J.A. Adande (ESPN & Northwestern University) on Career & Journalism Mistakes

J.A. Adande (ESPN & Northwestern University) on Career & Journalism Mistakes


Check out all episodes on the My Favorite Mistake main page.

My guest for Episode #138 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is J.A. Adande. He is the director of sports journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. He is also the graduate journalism Sports Media Specialization leader. 

J.A. earned his undergraduate degree in journalism from Medill in 1992. During his time in school at Northwestern, he was sports editor of The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper.

J.A. has worked in sports media for over two and a half decades, including multiple roles at ESPN. He continues to appear on ESPN’s “Around The Horn,” where he has been a panelist since the show’s beginning in 2002.

He also previously worked for 10 years as a sports columnist at the Los Angeles Times, in addition to jobs at The Washington Post and Chicago Sun-Times. 

In today's episode, J.A. shares his “favorite mistake” story about applying for a job, to be a sports columnist in Philadelphia, which probably would have been a failure. Why was it a mistake to want that job, then? How would the newspaper have determined if he was a success or a failure? How would that be determined today in the internet age?

We also talk about questions and topics including:

  • Angry letters to the editor might not be a bad thing if that means people are reading?
  • Coaching students about handling or bracing for hate mail or flat out hate?
  • Tell us about getting into TV – did that ever feel like a mistake? When that was new to you?
  • Learning to give “hot takes”?
  • Mistakes in reporting — pressure to be first vs. being correct?
  • The “Medill F”?  A punishment for mistakes like spelling a name wrong… is this a very real practice? A mistake you only make once?
  • Greg Cote’s story in a bonus episode about being lied to by an interview subject
  • Another mistake story from J.A. — getting a soccer coach's first name wrong in a profile

Scroll down to find:

  • Video of the episode
  • Quotes
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

Find J.A. on social media:

Watch the Episode:


"Maybe we should call it 'my favorite rejection' because I didn't get [that job]. And in retrospect, it's the best thing that could've happened to me. It was a mistake, maybe, to even go for it, because if I gotten it, I think I would have been in trouble".
"There is more pressure [to be first with a story now]. There's also more penalty for being wrong. So the old adage, 'It's better to be right than to be first' still applies as much as ever. "
"And the goal [of the 'Medill F' is to instill that dread, that fear, that sick pit in your stomach from making a mistake and having to get to print."
"I'd tell [students today] to ignore anything that doesn't have a name attached to it. I like to say that nothing is more meaningless to me than anonymous opinion."

Subscribe, Follow, Support, Rate, and Review!

Please follow, rate, and review via Apple Podcasts or Podchaser or your favorite app — that helps others find this content and you'll be sure to get future episodes as they are released weekly. You can also become a financial supporter of the show through Anchor.fm.

You can now sign up to get new episodes via email, to make sure you don't miss an episode.

This podcast is part of the Lean Communicators network.

Other Ways to Subscribe or Follow — Apps & Email

Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.