Tips of the trade - RUGBY JOURNALISM

Julian Easterbrook, rugby correspondent, Hounslow Chronicle and the Rugby Times

Writing about sport can be almost as much fun as playing it. Report the facts and try not to show off; people would prefer to read what a player or coach said rather than what you think.

Listen to how others ask questions and conduct interviews. Only ask questions that are relevant to your match report/summary. Avoid obvious questions such as “are you disappointed to lose?” Keep the questions open – after all, it’s their opinion you are seeking. “Where did it go wrong for you today?” is a better way of getting the answer you are after.

Household names are instantly recognisable, but if you are planning to speak to a new kid on the block, check to see if there is a photograph in the match programme. If not, ask the team’s press officer or a more famous player if they can point out someone that you could talk to. In this way, you’ll build up a stronger relationship with players that you will probably be speaking to on a more regular basis later on.

There is a plethora of information available for compiling statistics. But for match stats – scrums, lineouts, penalties and turnovers – I keep a running tally in a separate column on my notepad.

Most players will talk to you, mainly because rugby writers have a better reputation than, say, reporters speaking to Premiership footballers.

When asking a question, don’t assume it was that player making a mistake – there may have been an incident that you were unaware of – so lead with an open question, unless you know the facts.

Ian Malin, Guardian rugby writer/reporter

What’s important is the ability to offer insights into a sporting event or story in an age where television is ever present. For instance, I might report on a rugby match that could be watched by millions on television. If readers are going to be enticed by your offering on Monday morning, it has to offer an analysis or items of news that haven’t been covered on television and in the Sunday papers.

On a daily paper you also need energy and enthusiasm. Sometimes it’s difficult to convince yourself that an apparently endless shaggy dog story is important, but you need to stick with it to the bitter end.

Covering rugby through a British winter requires a strong constitution and a warm overcoat.

James Toney, managing editor, national sports press agency Sportsbeat

At Sportsbeat we don’t struggle to find reporters for the 150-plus football matches we cover every week, but we do sweat over the handful of rugby union games we report from. This is because rugby match reporting is a more difficult art to perfect than football writing – space constraints often mean you are cramming in far more information into your report. A 250-word football report might include a few goal descriptions, near misses, possible red cards and a manager opinion.

Deciding what information to use from a 35-35 rugby match that included multiple tries, penalties and drop goals is not easy.

Avoid making your report run like a timeline of the match – team A scored a penalty, team B scored a try, and so on. Try to blend this information into a rounded overview.

Study both teams before arriving.

Don’t just repeat the scoreline in the first par and always try to mention a player name in the intro. In general, rugby players are more approachable than footballers, although their post-match comments are usually as predictable.

compiled by Sarah Boden

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