Friday, October 19, 2007
An interview with SI.com's Jimmy Traina
Jimmy Traina is a man all bloggers should befriend. In addition to being a totally stand-up guy, he could make your traffic blow up with the click of a mouse. He's a producer at SI.com who writes the always-fun Hot Clicks and runs the Extra Mustard page. He's a MSM guy who has connected with bloggers; a real winner in our book. His words speak wisdom in Q&A form. Make friends in the comments.
1. The rundown:
Name: Jimmy Traina
Location: Long Island, N.Y.
Occupation: Producer, SI.com
Favorite team: Yankees, Dillon Panthers, Any team I bet on
2. Aside from being the man behind Hot Clicks, tell us your other roles at SI.com.
I run the Extra Mustard page. That entails editing all the copy for the page, handling photos and putting the content on the page. I also write occasionally and put together photo galleries.
3. Your résumé must've been loaded to end up where you have. Take us through your career path, starting with your schooling, internships, first jobs, etc. And how'd you get the call to the Bigs at SI.com?
Let's see...I was a broadcasting major in college. I worked at the radio station and newspaper. I interned at WFAN (which was great because I'm a Mike and the Mad Dog addict.) Right after graduating, I got a job at a smaller than small Long Island radio station doing news. It sucked. I hated doing news. I wanted to do sports. And the money REALLY sucked. So I left there and ended up at Scorephone, just so I could stay in sports and make some money while I looked for something longterm. From there, I got a job at the Associated Press in their sports department. I became friends with a co-worker there, who eventually left for SI.com. Shortly after he was there, there was an opening and he let me know about it. So I interviewed and got the job. This was 7 and a half years ago. I started out as an editorial assistant. Eventually I became an associate producer and now a producer. So the moral of this boring story is that who you know is more important that anything else. At least that's been my experience in this business.
4. Take us through a typical day of work for you, if such a thing exists. And give us some insight to how Hot Clicks is put together. Do you always just go off what is emailed to you? Ever scour the depths of the Internet looking for the best content?
I have a long commute (I'm on the train for an hour), which helps because I read the Daily News and the Post every morning on the train (yes, I still read newspapers) and they're good for a couple of Hot Clicks items a week -- at least. Then I get into the office at 8am and after checking work email, personal email and my fantasy teams -- and not necessarily in that order -- I start going through my bookmarks. I have about 200 Web sites bookmarked for Hot Clicks but I probably only get to check 100 or so just because of time constraints. There's really no method to the madness of putting them together. If I see something I find funny or interesting or unique or original, I put in it. I try to keep things light and fun. Obviously I love lists, celebrities, pop culture and hot chicks. There are also certain things that I'm into -- for example old school wrestling stuff, basically anything having to do with the '80s and gambling -- that end up creeping into the Clicks. I try to make the Clicks appeal to the broadest audience possible, but it's only natural that if I'm compiling the Clicks everyday, some of my personality is gonna get in there.
I have tons of links emailed to me, which is great, but I'd say 70 percent of those are from bloggers. I'd love to get more random things from regular readers, but I haven't focused on that enough. Luckily, I have friends and co-workers who are always alerting me to links, too. I try to get Hot Clicks posted by 10:30 (we have a daily staff meeting at that time), but plenty of times they end up getting posted between 11-11:30. Once they're up, I get started on the rest of the Mustard content. I usually have to edit a Daily List and post it, find a photo for our daily Caption This feature. Find photos for our weekly Caught in the Act gallery. Edit a column or two.
5. Dream job? Go.
Honestly, my dream job would be no job. Who wants to work? I've never understood people who said they'd be bored if they didn't work. I'd be fuckin' thrilled to not have to be somewhere every single day. But if I had to pick an actual job, I'd say either play-by-play man for the New York Yankees or manager of the New York Yankees or a professional gambler or the third co-host on the Mike and the Mad Dog show. If I had to pick a realistic job, I'd say media critic. Since I was in high school, I wanted to have Bob Raissman's job.
6. From an outsider's perspective, it appears you have the power to link to whatever you want. Yet, you always link to many blogs. Why have you become such a liaison from the MSM to blogs?
Hmm...interesting question. I think there are several answers. One, I'm pretty amazed by how creative and original a lot of bloggers are. Two, I'm amazed by how often bloggers break news. Three, I love the fact that if anyone who has anything to do with sports is out in public, fans will either take a pic or write up a report and send it to a blog. For example, last week I linked to a photo album someone put together of the Red Sox partying in a bar after they clinched the AL East. To me, that stuff is gold. And who can forget that great pic of bombed Kyle Orton that Deadspin posted a while back. Stuff like that is just tremendous.
I also realized long, long ago that just because someone is on TV or on the radio or writes for a newspaper or magazine, that doesn't mean they know more about sports than die-hard fans. So I appreciate what bloggers are doing.
7. How heavily are you edited? Especially at Hot Clicks, are there editors telling you what to link to at all, or is it pretty laissez-faire?
I've been lucky. I've been able to link to whatever I've wanted (minus the NSFW sites). I basically edit myself, which isn't hard because I (usually) know what will fly and what won't with the powers that be. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that SI.com has advertisers and appeals to a mainstream audience. Believe me, every single day when I'm compiling the Clicks I find something that I really wish I could put it in, but I know I can't. For example, a few weeks ago, all those college "poon" sites -- SEC poon, ACC Poon, etc., etc. -- started up. I saw the link, I think on Mac Gs World blog, and would've loved to put it in Hot Clicks. I know people who read Hot Clicks would be all over that stuff. But the fact of the matter is, I can't link to something titled "SEC Poon" on SI.com. It's just the way it is. And I don't have a problem with that. There are also certain topics I'll stay away from. For example, anything with a political slant. You can't win in those situations. You're automatically gonna piss off half your audience. So to answer your question, I'm not edited but in a way I'm edited.
8. Where you are at SI.com, at your age and with your experience, what's the next logical career step?
I wonder that myself. I actually have no idea.
9. How often do you get to hang out or chat with the other SI writers? Any cool stories? Who's the most fun to chill with?
I don't really have a relationship with any of the magazine writers, except for Dr. Z. I used to be his editor and we still chat from time to time. He's a total character, very funny and very unique, and totally real. No phonieness about him at all. The people I'm closest with here are the other Web site producers. I don't really have specific stories to tell you. We just do what I think most guys do all day -- we talk about sports, our fantasy teams, tv shows etc. We argue about nonsense (for example, our NFL producer Andrew Perloff thinks Tom Brady is overrated, so that's been good office fodder lately) and bust each others balls all day. For the most part, it's pretty fun.