A Day in the Life
Howard Sinker shares his career path to becoming digital pports editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
by CARLO HOLMBERG| Web editor
Howard Sinker is not only the digital sports editor at startribune.com, but he also teaches News Reporting and Writing at Macalester College. He is married, has three kids, all of whom have graduated from college, and a dog. He loves to spend time with his family. Because of that, he learned to balance his social and work life.
Tell me about the path of getting your current job as the web sports editor for the Star Tribune.
“I am the web sports editor of the Star Tribune. I was hired back when it was the Minneapolis Tribune about a year and half after I graduated from college, and I was hired as a sports reporter. I have gone back and froth from sports to news about five or six times. The most recent change is I have been the state editor of the newspaper and about seven years ago they asked me if I wanted to be the digital sports editor, which was a new position they were creating, and I agreed. I was hoping to get a chance to do something in the digital part of the paper because that’s where the growth was.”
Where did you go to college and what did you study?
“I went to Macalester. That’s the only reason they let me teach. I designed my own major. It was called communications theory and it included journalism, sociology and political science.”
What’s a day in the life in your position like.
“I work from about six in the morning to about 3:30 in the afternoon. I design our sports web pages, adding stories and blog posts and videos from our staff. I do some original content. I contribute to a coulee of our blogs and I work with our outside vendors, like Sporting News, that provides us with a lot of video. I do a lot of social media, trying to bring people to startrubune.com through Twitter and Facebook.”
Who is one person who has inspired you in your life and/or career?
“My journalism professor and adviser at Macalester, who was a guy named George Moses. He was very supportive and helped me get an internship and first job. He was someone who was really good to learn from. So really in terms of somebody who put me the right direction of my career or profession, I would say that it was George. He was very ethical, he was a good writer, and he was very good at working with people. He was very serious about journalism, while still being a fun and engaging person. I am basically teaching the class that he taught me, so it’s a little bit intimidating, because I don’t think I will ever be that good.”
What is the best part of your job? Worst?
“The best part of the job is getting to do a whole lot of different stuff and doing it in an area that I like and learning new skills. There is very little about it that I don’t like. The worst part of it is the 5 percent of the time when it’s just not very much fun because of things that are usually out of my control.”
Do you have any horror or success stories worth talking about?
“I think that is a success that I am still in journalism. I am working for a new organization that has been through some difficult times financially and appears to have come out if it quite well. The thing about newspapers or working in the media: There is really no such thing as a true horror story, because if you have a really bad day, you get to go back and to everything again tomorrow. Unless it was so bad that you get fired, and that hasn’t happened. Successes stay with you and failure — you just try to learn from it and move on to the next thing.”
“Keep your eyes open, keep your ears open and if you run into an obstacle, there is probably somebody in your newsroom with more experience who has encountered that and conquered it. So learn from them.”
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned on the job that you couldn’t learn in a classroom?
“Oh gosh I was in school so long ago, that is a hard one. School can teach you the skills, so that when you get to your job, you know how to do things, but in terms of knowing how to be a professional and knowing how to use your skills to the best advantage and the best advantage of your employer, those are the things you learn by actually having the job.”
How do you balance work and social/family life?
“I don’t have a problem with that because there are times where work interferes with things I would like to do socially or with my family, but there are also plenty of times where I should be working, but the tradeoff is I can kind of do something with my family or something socially. I feel like it all balances out. If I have to sneak on the internet for an hour on a weekend to do some work, I also know that on the other side, if I need to leave work an hour early for something, nobody is gonna make me take an hour of vacation to do that. It all blends together. I don’t think anyone would call me a workaholic and I don’t think anyone would call me a slacker, so I think I’m doing thinks right in term of work and life balance.”
What kind of hours do you work? Did you have any difficult hours?
“Six a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sometimes you have to work when there is news. I have worked some nights and I’ve worked some weekends. Every now and then, something will happen in the wee hours of the mornings or you find out about it one way or another and you start work early. But if that happens, it’s usually because it’s something you want to be part of. It’s not like I have to start at 4 a.m. and haul crates up flights of stairs or anything like that.”
“Learn everything you can from your professors. If they say something is optional, go ahead and do it. Take risks. Try new things.”
What advice would you give to journalism students who are looking for internships and experience?
“Learn everything you can from your professors. If they say something is optional, go ahead and do it. Take risks. Try new things. Talk to people who you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to so you get comfortable doing that because that is so much a part of what you should be doing in journalism. Write all that you can. Be fluent in a second language because that get more and more important culturally. Even when you have to be serious about your work and ask unpleasant questions, you can always be nice to people. There is no reason not to be nice to people.”
Throughout this interview, I couldn’t help but notice the forgiveness of journalism. Sinker mentions that there aren’t really any true horror stories because you get to try again the next day. And when you have trouble with something, there will always be someone in the newsroom who can help you. As a first-year journalism student, I have made plenty of mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. It it encouraging to know that horror stories are not the end of the world and I can learn from mistakes and try again the next day.
This interview has been edited and condensed.