SO, you want to make a career out of writing about sport and are studying hard towards this end? With the media being saturated by former players, what are the chances of you succeeding? Here, Ben Palmer, a student at Robert Gordon University, delivers a bold perspective on the matter.
THE common denominator among all young sports journalists is that their C.V.s portray them to be “aspiring”.
By definition, the word means that all your current hopes and ambitions are channelled towards becoming something you crave to be – which succinctly sums up my intentions.
C.Vs for young men or women of a similar ilk must be bulked up with the work experience they’ve acquired, and time spent in newsrooms across the country to get a flavour of what it’s like to be a “real sports journalist. ”
This wave of youngsters hoping to one day scribble on the back pages of newspapers is, however, facing fresh challenges to those that their predecessors would have encountered.
Telegraph Media Group recently set out to lay off 55 editorial staff. Perhaps it was coincidence that. in the same small radius of time in which this was done, professional sports stars Gary Neville and Kevin Pietersen began earning highly-paid commissions from the newspaper.
In a nutshell, young sports reporters are facing the unenviable task of competing for jobs in the industry with characters whose C.V. consists merely of playing the sport on which they will be commentating.
John Beattie, the former Scotland rugby international turned BBC journalist, was once presented with my curiosity on this subject – ironically we crossed paths at a conference to inspire the next wave of young journalists.
My question was frank: “John, what do you make of sports athletes becoming sports journalists, based purely on their name and lack of ability as journalists?”
His answer was as scrambled as a traditional Scotland scrum against the All Blacks.
He trotted off about how he had to work hard to get to where he was as a journalist, about how it hadn’t been an easy ride for him.
Perhaps I’m cynical, but I couldn’t help but giggle when considering the strife that “aspiring” sports journalists go through to make it, in comparison with the gargantuan struggle he would have endured.
That day, Beattie was joined on-stage by Susan Egelstaff, another athlete turned journalist. Miss Egelstaff suggested that the best way to get a job was to continue sending articles to newspapers, and they would eventually like one enough to publish it.
That, to her, appeared the transparent and most permeable entry route to the profession.
I’m lucky in that I have a couple of outlets: i.e. the Times and this blog spot. Now, and I’m sure Messrs Cooney and Black, given their experience, would help support my claim that if a young sports journalist was to continue sending articles of zero relevance, they would be politely told to stop clogging up the email inboxes of the relevant newspapers.
Both our guest speakers that day spoke of their passion for broadcasting and journalism, how they both really enjoyed doing what they did.
I find it somewhat confusing, then, that Beattie holds a degree in civil engineering and trained as a chartered accountant after his rugby career.
In layman’s terms, while young sports journalists typically have always wanted to enter this career path, for sports athletes it appears the easy route once their career has come to an end.
There’s is an undying yearning from media outlets now to have the opinions of former sports athletes fill up column space and minutes on the radio.
Some are very good – Graeme Souness, for instance, is as literary equipped as they come – some are in my opinion very bad, Phil Neville’s monotonous dry tone immediately springs to mind.
However, their populating of the sports sections of the media leaves a very minute field to which young hacks can “aspire”.
More and more space is being occupied by the pieces of this demographic, meaning the room left for the writing of trained journalists is dwindling.
The lack of C.V. appears to have earned a substantial amount of this group their jobs. But what of the eager, budding youngsters? What can they aspire to and what can make sports journalism appealing to them?
Over to you, John Beattie.