After a decade at ESPN, SJI-co founder Leon Carter takes on a new challenge at The Athletic.
July 12, 2021

Leon Carter takes on a new challenge at The Athletic

Siera Jones

A veteran in the sports news industry, Leon Carter has begun a new chapter as editorial director for talent and development at The Athletic after 10 years as a vice president at ESPN. 

Carter moved to The Athletic in February. He said he deliberately seeks new career opportunities at least every 10 years to challenge himself.

“So often, I think people stay in a job a little bit too long,” he said. “When you find out that you can do the job with your hands tied behind your back, it's probably time to look for another job.”

Carter began his career as a copy editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal then moved to Newsday in 1984. Eight years later, he stepped into a new role at his alma mater, Norfolk State, where he was the first Free Forum journalist-in-residence. In 1994, he became assistant sports editor then deputy sports editor at the New York Daily News before being promoted to executive sports editor in 1999. In 2010, he moved to ESPN as a vice president. 

During his journalist-in-residence time at Norfolk State, Carter helped lay the groundwork for the Sports Journalism Institute, an internship program that aims to add to the diversity in sports departments across the U.S. At The Athletic, Carter joins 13 SJI alumni who work for the outlet. 

“I’m glad SJI has helped them get their foot in the door, and has had a large role in their success,” Carter said. “I’ve spoken to pretty much all the SJI people at The Athletic since I've joined, and I feel that I just want them to do better today than they did yesterday, and better than they did the day before."

Carter has plenty of experience fostering young talent, and carries that into his new job. As he settles in at his new position, his priority is building relationships with the entire staff. 

“I try to talk to one new person a day,” he said. “In my first three months, I’ve learned so much just by talking to a member a day. We set up a 30-45 minute Zoom call and have a conversation about the job, what we can do better, how they feel, how they got here — it’s a good way for me to get to know them and it’s a good way for me to learn a lot about the company.”

SJI alum Tashan Reed, now a beat writer at The Athletic, looks forward to working alongside Carter, who has already influenced his career as a journalist.

“Seeing him get hired was an exciting moment for me and a bunch of other SJI alumni that work for The Athletic,” Reed said. “Making sure that diversity is a priority in the hiring process is obviously something that [Carter] is very passionate about…we’ve actually hired a handful of Black writers and other diverse writers since he started.”

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