Sports journalism masterclass: 'Paid to do the thing I love - what a privilege'

John Gibson, who has been working at the Newcastle Evening Chronicle since 1966, last month won the Daily/Sunday Sports Journalist of the Year award at the Regional Press Awards. Here, ‘Gibbo', lets Press Gazette in on the secret of his success and his tips for would-be sports reporters… Interviewing. A crucial part of the job is interviewing. The secret of a good interview is to make the person you are interviewing feel relaxed. If you make it a chat rather than an interrogation, people are likely to tell you a lot more. It's also important to build trust with the person, both within the interview and long-term, if it's someone you're likely to deal with regularly.

The other big thing is to do your research. So many people don't put the research in but I think it is very important. If you're interviewing a famous person, as is likely to be the case in sports journalism, it will be really appreciated if you know something in-depth about them. It's also a good idea to come up with some original questions.

Often a professional footballer will face the same questions over and over again but if you get their attention with a question they haven't been asked before, they'll be more interested in talking to you.

Writing ability. You need to be able to write both a straight news story against the clock for edition and a feature, which is totally different.

You get the advantage of time with a feature. You can go back after you've written a long feature and give it a polish before you submit and I think that's something you've got to do.

The other thing I would say is yes, you've got to catch the attention of the reader immediately but that doesn't mean the big punchline has to be in the first paragraph. Don't go for the obvious ‘Joe Bloggs says we're going to win the FA Cup because we're the best team' – yawn, yawn, yawn.

Give it a little bit more ebb and flow and make some quirky points. Especially if you're writing a lengthy feature, I think you've got to get light and shade into it.

Retain your passion. The real secret is to retain your love of journalism, because I think if you actually fully enjoy what you're doing, it shines through to the people you're talking to and to the people who are actually reading your work. For me it's like football or rugby, or whatever. You just happen to get paid for doing your hobby.

Writing, talking to people, having the privilege of sitting in the best seat in the ground at a football match and actually getting paid for your opinion on how it went – how much more privileged can you get than that? Don't become cynical through time. Retain your joy. You've got to show that enthusiasm to the person you're interviewing and to the reader.

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