Interview by Lindsay Hanna (RSJ ’04).
Cory Wright (RSJ ’13) is Senior Manager of Web Content for the New York Islanders.
What did you originally see yourself doing when you first enrolled in journalism school?
I originally saw myself as a newspaper beat writer covering an NHL team.
How did that vision change as the years went by?
I lost a bid to become the sports editor of The Eyeopener and wound up getting a paying job with the Ryerson Rams to provide team coverage for the Athletic Department. That’s when I realized there were alternative routes to getting paid to write. It’s a little more on the corporate/PR side, but it’s a pretty exciting prospect to secure a paying gig to write about hockey and other sports.
That experience on the PR side helped me gain an internship with the New York Islanders, which I later parlayed into a full-time job.
That year interning with the Islanders did open my eyes into how much more I needed to learn, especially from a multimedia/digital side. I didn’t really know how to use a program as simple as Photoshop, and I really tried to take advantage of my final year at Ryerson, exposing myself to as many mediums and technologies as possible. I think a year in the working world was a big eyeopener about how multi-faceted you needed to be, especially as more is demanded of fewer people. For example, I had to learn how to operate a website for an NHL team just so I could keep writing.
Thinking back to your first-year self, how do you think they would react to where you are now?
Thrilled. Set out to get paid watching hockey and pulled it off.
What do you think the RSJ experience offers that you can’t get anywhere else?
The hands-on learning really is second-to-none. Experience trumps grades in this profession and you get the opportunity to really gain experience with a variety of mediums/equipment. I think the ability to try a lot of things, as well as have a space – and the support of great professionals – to produce content is incredible. Being in Toronto doesn’t hurt either, having access to the top news and media companies in the country, as well as major sports teams, allows for the ability to make great connections in the industry.
What have you done since graduating/how did you arrive at your current position?
I’ve spent six seasons as a paid employee of the New York Islanders (plus one season as an intern), as well as two seasons working for the Brooklyn Nets. My title now is Sr. Manager of Web Content for the Isles, which is a way to say that I’ve been the beat writer/website manager for the team for a while.
I originally took a year off between my third-and-fourth years to pursue an internship with the Islanders. I either cold called (cold emailed?) them, or responded to an internship posting, originally looking to fulfill my six-week internship obligation, but would up scoring a season-long internship. As an unpaid intern, I lived with my then 93-year-old grandmother in a de facto seniors home to be able to make it work.
I moved back to Canada and finished my final year at Ryerson after a year of interning. About six months (and two jobs) after graduating, the Islanders called with an open position to write for the team’s website (and manage it), so I packed my ’98 Subaru Forester and drove down to Long Island. Approximately 400 hockey games, two arenas, two years working for the Isles and Nets simultaneously, three practice facilities and probably 1,000 articles later, I’m still here.
How has your journalism degree and what you learned in school prepared you for your current career?
Ryerson really is a perfect environment to learn and sharpen your skills. I had a place to try my hand at being on-air, learning to edit video, learning better techniques to interview, work with editors, pitch stories, learn how to edit copy, etc. I had the opportunity to write daily and understand the sacrifices that come with sports writing, like working nights and weekends. I had the opportunity to make mistakes, but also learn from them. By the time I got to the Islanders, I felt comfortable conducting interviews, writing on deadlines, using Adobe, taking pictures, etc.
Can you talk about one of the biggest accomplishments you’ve made?
I think scoring a job with the Isles and Nets are two big ones. I’m relatively lucky to have bypassed having to go through the junior leagues or AHL before landing a major league job. I’m also proud of the fact that I entered the workforce with no backend or CMS experience and have run a website for the past six years. I think my feature writing has improved and I’m also proud of the fact that I’ve been one of the voices behind @NYIslanders, live-tweeting games, creating and posting GIFs, helping to produce video features for IslesTV. No single story sticks out, but anytime I’m able to write something that connects with people, or reaches a wider audience, I get a feeling that is hard to replicate anywhere else.
I’ve also been able to sell a few freelance stories, including one about my experience living with my grandmother, which is a great feeling. That’s a grind. Respect to all those who do it for a living.
What’s one of your favourite memories from j-school?
Covering the first Ryerson men’s hockey game at Maple Leaf Gardens. Producing a feature story/video on Angela Tilk. Getting to be on-camera as an anchor/reporter. I really enjoyed being exposed to lots of great journalism in the aptly named “Great Journalism” course I took, which helped me find my favourite writer, Matt Taibbi.
Any memorable RSJ professors during your time at Ryerson?
Mark Bulgutch is one of the most brutally honest person I’ve met, in a really good way. Dan Westell had a big influence on me in my first and second years and was always very supportive. Lindsay, Sally and Gary, obviously.
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
Take advantage of every opportunity at Ryerson. I can’t stress that enough. I wish I had utilized every opportunity to use studio time/space, to rent equipment and shoot around town, or to practice with different software, apps and programs. I only realized how much I needed to do in my final year and I wish I had that same attitude throughout all four years. The advantages available to you at Ryerson are second-to-none and won’t exist everywhere else. This is your chance to learn so much. Once you get into the working world, you’ll have to try to learn all this stuff on your own time and you won’t have nearly the same quality of instructors – if you get one at all – to help you. So take advantage of it now.
More advice. Build a portfolio. If you want to write about hockey, or fashion, or cover news, take advantage of the outlets around you: The Eyeopener, The Ryersonian, RyersonRams.ca and get reps. Pitch stories to magazines and websites. Start a blog and a podcast. Make infographics. It’s all great practice and will come in handy.
Meet as many industry pros as possible. Make connections. I was never much of a networker, but I’ve seen it pay off for people in a big way.
And don’t be afraid to look in unlikely places for work. I never would have thought I’d end up interning/working/living on Long Island and eventually moving to Brooklyn and I have friends who took jobs off the coast of BC and Newfoundland to get their careers started. All the TV people I know took jobs in Saskatoon, Prince Albert, New Brunswick and other smaller markets. Same goes for all the on-air people I know in the States. It’s where you have to start.
The bottom line: my time at Ryerson did a lot for me. Take advantage of it and it’ll do a lot for you too.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.