DISCLAIMER: Please note that what you are about to read should in no way encourage Binghamton University students to drop out of school, like the subject of this article, but rather should come as a reminder to all that hard work does pay off. Now proceed to the article below.
Jay Lovinger wasn’t exactly the model student when he went to then SUNY-Binghamton in the 1960s.
‘I was a total screw-up,’ admitted Lovinger, who did not graduate. While he had a steep climb, that didn’t stop him from working his way up to his current position as editor at large at ESPN.com.
But make no mistake, Lovinger, whose career spans over 40 years, faced a long journey to get to his current spot.
After working at the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin, Lovinger, an English major at BU, wrote for various trade publications, including Discount Store News and Electronic Engineering Times, both of which were ‘as boring as it sounds.’
‘Since I hadn’t graduated, working for the Binghamton Sun-Bulletin wasn’t a ticket to stardom; those were the only jobs I could get,’ he said.
But thankfully for Lovinger, he used a Binghamton connection to help him secure his next position. That connection went by the name of Tony Kornheiser, BU alum and current Monday Night Football broadcaster.
In 1979, Newsweek started a magazine called Inside Sports, a monthly sports publication. Kornheiser, a contributor in the pilot issue, introduced Lovinger to the editor for a potential job opportunity. But on the interview, the editor told Lovinger he was only going to hire contributing writers who worked with him before.
‘He then said, ‘What did you think of the pilot issue,’ and I was so annoyed at this, I just ripped everything in it,’ said Lovinger, whose response intrigued the editor. He gave Lovinger a challenge to create 25 story ideas on how he would have done the issue. Next thing Lovinger knew, he was associate editor for Inside Sports.
Inside Sports eventually folded, but Lovinger moved on to work as an editor of Life and People magazine before using yet another connection.
John Walsh, the senior vice president at ESPN and former colleague at Inside Sports, contacted Lovinger about a job opportunity. Since 2000, Lovinger has been working at ESPN.com and was hired to help create Page 2, a part of the Web site where non-sports writers contribute comedic or feature stories that may not be related to the top major sports.
‘It’s been very successful. It’s one of the main things that defines ESPN.com as different from other online sports sites and it gets a lot of readers,’ he said.
After starting his career as a writer, Lovinger never thought he would work as an editor. In fact, he never really knew what an editor even did.
‘I was much better suited to be an editor,’ said Lovinger, who is not a fan of the isolated life a writer leads. ‘I really like the process of working with a writer to create something.’
Although no longer a writer, one of the more interesting stories Lovinger covered was posing as a high-stakes poker player for a Page 2 story.
‘People in the world of high stakes poker were interesting characters,’ said Lovinger, who played poker in his 20s. ‘Poker was starting to become a huge phenomenon and it was an interesting adventure for sure.’
While Lovinger enjoyed partaking in various sports features, it’s the touching stories outside the sports world that make his job worthwhile. He recently took part in a feature on a man named Jason Ray, the North Carolina mascot, who died tragically in a car accident. Against his own wishes, Ray was an organ donor, and the Page 2 story featured the interaction of Ray’s parents and each of the organ recipients in a poignant piece on how Ray was living on after his death.
‘If you get a chance to do something that will change people’s lives for the better, that’s the best thing that can happen for you in journalism,’ Lovinger said.
Currently, Lovinger is working on a new ESPN.com feature called E-Ticket, a long-form writing featuring video and animated effects in each online column. At age 64, he is thankful to be thriving in a field that doesn’t normally take on people his age.
‘I’d say I was pretty lucky to have this job at my age,’ Lovinger said. ‘I’m easily the oldest person by 20 years.’
While Lovinger did not finish his education, he still reflects fondly on his time spent at Binghamton and encourages students to relax when trying to determine what road their career path takes them on.
‘I know it’s impractical, but my advice would be to try to enjoy your life while it’s happening instead of thinking where it will get you down the road,’ Lovinger said.
Lovinger’s road started rocky at BU, but he’s been on a nice ride ever since.