Hannah Withiam

Hannah Withiam

Hannah Withiam (ΦΒΚ, Hamilton College) was most recently the Senior Managing Editor at Just Women's Sports. Previously, she served as a managing editor at The Athletic, where she helped launch their WNBA and Women's College Basketball verticals, and as a sports reporter/producer at the New York Post. A 2016 graduate of Hamilton College, where she captained the women's soccer and lacrosse teams, Hannah seeks to close the gap in media coverage between men's and women's sports through her work.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

As long as I can remember, I dreamed of working in sports. I grew up with three brothers – two older and one younger – and in our home, sports were happening all around us, with games being played in the backyard, broadcast on television and talked about at the dinner table. At first, I thought I wanted to be an anchor on ESPN’s SportsCenter, but once I started to enjoy reading about sports, I aspired to become a sportswriter. I would read the New York Times Sports page every morning before school and tear through Sports Illustrated cover to cover as soon as it came in the mail. I also enjoyed reading books about sports, like Mike Lupica’s sports fiction or Michael Lewis’ sports histories. As an avid sports fan, stories that got to the heart of how sports inspire us and teach us lessons about our daily lives touched me at my core, and I knew I eventually wanted to pass that feeling onto other readers through my work.

What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?

There are a number of literature classes I took at Hamilton College that challenged me to read, think and discuss topics outside of my comfort zone and see the world from new perspectives. I credit those courses with fostering my sense of curiosity, critical thinking and eye for detail that have been so important to my sports journalism career. But the course that I’ll never forget, even though it didn’t align with my majors, is American Political Process in the government department during my first semester freshman year. I came to Hamilton thinking I was a pretty good writer based on grades and feedback I’d gotten in high school. When I got my first paper back in the APP course to find red marks all over the pages and a ‘C-’ grade, I was mortified. Almost all of the red ink drew my attention to poor sentence structure and wordiness – in my attempts to sound eloquent, I was forcing long and circuitous sentences that didn’t make any sense. Whenever I receive positive feedback on my writing nowadays, I quietly thank that professor for challenging me to rethink my identity as a writer and favor brevity and clarity over everything else.

You mostly recently served as the Senior Managing Editor at Just Women's Sports. What have been some of your favorite career moments in sports journalism?

Being a part of the growth in women’s sports journalism has been one of the greatest joys of my career thus far. I helped launch WNBA and women’s college basketball verticals when I was an editor at The Athletic in 2019, which brought unprecedented media coverage to the leagues at the time and, I believe, helped blaze a trail for other outlets to divert more resources to do the same. From 2021-2023, I helped build the Just Women’s Sports website and newsletter from the ground up in an effort to drive readership and prove that women’s sports can be big business. Neither project has been without its challenges, especially as it relates to the lack of resources and stigma surrounding women’s sports, but those experiences have taught me important career lessons and deepended my resolve. Since I moved on from sportswriting and became an editor, the other proudest moments of my career have been developing writers and seeing not only their writing ability but also their confidence grow after a carefully workshopped story is well received.

Your undergraduate degree is in Comparitive Literature and Classical Languages. What is a lesson from these studies that you have been able to apply to your career?

The most important lessons my Comparative Literature and Classical Langauges studies taught me are that every word and detail matters, and that there’s often a story within a story waiting to be uncovered. In my opinion, the best journalists have an eye for details other people don’t see, which enables us to pull on threads and reveal something new about a person or a narrative through our work. That requires curiosity, critical thinking, determination and people skills because, in order to get someone to divulge information or an emotion they’ve never shared before, you need to make them feel comfortable. Being detail-oriented carries over into the writing process, where I believe the best stories produced are the ones where every sentence and anecdote has a purpose to the larger meaning of the story. It’s common for writers to use filler words and quotes to make a story seem longer and smarter, and to reflect the depth of their reporting work, but that strategy almost always leads to a worse experience for the reader.

What role has your liberal arts education played in the development of your career? Why do you think a well-rounded arts and sciences education is important in today’s society?

My liberal arts education taught me all of the soft skills that I’ve found are critical to a successful career in any field. When I started my first job in journalism at the New York Post, I was probably the least experienced journalist in the newsroom and had a lot to learn about the nuts and bolts of reporting and newswriting. While that was daunting at first, I found the skills I had acquired at Hamilton in critical reading, thinking, writing and communicating gave me the foundation to succeed and thrive faster than expected. I’m a big believer that a good journalist can act as an expert on any topic because of their ability to research, report and write from a place of curiosity and knowledge. I think the same philosophy applies to liberal arts students, who can succeed in any field given the foundation their education affords them.

Phi Beta Kappas motto is the love of learning is the guide of life,and we are dedicated to life-long learning. What do you want to learn next?

I’ve felt recently that sometimes I get so focused on forging my career path in journalism, that I lose sight of the bigger picture of my career and long-term goals. I aspire to start my own company someday related to women’s sports, and I know I’ll need to have a stronger background in business for any endeavour like that to succeed, which will require me to step out of my comfort zone. So, my next learning journey will include a crash course in finance, start-ups and business development. On a more personal level, I’ve started to re-learn how to play the piano. I reached a high level at a young age and gave it up before high school, and now intend to get back what I’ve lost. Playing an instrument triggers a part of the brain that I haven’t activated in a long time, and that has been rejuvenating.

What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you? 

My mom has said since I was very little that there is a silver lining in everything we do, even an outcome that seems devastating at the time. That advice has guided me throughout my career and allowed me eventually to see the bright side of every failure or misstep. I also think often of the Winston Churchill quote: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” I try not to get too high on the highs, nor too low on the lows, and use every career experience as a springboard to the next challenge.

What book(s) are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts or watching any shows? Anything you'd recommend? 

I am currently reading Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell by Jason L. Riley, which offers a fascinating look at the economist and social theorist, his personal political trajectory from Marxism to conservatism, and his commitment to evidence-based scientific thought in the face of heavy criticism, particularly as it relates to his views on race. It’s giving me a lot to think about in our current political climate, which increasingly seems to promote extreme views on both the right and the left and discourage people from learning the other side of an argument or having good-faith debates. Before that, I read Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, one of my favorite pieces of literature I’ve come across in a long time. I’m a fan of The New York Times’ podcast The Daily podcast for my morning news fix, and my husband and I are currently watching Endeavour, a riveting British detective drama series on Netflix.

Published on January 9 , 2024.