Tips of the trade SPORTS JOURNALISM

Martin Chilton, Evening Standard

You need a questioning, inventive mind. You need to be resourceful and, above all, think for yourself. The danger is following others like sheep – banal copy is so often the result. You also need to be passionate about sport… if you’re not, it shows. Talented people win through whether they’ve been on local papers, websites, university courses or just bring with them experience from other avenues. What is essential, though, is good news sense and ability. Nepotism may help, too, although I wouldn’t know. Identify the people who really know what they are doing – and the ones who don’t – and learn from them. And don’t get a bloated ego, it shows.

Tom Fordyce, BBCi

You need to be able to spot the best news angle when you’re being confronted with 100 different possibilities; originality of thought, a deep pool of sporting knowledge and a good contacts book are essential. Get as much work experience as possible, build up your contacts in the industry and stay in touch with them. The really good jobs aren’t often advertised. Use your enthusiasm to your advantage – write as much as possible, learn from the experience of those around you, look at your favourite sports journalists’ work and try to work out what makes them so good. The more you write, the better you get. Set yourself regular targets and don’t let yourself get stale and bored. There’s always someone better than you that you can aspire to match.

Carrie Brown, British Eurosport

You need all the skills of a strong grounded journalist, an insatiable appetite for even the most obscure sports, and a sensible measure of impartiality when reporting on your team being trounced by the opposition. In a generation where, if we are honest with ourselves, we all live to work, I was determined to spend my life in a job I loved, no matter how tough the competition. My university tutor, after a rather testing situation, warned me never to be a victim. It sounds dramatic but in a tough industry it’s a lesson worth learning. Never stop looking for your next story and keep on challenging both yourself and the product you produce.

In my case it leaves my sports editor with a constantly chewed ear, although he claims he appreciates it.

Louis Massarella, FourFourTwo magazine

Flair, knowledge, passion, ideas, confidence, humour, authority, curiosity, attention to detail and contacts. All of the above are handy but if we’re talking about writing you need to be a good storyteller, whether it’s news, features or opinion. As it’s so competitive, most are graduates because the wheat has to be separated from the chaff somehow. Some of the postgraduate courses are highly recommended but I can’t speak from experience as I didn’t do one myself. For me, you can’t beat doing work experience, if only to see what it is actually like being a journalist. Read loads. And not just on your own subject. Magazine, newspapers, books. If a paragraph or a sentence sounds right, you can tell – and the more you read, the more likely you are to able to pick up a sub-conscious ability to write a good sentence or paragraph yourself.

Also, work hard and do your homework. You can spot lazy journalism a mile off – and established journalists are often the chief culprits. Try not to be self-indulgent. It’s easy to fall into the trap of writing something for yourself rather than the reader, either in substance or style. Remember that sport is played by normal people – it’s not rocket science. Form your own opinion, improve your knowledge and understanding of your subjects, use a variety – of techniques and sources.

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