Mike Singer is the Denver Nuggets beat writer for the Denver Post. He took the time to chat with The Big Lead about his journey from covering Marquette to Denver, the impact of the team’s recent success, Nikola Jokic, and more.
Liam McKeone: Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. In your words, how did you work your way up to a beat writer position for a company like the Denver Post?
Mike Singer: I started off at UW-Madison, and I was figuring out what I wanted to do and what I wanted to pursue. I had worked a little bit with the school newspaper there, covering… I think I was the women’s softball beat writer. I’m from Cleveland. I grew up watching the Cavs and LeBron James, and my senior year I did an honors senior thesis, examining ESPN and looking at the history at ESPN and some of the interesting journalistic questions ESPN faced. One of the things that really, really peaked my interest was how they handled The Decision. I paid close attention to that from a lot of different angles, as an interested party and from a journalist’s perspective. That was a tipping point. I started from there and wrote a lot about ESPN, and realized it was what I knew about and what I cared about from a media perspective. I applied to various jobs as a senior and I ended up getting a beat writer job covering Marquette basketball for CBS Sports. It was a part-time gig, but it was a foot in the door, and it was fantastic. It was the 2012 season, Jae Crowder was still there, they were the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament.
That was sort of the start. I did all that, worked at CBS Sports for a few years, then I transitioned to USA Today. Originally, I wasn’t even working on the digital side. I was working on the app, a sports app that they had. I transitioned over to producer, then editor. I was our NBA editor for a few years. Then I transitioned to this job at the Denver Post and it became an unbelievable opportunity. I was living in Chicago and decided to take a relatively big risk and move across the country and try to transition from an editor job to a beat writer job and that’s where I’m at now.
McKeone: How was that transition from editor to beat writer?
Singer: It was cool because I previously had all these ideas about how I would approach certain things if I was writing it and I was covering it. I was mostly a hands-on coordinator. I knew how to sell stuff, I knew how to do the headlines and how to edit it, make sure my language was correct, fact-check and all that stuff. I just felt like I had something to say, too.
I also felt like it would be more of a challenge to go out and establish relationships and build from there and tell their stores, if I could, about the Nuggets. It was fun, it was rewarding, it was taxing. It was something I hadn’t done, and I wanted to see if I could, and I feel like I did this season.
McKeone: You must be an editor’s dream then.
Singer: Yeah, I mean, [I know] programming, how to sell it, what to write, what will do well online, what will hold in the paper. I like to say I can sort of predict what [the editors] are looking for. I like to think I’m relatively low-maintenance. I think of it from a reporter’s perspective and an editor’s perspective. How I can tell a story. I try to think about it from all angles.
McKeone: What was it like moving from a primarily digital medium to a newspaper like the Denver Post?
Singer: I understand newspapers are in a relatively tough place, and we’re fighting an uphill battle right now. The difficulty of newspapers is you try to stay in both lanes, maintain a quality print product while delivering on the digital end. It’s a task. I’m sure every newspaper in the country is dealing with that in some capacity. I dealt with it at USA Today. The necessity to fill something in the paper when that doesn’t necessarily yield a lot of traffic. That’s a difficult formula, a difficult algorithm to try and figure out.
That’s sort of the task. If you can find things that hold water for both, while also meeting the immediacy of the online age while also trying to figure out how best to deliver something that holds water in the newspaper. It’s a daily challenge. There’s no other way to say it. I end up writing three things a day on gamedays: something on shootaround, the game story, and a post-game follow. One to two of them is in the paper. It’s a difficult task, but that’s the reality of where we’re at.
McKeone: Let’s talk Nuggets. Nikola Jokic was recently voted First-Team All-NBA at only 24 years old. What do you see his ceiling as?
Singer: I’ll steal what Nuggets coach Michael Malone has said. He’s a potential Hall of Famer. I’m obviously not reiterating that unless I think there’s some merit to it. To do the stuff he’s done, at 24, and he’s still getting better? I mean, obviously he can improve, sort of, at his body, he can improve on the defensive end. But offensively, what he does… If you were to start a franchise with any player right now, there’s not many players you’d pick over him. Giannis, certainly, but outside of that, if you’re looking at the next decade, I don’t know how many players you’re picking over Jokic.
The way I describe him, at least on a national level, is that he’s an acquired taste. It takes a little while before people recognize his impact. He’s not on the highlight reels, he’s not finishing off an alley-oop dunk. You have to see him on a nightly basis to see the impact, the passing, to see how he cuts through defenses. I think his ceiling is exceedingly high, and there’s X amount of franchise players in the NBA. There’s no question he’s one of him.
McKeone: [Nuggets President of Basketball Operations] Tim Connelly recently announced he plans to stay with Denver after an interview with the Washington Wizards. What does it mean to the franchise to be able to keep Connelly in the fold?
Singer: He brings stability. He brings someone who has grown with this staff and the coach. He’s been there, he’s overseen Malone’s growth, he’s overseen the team’s growth. I think the Nuggets are the only team in the NBA to improve their win total in each of the last five seasons. He brings a lighthearted approach to the day-to-day stuff.
At the heart of it, I think he’s a scout and feels blessed to have this job, and doesn’t take it too seriously. That’s not to say he doesn’t put in the work, but I think he doesn’t take himself too seriously. The Nuggets have an established pecking order, and Tim solidifies that. He has a good relationship with the owner, Josh Kroenke, and that continues. Basically, it doesn’t upset any of the harmony they’ve built.