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Casey Drottar

Casey Drottar (MSJ21)

Editorial Producer for Major League Baseball and Adjunct Instructor at Northwestern University Medill School


Tell us about your career path. How did you get where you are today?

I started my sports journalism journey after getting my undergrad degree from the University of Dayton in 2008. It wasn’t exactly the best time to be looking for a job, so in order to distract myself from those struggles, I signed up with the outlet Bleacher Report and began writing columns there. What was initially something meant to keep my mind off the countless job applications I was filling out at the time turned into a genuine passion for me. I didn’t have much training at the time, but it didn’t matter. I just fell in love with it. I wrote for a couple different outlets over the next few years, but was never able to turn it into much. Yet, even though I eventually developed a career in a different field, I could never shake the desire to pursue my dream of establishing myself in the world of sports journalism. The outlets I wrote for made cuts to their respective writing staffs, so I started blogging independently for three years, and even spent some time as a baseball contributor with Sports Illustrated. Come 2020, I was met with a crossroads. I wasn’t happy with my other career, but knew my attempts to finally make significant headway in journalism would be unsuccessful on the path that I was on at the time. So, I decided it was now or never and applied to the graduate program with Medill. It didn’t take me long to realize how much work I still needed to do as a reporter, but also how much ground I was going to be able to cover thanks to Northwestern. By the time I graduated, I was freelancing with the Associated Press and Chicago Tribune, eventually seeing a story I pitched land on the front page of the sports section. That same day, Major League Baseball reached out with an offer to join their team as an Editorial Producer. It was a surreal moment, to say the least, but it also proved that the decision to start writing all those years ago and the willingness to keep at it no matter how frustrating the grind of it all felt at times was completely worth it.

What are your main responsibilities in your current role?
I work directly with the many talented reporters at Major League Baseball on game nights. I edit and publish any content that comes in for a given game, while also managing the content on the homepages for each team’s site. The role also involves working hand-in-hand with MLB’s video production team, ensuring that specific highlights and moments from every game are produced and added to team pages and any written content from that night to give readers as much to digest from that contest as possible. It’s a very fast-paced environment, but as someone who always wanted to work in baseball for a living, it’s right up my alley. Additionally, the position provides opportunities to sub in for team reporters on occasion and provide coverage from the press box.

How has your Medill training helped you in your career?
I knew within minutes of my first Methods Reporting class that I really needed to refine my skills as a reporter. But through both that course and the many that Medill provided during my time there, I was able to develop those skills at a much faster pace than I could have ever done on my own. A lot of the lessons I’ve tried to implement in the time since – learning to be both prepared and flexible when finding a story, making interviews conversational as opposed to an exercise in running through a list of questions – were learned specifically at Northwestern. I’ve written countless stories that involved me, at some point, saying “I wouldn’t have thought to focus on that were it not for what I learned at Medill.” One lesson I took to heart is the fact that this is an extremely competitive industry and, because of that, nothing is going to be handed to you. Medill presents so many opportunities to make you a better reporter than you ever thought possible, but it’s a two-way street, and you only get out of this what you put in. Don’t resist critique, don’t be put off by being told what you can do to make yourself better. Leave your comfort zone and push yourself. You need this kind of mindset when trying to stand out in this field, and had I not been given these lessons through my time at Medill, I’m not sure I would have ever gotten to where I am now.

How has the Northwestern Medill network helped you advance in your career?
The Northwestern Medill network has been incredibly helpful as far as my career goes. The connections I made with several of my professors helped open doors I may not have been able to get through on my own. I also made a point to follow up with as many guest speakers those professors invited to our classes as possible, relying on their expertise within the industry both for advice and to help me extend my networking even further. Additionally, becoming a member of the Northwestern chapter of the Association of Women in Sports Media played a crucial role in advancing my career, as it was a connection I established via one of their job fairs that helped me secure my position with Major League Baseball.

How can your industry be more inclusive and representative of society?
A major step the sports media industry should continue to focus on is being more inclusive and welcoming when it comes to female journalists. Unfortunately, there are still many out there who believe sports media should be a male-dominated field, based on the farcical belief that women couldn’t possibly cover sports like football because they’ve never played it before. That idea couldn’t be further from the truth, and slowly but surely we continue to see more proof of that. In this industry, talent should be the main factor that sets you apart, and things such as gender or race should play no part in how that is evaluated. Progress has definitely been made over the past few years, but that upward trajectory needs to continue. There were many extremely talented women in my cohort, and it was no surprise to see many of them begin making a name for themselves within the industry very quickly after graduation.

How have your identities influenced the way you navigate your professional career?
A significant aspect of my professional identity is my willingness to accept challenges I encounter if it means furthering my development. I try to see whatever opportunities I’m given as chances to get better. Whether that means driving five hours to take advantage of the first press pass I’ve ever been given or filing a preps basketball story in the middle of an empty parking lot in the dead of winter. I view these as opportunities to make forward progress towards achieving a goal I established almost two decades ago. I also try to ensure I learn from any setbacks I run into. They happen to everyone in this industry, nobody is immune to making gaffes. But it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it, and that’s something I try to tell myself any time something like that happens. Finally, I’m very big on paying it forward. I was lucky enough to establish many solid connections during and after my time at Medill, and a lot of them have been extremely helpful on my journey. Even something as simple as words of encouragement can go a long way. As a result of that, I try to do what I can to help others in their pursuit of a career in this field. Whether it be through helping Medill students as a networking resource or in my role as an adjunct instructor, I want anyone I meet who is in a position I once found myself in to feel supported as they pursue their dream.

What advice do you have for someone considering Medill? 
Take the leap. If this is something you want to do, don’t let fear stop you. My wife suggested I apply to Medill’s graduate program a few years before I actually did, but at that time I didn’t believe I would be good enough to be accepted. With my journey, it took hitting a crossroads and realizing I may not have a real shot at this if I wait much longer. So if you’re truly considering this program, I can’t recommend it enough. It’ll require putting yourself out there in ways you may not have experienced before, and it will challenge you to refine skills you may believe are already in good enough shape. But ultimately, if pursuing a career in journalism is something you want to do, you’re going to get every opportunity you could ask for to help you achieve that with Medill. When it comes to my journey, I often come back to a quote from a book entitled ‘Baseball Cop': “At the end of our lives we say one of two things: ‘I wish I had’ or ‘I’m glad I did.’” When it comes to taking the leap with Medill, I’m glad I did.