Alex Wong is a Freelance Writer for Yahoo Sports Canada. Alex also writes for GQ, SLAM, The New Yorker, and The New York Times! I have been following Alex’s work for quite some time, especially through the 2018-19 Toronto Raptors season, as well as through the Championship Playoffs #wethenorth. Throughout the Raptors season, Alex does most of his work for Yahoo Sports Canada, with additional roles like running their social media (Twitter and Instagram). If that’s not enough, Alex also co-hosts a Youtube show called “Run it Back.” Before going full-time into sport media, Alex was a CPA! He shares how he always had a knack for writing and was a sport fanatic growing up. The best part about his job: OWN BOSS = OWN SCHEDULE. Before we give it all away, take a look at Alex’s sport journey below! Enjoy!
Tell us about your role as a Freelance Writer at Yahoo Sports Canada. Can you tell us what your day-to-day looks like?
(Note: I’m a freelance writer in general; Yahoo Sports Canada just happens to be where I do most of my NBA and Raptors work during the season)
On a day-to-day basis, I have my own schedule that I manage. I don’t work out of the office. I usually have a running list of features that I’m working on, and they’re usually at different stages of completion, which means on any given day I am either researching for a story, setting up phone interviews, transcribing my interviews, drafting a story, addressing edits, or also pitching stories to editors at different publications.
During the NBA season, I’m also managing other responsibilities for Yahoo Sports Canada, including running their Twitter account (and helping out with their Instagram) during all Raptors games and being a co-host on a weekly Raptors show we have called Run It Back.
I don’t really have a set routine on a day-to-day basis. Some weeks it will be more focused on writing. Other weeks it still be strictly networking and contacting people in order to set up interviews and finding leads on stories. Coming from a business and accounting background where I had to multitask a lot, I have a giant spreadsheet that keeps me very organized so I know what I need to do each day and be able to work towards deadlines and juggle multiple things at once.
Being in sports media, how important is social media for you personally? Which social networks do you use most?
Social media is very important. I’m mostly on Twitter usually, and Instagram as well. I’ve built up a pretty decent-sized following on Twitter and it’s been super helpful in terms of getting eyes on my writing, and having editors reach out to me. Without Twitter, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve had many occasions of editors blindly reaching out, or editors seeing something I tweeted and reaching out to see if I was interested in expanding on a particular idea I tweeted and actually writing about it.
I would say Instagram is more of a personal space for me, just to share things on a day-to-day basis that I think friends might find interesting. But overall, just having a presence online is important. You’ll be surprised by who is actually following you and where it might lead to opportunities.
When did you decide sport media was your career focus? Would former teachers and/or friends be surprised that this was your career direction and focus?
I’ve loved sports since a kid growing up. I used to watch everything, anything that was on TV, read publications like Sports Illustrated and SLAM religiously, and generally just soaked up anything sports-related that I could get my hands on. I always had a knack for writing and felt I was a good interviewer, but it was never anything I wanted to pursue.
So, I went into business and studied accounting and got my CPA license to 1) satisfy my parents and 2) make sure I put myself in a position to have a steady job. I worked at Ernst & Young after I graduated from university, and then bounced around a few senior financial analyst roles before I decided to quit my job and pursue writing on a full-time basis.
I’m 35 now, and I transitioned into this career in my late-20s. I think anyone who really knows me isn’t surprised because they know how much I love sports. People who use to work with me in the accounting industry might be surprised because I never really shared this side with my co-workers.
What would you say is the best part of your position?
The freedom to be my own boss and have my own schedule. Outside of one brief stint as a full-timer at a company, for the most part, I have been a freelancer my entire time as a writer. It’s something that I prefer. I think it works best with my personality. I work best when I know I have a semblance of control over what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis, instead of adhering to socially constructed rules like showing up to an office from 9-to-5. I am a heavy believer in the quality of your work speaks for itself, and not all the other superficial stuff (number of followers online, whether you wear a nice three-piece suit to the arena). I left a very buttoned-up, superficial industry early in my career, so I’ve honestly been running from that ever since.
How much freedom and creativity do you have in your role?
A lot. As a freelancer, I pitch my own story ideas. While I do get assigned stories to write, I would say over 80 percent of what I write are original story ideas that I come up with. It’s both great and scary, great in that these are story ideas of my own that I’m bringing to life, scary in that those story ideas have to be constantly good enough and unique enough that editors will say yes to. There’s no better feeling for me than watching a story idea I came up with at 3am in the morning come to life, executing it, publishing it and seeing that people reading and enjoying the final product.
I noticed you also write for GQ, SLAM, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Tell us about how you find a balance between writing for other companies.
As I mentioned above, a lot of it is just time management and having a very intricate weekly schedule that I manage all the time, so I know when stories are due, what I need to do to work towards those deadlines. Most people know me for my NBA writing, but I try to pitch stories outside of that a lot (especially for places like GQ, and the National Post, etc) so that I can not only expand my horizon but also it’s a refreshing break sometimes from writing about basketball all the time.
What would you say are the top four biggest moments or accomplishments in your sports journalism career?
1 Jeremy Lin Piece For The New York Times
Publishing this Jeremy Lin piece in the New York Times after the Raptors won the championship was an honor for me. I’m always looking for opportunities to tell stories from an Asian perspective. To be able to do this in the Times was a personal highlight.
2 History Of The Original Raptors Dinosaur Jersey For SLAM
Putting together this oral history of the original Raptors dinosaur jersey. I pride myself on my reporting and interview skills and being able to put this story together and seeing the feedback from Raptors fans was great.
3 Mentality Of The Toronto Raptor Fan
Wrote this story several years ago for The New Yorker which really captured the mentality of the Toronto Raptor fan, especially when it came to the playoffs. It’s no longer true because the Raptors are champions now but I’m proud to have been able to capture the essence of a fanbase.
4 Co-Publishing This Raptors Commemorative Championship Book
Co-publishing this Raptors commemorative championship book with my friend and fellow writer Sean Woodley and seeing it appear at the top of bestselling lists was amazing. Hoping to have another book project to work on soon, that’s definitely a goal.
Rikesh’s Final Thoughts
Alex Wong, Freelance Writer for Yahoo Sports Canada is an amazing individual that has invested a lot of time in the Raptors over the past several years!He lived that NBA Championship lifestyle with co-publishing the book, “We Are the Champs” on the Toronto Raptors. ALL of Alex Wong’s content are MUST-READS for a true sports fan. Alex has created content that is very entertaining with his show to writing amazing content for Yahoo. He has left a very positive impression on me with his creative ability and I hope he inspires more people with his amazing story. Alex Wong inspires readers to follow their passion, not their profession! We’re looking forward to Alex’ Wong’s future sport contributions and incredible stories.