Editor. Writer. Sports nut.
Those four words are what many journalism students dream of seeing on their business card one day. (Well, maybe not the sports nut part. That comes with the territory.) But Jorge Andres Mondaca wasn’t one of those journalism students, technically anyway. He was a business administration major who understood early the importance of learning all you can in as many fields as possible. It’s likely a reason why he’s quick to say that to be in journalism today, you have to be skilled at so much more than reporting. And it’s definitely the reason why he so gracefully wears multiple hats in his job.
But the core of journalism is a part of Jorge. He’s a hard worker. He’ll tell you it comes with the industry, but we think even if it didn’t, you’d find him connecting, networking and building relationships just the same. He’s hungry. Nothing gets him more excited in his job than chasing down a lead with a writer to break the next big sports story. (Well, maybe, we’re wrong. You have to watch a soccer game with this guy … )
But one thing is clear. Jorge loves his job as a senior editor at FOX Sports, so we picked his brain in hopes of opening his play book and seeing what makes him tick. We’ll give you a hint we uncovered about five minutes into his interview. It’s all about the readers.
How did you end up in your current role? What has your career path been like so far?
There’s that old saying that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I’m lucky that I know a lot of nice and helpful people who have helped get me to this position. I got my start working as an editor for RacineOne.com (owned by International Speedway Corporation, which also owns NASCAR tracks like Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway). The company later turned the site into the news website for MRN, or Motor Racing Network (known as ‘The Voice of NASCAR’).
During this time, I made friends with lots of people in the NASCAR Press Corps, and one of those people was Lee Spencer. Lee knew many people at FOX Sports. I bumped into her at the Daytona 500 in 2007, and she said, “You work hard and I want to help take you to that next level.” So, she said she’d make an introduction for me. I didn’t hear anything back, and I thought, “I’m a chump two years out of college. There’s no way I’ll hear back from FOX.”
I saw her again in Daytona during its race over the Fourth of July. She asked, “Did my boss ever get back to you?” When I told her, “no,” she called her boss right there. She then asked if I could pull up my resume. So I did, and she said, “Is that how you spell professional?” I literally ran to my car crying. Then I called her boss and said, “I’m sorry if I made that mistake. Please don’t let it reflect badly on Lee. I know I have no chance at FOX, but please don’t let that reflect poorly on her.” He then said, “It took balls to call me after the mistake. And you didn’t even ask for a second chance.” It must have still made an impact, because he then sent me a project to do over the weekend. Then a few weeks later he brought me back up for an interview. So ya, I got a job with a spelling mistake on my resume.
What does your job involve on a daily basis, and what types of responsibilities do you have in your position?
Like most every job these days there isn’t a normal day. I wake up around 6 a.m. The first thing I do is grab my phone and check Twitter. Today social media is what you have to look to first. Lots of news is breaking there, so I’ll check Twitter and Facebook, and then I spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour sitting in bed going through tweets. Then I’ll start calling writers, who are sometimes on the East Coast. I touch base with them in the morning first to see what’s going on. Then I’ll start getting ready and head into the office—where I’ll spend anywhere from 8- to-11-hours a day going from editing stories, to attending meetings, to planning out future events, to anything in between. To be in journalism now days you have to know about more than just reporting. There is no normal day.
What is your favorite part of your job?
That there is no normal day. I love the fact that every day I can wake up and anything and everything can happen. I love working on news. I’m a news junkie. When news is happening is when I get to show my passion. That’s what I do best. I love getting on the phone with our writers and working leads. It’s not something I do every day, but it’s something I love getting my hands into.
For example, just the other week Lee Spencer was here (in Los Angeles) and stuck around an extra day. (NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin was in a serious wreck that weekend during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.) I spent the whole day with her while she was in the hospital waiting to talk to Denny. As soon as she interviewed Denny, we all worked as a team to put the story [Hamlin Foresees Lengthy Recovery] out. And that’s the most important thing—working with a team. Nobody does anything themselves. I’m very lucky I’m part of a great team. There’s no star of the team. The star of the team is the team.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
The challenges are personal challenges. Of course we have great competition from the sports properties of the world. They’re all great competitors, and that’s one aspect of it. But we ourselves are our greatest competitors. How can we make that next evolution so that our readers enjoy coming to us? Keeping our readers happy is the most important and making sure that they keep coming back for more. The No. 1 thing we strive for is working for the fans, so our No. 1 challenge that keeps me up at night is, “How do we keep them coming back for more?”
