As a features copy editor for The Palm Beach Post in 1991, Vicki Michaelis wanted more.
She desperately wanted to write. She’d graduated Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, after all. She’d even endured business class upon business class to help prepare her for a major news or business beat on the staff.
But news and business beats didn’t open up, so Michaelis chose the route that allowed her to begin her writing career quickest — high school football.
“It was completely foreign to me,” Michaelis said.
With an undergraduate degree in journalism (minor in Economics), Michaelis never imagined that sports would be her entrance into the industry. She’d never covered sports before, but her constant desire to take on new challenges comforted her as she eased into the industry covering high school sports. This was going to be Michaelis’ way of paying dues before she found herself on a desk that she really wanted.
Then came August 1992 and the wrath of Hurricane Andrew.
Everyone on The Palm Beach Post staff was thrown into a whirlwind, covering different aspects of the hurricane’s effect on the region. Michaelis, assigned to write about the storm’s influence on high school sports, wrote one of the more widely read articles during the episode, a story about high school football teams that were still coming together to practice despite the hurricane’s destruction.
It finally clicked. Michaelis finally realized the deep influence sports hold within the community.
“I knew then that I could take this sports writing thing to places that I probably couldn’t take a news beat,” Michaelis said.
From there, her ascension to the peak of the journalism industry accelerated. Michaelis soon earned responsibilities covering the University of Miami, professional tennis and the Miami Heat. And by 1995, she received a job offer from the newspaper she ran a paper route for as a kid, The Denver Post.
In Denver, Michaelis covered the University of Colorado then the Denver Nuggets, but it was for The Denver Post that she first covered the Olympics.
In Atlanta in 1996, just a year into her tenure with the newspaper, Michaelis earned the chance to write for the Olympic Games, much to the chagrin of many of her Post counterparts.
“I was going before a lot of long-time writers at the paper who weren’t happy about it. Even the people who went, Woody Paige, Mark Kiszla, were not happy about me being there,” Michaelis said. “So I was assigned all the things that they thought were the worst assignments.”
That didn’t deter Michaelis, though. If anything, it inspired her to learn more about some of the world’s most peculiar sports. Her curiosity about the Olympic spectacle as a whole attracted the USA Today, which hired her as lead Olympics beat writer (and Denver Bureau professional sports writer) in 2000.
Though a challenging task, Michaelis adapted well to the different type of coverage due to her peculiar entrance into the sports journalism industry.
“Strangely enough, I think it’s a huge advantage I had not having been a big sports fan going into it. I didn’t have an assumption of knowledge about anything,” Michaelis said. “The fact that I’d learned enough about all those other sports to cover them competently; I figured I could learn enough about speed skating to make that happen.”