SJI co-founder Leon Carter speaks to the Class of 2023 at Arizona State University.
June 2, 2023

The Athletic prepares to launch internship program

Sarah Effress

Seven years after its founding, The Athletic has begun plans to create an internship program for 2024.

The program is in the early stages—an official title is in the works, as are most of the logistics of the program. What has been determined, however, is that it will be named after 2022 Red Smith Award recipient Leon Carter, whom the company recently named editor at large.  Carter is co-founder and co-director of the Sports Journalism Institute (SJI).

“I'm so thrilled, everything that's come his way,” said editorial director Lisa Wilson. “If I were a young sports journalist, I'd be running to apply to something that was named after Leon. [It’s] the opportunity to learn from the best.”

Carter has advocated for an internship curriculum since he joined the all-sports digital publication in early 2021. Two years later, he and a team focused on talent development, including Wilson, are helping form its foundation.

The Athletic, which The New York Times acquired in 2022, is a mostly remote operation, so figuring out how to best maintain relationships between interns and full-time staffers virtually is something Carter and Wilson are looking to address.

“We want to make sure as the program grows that interns are able to get that feedback they're going to need,” Wilson said. “That's one of the challenges, making sure [they] can have a really rewarding experience in a remote newsroom.”

Working with interns every summer after SJI’s founding in 1992, Carter has seen journalism shift from print to digital. But, he said, the fundamentals have not changed: good reporting, good writing and storytelling. Just as he and co-director Sandy Rosenbush lean on these pillars, so too will The Athletic.

“Being a great storyteller is what we want our interns to do,” Carter says. “But also, we could possibly have an intern in social, an intern in audio. There are several areas we can tap into at The Athletic, so it probably will not just be limited to storytelling.”

The goal is for applications to open this fall so the program can begin in 2024. Whether it will follow an internship or fellowship model is undecided, but regardless, it will emerge as another resource for young journalists looking to receive training from some of the best sports writers and editors in the industry.

“I'm thrilled we're going to have an internship program,” Carter said, “because I think it is so crucial that media organizations like The Athletic continue to provide opportunities for young people and train them so they can join our newsroom in the future.  And I am humbled it was announced it would be named after me.”

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