At 5’1 sports writer Mirin Fader often boxes other reporters out when getting quotes from athletes for a piece she plans to create. The technique Fader uses in her field of work is one she developed as a basketball player.
“When I’m in a reporter scrum, I’m always under somebody’s elbow and I kind of have to box out to get in there,” said Fader while laughing.
Before becoming a sports writer, basketball was life to Fader. From elementary to her freshman year in college, the point guard played basketball at a competitive level. Fader recalls basketball being her first passion. As a youth, the Los Angeles native who idolized Muggsy Bouges had Slam Magazine posters plastered all over her bedroom. Fader did not let her stature stop her from competing at a high level and being aggressive on the court. She played in pickup games with men, always ready to prove herself on the court. In high school, Fader’s tenacity got her recruited by Lewis & Clark College (a Division–III college in Portland, OR). In college, Fader played her freshman year for Lewis & Clark.
During her time at LCC, Fader’s focus was on basketball; she aspired to play professionally overseas. Although she was certain about her basketball goals, Fader was uncertain about what she wanted to do off the court. Fader took a variety of classes with the hope it would help her figure out what she wanted to study. She was looking for something that would create the same fire she got inside of her when playing basketball.
“I had so many different interests at that time – that first year in college,” said Fader. “I took so many different classes … . I wasn’t really sure what my lane was.”
A future outside of basketball remained unclear for Fader until she took a writing class for women. The class helped her find her passion and make the decision to major in English. During the class, her professor told her and her classmates that women aren’t supposed to write. Being told that writing was off-limits to women made it “dangerous and exciting” to Fader. The professor’s opinion reminded her of when people told her what she couldn’t do in basketball. She was ready to prove people wrong again.
“I’m drawn to things people don’t think I can do,” said Fader.
Before taking the class, Fader always wrote and knew writing was an important aspect in her life. However, she did not know how big of a role writing would play in her life. After her freshman year, Fader focused on writing solely and transferred to Occidental College. She believed writing would take her a lot further than basketball.
Ending one chapter in her life, Fader was ready to do what was needed to become a sports writer. As a sophomore at Oxy, Fader remembers her first writing job and the first time her writing went public.
“My first ever writing gig was writing obituaries,” said Fader. “Started from the bottom literally.”
Reflecting on the job now, Fader laughs, but appreciates the job that took a chance on a person who had no previous professional experience in writing on her resume.
After several tries, Fader reached out to Slam Magazine with a pitch about Kyle Korver’s cousin Kari Korver who played for UCLA’s women’s basketball team. Slam accepted the pitch and Fader wrote the first of many stories she would write for the publication. Eventually, Fader wrote for Uproxx (Dime Magazine), SB Nation, the LA Clippers (NBA), and the LA Sparks (WNBA) while in college.
As a senior at Oxy, Fader wrote to “over 60 publications” hoping to land a job once she graduated. Facing rejection from most of the publications, Fader continued to contact editors. Fader recalls following up with one newspaper the most: The Orange County Register. After staying in contact with one of the O.C. Register’s editors (Brantley Watson), Fader saw daylight.
The newspaper made her go through three interviews. Out of the three interviews, Fader remembers the third one the most. Watson made Fader create four features in three hours.
“That was a lot of pressure, that was definitely like free throw line status!” said Fader.
Fader got the job at the O.C. Register and worked for them for the last four years. During her fourth year with the Register, Fader freelanced for well-known publications such as Bleacher Report, ESPNW, Sports Illustrated, and several others.
As a freelance writer, Fader has written features on some of the biggest names in the sports world. To name a few, Fader has written features on Diana Taurasi, Lonzo Ball, Sean McVay, the Ogwumike sisters, J. J Redick, Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, and Mo’ne Davis (to see who else Fader has written a feature on click here). Writing pieces on big names is nice to Fader, but during her interview on The SportsLit Podcast with Shaheem Sutherland, Fader stated:
“How amazing is it to cover normal people — everyday people — when you have all the access in the world and they’re just dying for their story to be told? For somebody to recognize them, hear them, and respect them – how amazing is that? “
Besides creating stories on big names, Fader has written stories on individuals who don’t have a voice loud enough to be heard. Earlier this year, Fader wrote a story on former Oregon State volleyball player Lanesha Reagan. Four months before Fader did a feature on Reagan, Reagan wrote a post on her blog titled Being a Student-Athlete and Living with Mental Illness. In the post, Reagan spoke about dealing with depression, self-harm, and having an eating disorder. Reagan’s post went viral and reached many. When Fader wrote the feature on Reagan for ESPNW, Reagan’s story reached over a hundred thousand individuals via Twitter.
Lanesha Reagan’s story is one of several stories Fader has created which has shed light on issues the average person can relate to. In June 2017, Fader wrote the piece Lacrosse Clears Path to Greener – and Shorter – Pastures for Two Strawberry Mansion Teens for ESPNW. The story is about two high school lacrosse star players who are black young women. The two lacrosse players try to use their athletic talents to get out of Strawberry Mansion (an impoverished neighborhood located in Philadelphia, PA) and into a college.
Earlier this year, Fader made the transition from working for the O.C. Register to becoming her own boss. Fader is now a full-time freelance writer. As a freelancer, Fader understands what is necessary to survive and thrive in her field of work.
As a freelance writer, Fader understands the art of hustle. For Fader, some aspects to mastering the art include: staying up until 3 a.m. and sending pitches out to various editors, becoming an Excel guru in order to manage finances, and having short-term memory when getting a pitch rejected.
At one point in her career, Fader was 1-for-40 in selling pitches to one specific publication. When asked how she felt about it. She stated: “They really hurt … but I have to be like alright I’m going to be 2-for-41.”
Having thick skin is important for Fader’s profession. Not just for when pitches get rejected, but for also being a woman. Fader is aware that sports journalism and reporting is considered a male dominant field. However, she refuses to let the lack of women in her profession stop or intimidate her. “It probably drives me more,” said Fader.
Fader believes the sports media industry should make it a priority to hire more women. Besides honing and crafting the skills necessary to excel as a journalist or reporter, she believes women have innate skills that can come in handy when interviewing individuals. Fader believes times are changing and media outlets are starting to see the benefits of having different voices on their team.
When asked what she would say to women sports journalists and reporters who deal with discrimination at their job, Fader stated:
“… you have to just say to yourself: I belong here, I worked hard for this, I deserve to be here, I’m just as good if not better than those who are doubting me … . I think the goal is to work to hopefully put yourself in a position of power where you can actually empower other women and say I’m going to build towards that. One day I hope I’m an editor and I hope I’m going to put on other women and ask them to write stories and inspire them. There’s women that’s always going to be coming after us. So, if we get discouraged and walk away, we’re not creating the best path for the next women to come through.”
Although Fader has interviewed several big-name athletes and has gotten her work on the biggest platforms in the sports media industry, she knows she has not yet arrived and has more work to do.
“I’m not the writer I want to be yet. I still have a long way to go.”
Follow Mirin Fader on Twitter: bit.ly/2nGpMOQ
To read Fader’s stories, visit: www.mirinfader.com
To hear or read more stories like this, visit: www.shaheemsutherland.com