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Of course; working 8- to-11-hours a day means you’re going to have problems with work/life balance. But that’s part of being young and in an industry. You sometimes have to forgo going out with your buddies or making plans with your significant other. Sometimes it’s required to go above and beyond. I’m lucky that I have a lot of friends who understand. We work hard because we want to be the best in our fields. Sometimes we send out text messages and say we can’t meet up with one another at the last minute. There is no perfect work/life balance, but if you have friends who understand it, then it’s perfect. They know what you’re striving for. And of course, it always helps to call your mom and dad every couple days to make sure they don’t lose track of you. And they’re the ones that never understand it.
I’m sure you’ve had a lot of “I can’t believe I have this job” moments in your career. Can you tell me about those that stick out the most?
There are two types of those moments. First, it’s covering a major event. I’ve gotten to attend the Daytona 500, Olympic games, UFC, IndyCar racing … all sorts of different types. And just being there and in person and getting to cover news is always an ‘ah-ha’ moment, and this is why we do it.
And then there’s that rare chance where you see people checking out your website and talking about a story on your website. Having that moment where you see people talking—because again, we do it for the fans—that’s definitely an ‘ah-ha’ moment. So, when fans are talking about something we do, I know we’re doing something right.
What resources do you turn to for inspiration?
As funny as it sounds, you have to rely on your readership. You go into the comment sections and see what your fans are talking about. Obviously, we have some analytics tools that tell us what’s trending most at the moment, but if you see there are particular bumps in traffic, then that’s what you go to look at, because it’s what fans are talking about. You also look at Twitter, you look at Facebook, and you see what people are talking about. That’s how you find what’s trending out there. The readers, first and foremost, dictate the content.
What are some of the rules you live by?
The biggest rule that I abide by is work hard, play hard. You asked me earlier about work/life balance, and there’s a balance; it’s imbalance. You have that in this business. And when you get a chance to play in this business, you want to get the most out of your playing. Whether that’s an amazing trip or really spending time with friends and shutting down your cell phone, that’s play time for me. I’ve worked hard to earn it.
The other one is, and this is just on a personal level, I’m very lucky in that I get paid to watch sports for a living. My father is a town car driver. He’s working hard because he wanted to provide a better life for his son and his daughter. My mother worked as a backroom coordinator at TJ Maxx. That’s real work. I get paid to watch sports, so sometimes you do have to remind yourself of that. So, those long nights aren’t really long nights. If you’re not doing what you love, you have to find what it is that gives you that passion to keep you going. I work in sports, how can I not enjoy every second of it? So, I always tell people, I do it because I love it. You have to find that thing you love to do. You’re going to be doing it for a long time, so you might as well enjoy it.
What qualities does one need to possess to be successful in your line of work?
First and foremost, you’ve gotta be a hard worker, without a shadow of a doubt. I know so many people that are so talented that they only get to exhibit that because they work hard. Not necessarily in my industry, but I’ve seen people who are the smartest people in the room, but they just don’t apply themselves. In journalism I’ve seen many people who do hard work.
People also have to be hungry for more. Tell me more. Tell me why the guy who finished first, finished first. Tell me why the guy who finished third, finished third. Tell me why the guy who finished fifth, finished fifth. The more inquisitive you are, the better story you get. That doesn’t just apply in journalism but in life. You’ve always gotta ask, why, why, why—otherwise you don’t understand the big picture of things.
Finally, be sociable. You work around people 24/7. It’s not just you and your computer. If you’re a writer, you talk to sources. If you’re an editor, you talk to writers. Not everybody is going to have a good day when you talk to them, so you’ve got to find out how to talk to people having both good days and bad days. There’s nothing worse than walking into the loser locker room, or up to the guy who finished second in the Daytona 500, for a quote. But you’ve gotta put the time into building the relationship first so you can do that.
What would you tell a 10-years younger Jorge?
He would be a sophomore in college. I’d tell that Jorge, “Don’t stay up all night like you’ve been doing the past year. Get some sleep. Sleep is good for you. I would tell him to keep going for those internships, because at the and of the day, that is what will teach you who you will be in your future.” Nothing beats on-the-job and in-the-field experience, you know? And the last thing I would tell him is to enjoy every second of it, because you’ll never be that age again. And I have to remind myself of that now that I’m 29. And hopefully I’ll tell myself that when I’m 49, 59 and 69. You have to enjoy every second of it, because you’ll never get it back.
I’d also tell him, “She’s not the love of your life, so it’s OK if she goes to a party without you.”