Mark Medina has always had a love for sports.
Whether it was playing soccer or basketball growing up, the York Suburban High School graduate was either playing or watching sports most of the time.
Like many of us, Medina found out early on that he was not destined for greatness as a player. He came to the conclusion shortly after failing to make his middle school basketball team.
The love for the game didn’t end there, however. Medina remained passionate about staying involved in sports in some capacity. He started by writing for his school newspaper, which also allowed him a chance to work as a correspondent for the York Daily Record. He applied for and was accepted into one of the most prominent journalism programs in the nation at Syracuse. His hard work allowed him to intern at media outlets in Richmond and Washington during his time in college.
All of the hard work he put into making his dream come true was paying off. His career was about to take off in a direction that not even he believed was possible.
His dreams eventually led him to Los Angeles, where he has been covering the Los Angeles Lakers for the L.A. Daily News since 2012.
We caught up with the 30-year old Medina recently for this edition of Sports Q&A.
How much help was needed to get you from a place like York Suburban High School to the place where you’re at right now?
A: “A lot. I’d like to think that I put in all of the hard work to get these opportunities, but if I didn’t have supportive people in my life I probably wouldn’t be where I am. And not to get too corny, but I owe a lot of credit to you, to Chris Otto, to Jeff Dewees, Steve Navaroli, Eduardo Encina, Dan Connolly and Dick VanO'Linda … all the people that were covering preps that I interacted with. It was always positive, it was always supportive and always nurturing. I was just a high school kid who was incredibly green. There were so many things that I had to learn, but everyone was always so supportive and I was just so eager to always do whatever I could. And I’d have to say that was a significant part of getting me to where I am today, because if it was negative experience and people weren’t supportive and were just dismissive of me because of how inexperienced I was, .. maybe that would have dissuaded my love for this work.”
What advice would you have for a student in high school that is looking to get involved in sports journalism?
A: “I don’t have all the answers. I’m not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination, but the feedback that I’ve received has been important. A lot of editors have praised me for being willing to just put in the work and take any opportunity that is available. So for a kid that is at Suburban or Central York, the mindset shouldn’t be ‘hey, I want to cover the Lakers or cover so and so.' It should be more of ‘what can I do for the student newspaper’ or maybe they can do some stuff with the York Dispatch or the York Daily Record. It should be ‘how can I get published somewhere?’ And then it should be about trying to improve your work and getting feedback from people and that one thing will lead to another.”
How did you wind up in Los Angeles writing for two of the biggest newspapers in the country?
A: “After graduating (from Syracuse), I started by sending out maybe 100 applications to places all over the country. Some of them were places I wanted to work for and just gave it a shot in the dark. I was fortunate that the L.A. Times was one of those places that responded back and expressed some interest and they were considering me for their internship program. So I interviewed with them.”
What did you do for the Times when you were there?
A: “For the first six months, they kind of rotate you around the paper. So I did some stuff in sports, stuff in business, stuff with entertainment and did some stuff with multimedia. After those six months, they only kept half of (the interns) and fortunately I was one that stayed. So then I was an entry-level reporter in the sports department, just kind of helping out with whatever they needed. I wrote about the Sparks, the WNBA team here, helping out with high schools and filling in for NBA, hockey practices and USC and UCLA.”
How did you get hired writing for the LA Times blog about the LA Lakers?
A: “Well they had a round of cuts and I was in the position of first-one-in, first-one out, so I was let go. But I think it was the same day that I learned of an opening for their Lakers blog. The guys that ran it left for ESPN Los Angeles. So they considered me for that and they knew that I filled in a bunch of times for Lakers practices and did some multimedia shooting video. So they liked me for that and I started about a month later.”
So that must have been some roller-coaster day for you emotionally to be let go only to find an even better position just a few hours later, right?
A: “Yeah, definitely. I had received a note that they wanted to talk to me and when you get a note like that, you never feel great about it. But when I got the position I just psychologically told myself to treat this like an extended internship. Now you always want that to parlay into something bigger, but I was just being realistic. So I had some mixed emotions kind of circling around in my head like ‘what else could I have done’ and things like that. And to be quite frank, I was a very young reporter on a very talented staff. So after they told me, I was still in the building making the rounds talking to people and calling people (to let them know the news), which is when I caught wind that they were looking to fill the Lakers blog and this is literally the same day.”
How did you end up with the LA Daily News?
A: “Back in 2012 they were looking to hire a Lakers beat writer. So I applied for that and they ultimately considered me their candidate. So this is my fourth year in that role. As the beat writer I travel for all of their games, home and away. I’m in charge of breaking news and covering the games, doing notebooks and kind of being the guy that writes all things about the Lakers.”
How often do you deal with the misconception that, just because you cover the Lakers, that you are also a big Lakers fan yourself?
A: “I understand it, but I don’t want to come across like ‘shouldn’t you know?,' but I’ll get comments like, ‘oh, you get to hang out with the players’ or when they’re not doing well like, ‘sorry about the Lakers.' I don’t care what happens. I’m not emotionally affected. But what I will say is that you always want to cover a team that matters, is relevant and has some interest. Maybe when you cover another team in a different market that their success does affect your readership, but the Lakers are such a unique brand and are so popular globally, whether they’re winning the title or in the lottery, they’re a relevant team in L.A. So it’s almost like I can take that attitude sincerely.”
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org