Tribune sports editor says ‘no slow days, just slow journalists’
By Emily Nitcher
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Mike Kellams spent the summers of his childhood reading newspapers instead of getting into trouble. He still reads the newspaper, but as the associate managing editor of sports at the Chicago Tribune he also decides what goes into it.
Kellams is responsible for 40 journalists and the Chicago Tribune’s print and online sports reports. Like any good athlete, Kellams practiced for years before taking his skills to the big leagues.
Kellams, who grew up in Indiana, started his journalism career his freshman year of high school working for the school newspaper.
“I was drawn to it early,” Kellams said in a phone interview. “It came naturally and easy.”
Journalism requires practice, he said. While attending college at Ball State University, Kellams worked for the school newspaper. His various jobs included photographer, page designer and managing editor.
“Journalism is one of those things where it’s much more art than science,” Kellams said. “Every rule has an exception.”
After college, Kellams started his career at The Detroit News and The Seattle Times before moving to the Chicago Tribune. He held a variety of positions at the Tribune before being named associate managing editor of sports in March 2009.
Covering sports in Chicago, he said, requires editors and journalists to keep their wits about them to keep content fresh and interesting for readers.
“The great thing about sports is there’s a rhythm to it,” Kellams said. “Comfortable, but can lull you to sleep sometimes.”
Everyone will offer game coverage, Kellams said, but the question his staff constantly asks themselves is: What can the Chicago Tribune offer that’s different from their competitors?
“There are no slow days,” Kellams said. “Just slow journalists.”
Social media has takes news to readers even faster. Twitter has become an outlet for athletes to control their message. Kellams said his staff monitors it for story ideas and news updates, but it also presents new challenges.
“We err on the side of [caution], knowing what’s going on but won’t jump on something too fast,” Kellams said.
That caution reflects the professionalism of his staff.
“These are all veteran reporters who want to be first and right, not necessarily in that order,” Kellams said.
If aspiring journalists want to work for Kellams they have to prove they fit in with his team of veteran reporters by showing they can work on a real deadline.
“I want to see students who are doing real work in real working environments,” Kellams said. “I need to see work you produced quickly with no mistakes.”