By Rachell Mejia —
Having torn her anterior cruciate ligament her first soccer game of her freshman year at Rutgers might have been the best thing that happened to Kelly Whiteside, J/MS 1990.
It led her to join The Daily Targum as a sports writer and to her success now as USA Today’s national college football writer.
As a USA Today staff writer, Whiteside finds herself traveling around the United States on the path of hot college football stories and around the world to cover big sports events such as the Olympics and the World Cup. But she’s not too busy to give back to the Journalism and Media Studies Department.
In January, she began teaching Sports Writing and Reporting as part of the department’s new concentration in sports journalism.
Having found a mentor in the late J/MS professor, Thomas Hartmann, Whiteside believes professors can make a difference in students’ lives as Hartmann made a difference in hers.
“I am a big believer in getting my class prepared for what is to come in their career,” said Whiteside. “When I was at Rutgers my professor helped me find my passion for sports writing and helped me with what I was going to face in my career. I want my students to be prepared for what they are going to face as well.”
As an undergraduate, Whiteside rose to become editor-in-chief of The Targum. She secured an internship with Newsday in New York, which led to a full-time position with Sports Illustrated. Later, Whiteside pursued her passion for studying journalism and continued her studies at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
She wrote for Newsday for several years before getting hired at USA Today. Her career as a sports journalist has been filled with many memorable events. She has even been yelled at by Barry Bonds!
Recalled Whiteside: “I was the youngest sports writer on staff, and I covered baseball, so I had to go up to Barry Bonds and interview him the same week the front page of the magazine I was writing for at the time, Sports Illustrated, read: ‘I’m Barry Bonds and You’re Not.’ As soon as I told him what magazine I was with he began to yell at me. In the end I got the interview, but it was something I will never forget.”
Among her most memorable events ever was covering the Women’s World Cup (soccer) in 1999.
“When the U.S was tied with China, and Brandi Chestain made that winning goal, there was an iconic moment where she was on the floor on her knees,” said Whiteside. “It was great to be there to witness it as it happened.”
When asked why she has only covered sports her entire career, she replied, “The reason I love to write about sports is because it cuts across all issues in journalism, from cultural issues to racial and social issues.”
Whiteside’s list of accomplishments include: a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her 1998 series of stories on the Confederate flag at the University of Mississippi, two published books on women’s basketball, getting elected as the Football Writers Association’s first female president in 2002, and founder of Hoboken’s first all-women soccer team.
Now she is chief communications officer for a start-up called G – the 21st Century Market, an online marketing and social media business.
With connections to be made for G – the 21st Century Market, a class full of students, flights to catch to cover events, and a slew of other obligations, Whiteside has a full scorecard.
Yet she still manages to make time for her family. She is married with a 1-year-old daughter and resides in Montclair.