets like Facebook and Twitter drive the news—a sense that is still rare as the brand-new nature of social media isn’t an exact science. Looking at things they were doing online was one of my biggest takeaways from interning at Complex.

My editors told me toward the end of my internship that I could continue to contribute to Complex as a freelancer. I couldn’t be happier to continue contributing to a truly state-of-the-art publication, and I hope it’s just the start of a long career in sports media.