My job: Andrew Baker, sports feature writer, Daily Telegraph

What are the qualities for a successful sports journalist?

All the curiosity, perseverance and literacy required by any journalist, but also specialist knowledge if you wish to cover one sport in particular; diplomacy and humility if you need to cover many sports (you will need to ask a lot of questions), and the ability to write sensibly under extreme pressure if you aspire to cover major events live. Five hundred words in 20 minutes is not at all unusual at Olympics, football internationals etc.

Is it necessary to hold a journalism degree?

No, not at all, but a degree of some kind is very useful, because you will have experience of marshalling your thoughts under pressure. In an ideal world, all journalists would have an essay-based degree and a postgraduate course in journalism, especially important for knowing the nuts and bolts of sub-editing and how to avoid legal howlers. But if you can write and you know about sport, enthusiasm and determination can work wonders.

What are the most interesting parts of being a sports journalist?

For me, travelling to interesting places and meeting interesting people. Often, these are not the PR-protected megastars, but the real enthusiasts who can tell you what is so special about their sport and, if you are lucky, give you some first-hand experience. In my case, I’ve messed about on Ellen Macarthur’s boat at 3am in a Brazilian harbour, had a special driving lesson from an F1 star and done a lot more fun stuff that had better not be recorded. The least interesting part is 50 economy-class flights a year. I’m not complaining, but the good bits are interspersed with an awful lot of boredom.

What are your top tips to become a sports journalist?

Enjoy sport, enjoy reading and enjoy writing. Write, write, write… that’s the tricky bit. If you enjoy and understand sport, believe in your abilities and are unusually persistent, you should be fine.

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