Still Going Strong, the Journey of Bette Marston

By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden  

Bette Marston, Producer at Sports Illustrated

Bette Marston, Producer at Sports Illustrated

Growing up in Tampa, Fla., Bette Marston’s love for sports was cultivated by both playing sports and following her local sports teams. She was even lucky enough to see two championships by the time she was in high school, thanks to the Bucs’ and Lightning success in the early 2000’s. (She insists the Rays’ time will eventually come.)

Marston followed her love of sports to Northwestern University to pursue a degree in journalism. And after years of being on sports teams, she joined the club rowing team to fill that void.

At Northwestern, the journalism program requires students to do a journalism residency, where students get out into the field and work for a quarter. An application process matched her to work at Sports Illustrated, where she gained experience as a fact-checker and reporter during the fall of 2010.

A few weeks before she graduated from Northwestern in June 2011, she was offered a job to return to SI, working for SI.com as a web producer. Five years later, she still holds that job -- and Marston credits Northwestern with making that first connection.

“It’s weird because not many people can say they’re still working the job they got right out of college. I made a lot of great connections when I interned with SI in the fall and here I am five years later.”

As a producer, Marston works with editors, writers and fellow producers to create a content plan for the site -- she specifically works on the NFL and fantasy sports beats, and she’s helping to coordinate content for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Writers file stories to the producers, and she publishes them on the web.

“If there are any misspellings in the URL of the article or in the headline that’s usually my fault.”

Marston also helps to produce several of SI.com’s podcasts, most notably the SI Media Podcast hosted by Richard Deitsch, one of SI.com’s senior editors.

“I really enjoy listening in on the interviews. I don’t conduct the interviews because that’s the podcast host’s job. I enjoy helping record them and listening to these people talk about their job and about all the various things they do. It gives me an inside look at a whole other aspect of sports journalism. I love it because I get to talk with people I probably would never necessarily ever get to speak with.”

She got to meet Paul Heyman, who is an announcer and promoter for World Wresting Entertainment (WWE), when he came into the studio for a podcast. 

“The personality he has on television is exactly how he is in real life.  He has this big booming voice and talks with big hand motions and is this larger than life guy.  It was so incredible to have him come into the studio. I tweeted out the episode, and he actually retweeted it. He has over a million followers on Twitter. But, to this day, I have people liking and retweeting this tweet of mine from last October.”

The most memorable piece that she’s worked on was the feature on Jill Costello, a coxswain for the University of California rowing team, written by SI senior writer Chris Ballard. Costello was unfortunately diagnosed with lung cancer while in college and passed away shortly after graduating in 2010. The story ran as a bonus feature in a Nov. 2010 issue of the magazine, and was republished online in 2014 as part of the SI 60 project, honoring SI’s 60th anniversary: http://www.si.com/more-sports/2014/10/08/the-courage-of-jill-costello-chris-ballard-si-60.

“As an intern in 2010, I fact-checked the piece, which was a ten-page bonus feature in the magazine. Everyone on staff knew I was on the rowing team at Northwestern, and they asked me to check it since they knew I would know the rowing lingo best. It was rewarding, but calling Jill’s family, coaches and friends just a few months after she died was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”

Her advice for aspiring sports writers is this:

“Know how to write a compelling story and don't limit yourself.  Don’t limit yourself in that you decide you’re just going to write about the football team of this one school or just about the NFL. Know how to write different stories from different angles. Know how to conduct a wide range of stories such as Q&A’s and features. One thing that makes writers invaluable at SI is their versatility. The writers who can seamlessly switch sports will always turn out good copies. You don’t want to be pigeonholed into just doing one thing simply because it’s the only thing you do well.”

We would like to thank Bette for her time and insight and we wish her the best in all her future endeavors! 

You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

This interview is another edition of "Winning Edge Wednesday" in congruence with our partnership with the Winning Edge Leadership Academy. Every Wednesday we will be featuring the story of a woman or minority working in the sports business industry.If you know of a professional you would like featured, drop us a line at russ@frontofficesports.org.

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