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Daniel Faulkner

What are the skills needed to be a successful sports journalist?

By Daniel Faulkner Southampton Solent University, Sports Journalism, Career Skills for Sports Writing, November 2011

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Daniel Faulkner

1.0 SUMMARY: 1.1 – This report aims to provide any aspiring sports writer the basic skills needed to become a success in the increasingly popular sports writing industry. It then provides them with the knowledge of what the “big” organisations of the sports writing industry (such as Sky or the BBC) want to see for you to be able to get work experience with them, ultimately ending in a successful career as a sports journalist. It also aims to provide useful information about the sports writing industry itself. 1.2 – The internet was used in this report as the main source of information. 1.3 – The report gathers information from already established journalists and sports broadcasting organisations to help an aspiring sports journalist to have a broader understanding of what these leading sports writing organisations want to see from a potential employee. 1.4 – However, due to technological advances, the way news is broadcasted has to adapt to keep up with the times, (e.g. twitter.), it is therefore imperative that any aspiring journalist be able to keep the base of journalistic techniques , but also be versatile so they can adapt to a changing media landscape.

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Daniel Faulkner

2.0 CONTENTS:

1.0 – Summary …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………2 2.0 – Contents……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………3 3.0 – Acknowledgements…………………………………………………………………………………………………..3 4.0 – Terms of Reference…………………………………………………………………………………………………..4 5.0 – Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..4 6.0 – Methods of Investigation………………………………………………………………………………………….4 7.0 – Findings………………………………………………………………………………………………………………...5-6 8.0 – Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….….7 9.0 – Recommendations……………………………………………………………………………………………………7 10.0 – References……………………………………………………………………………………………………………...8 11.0 – Appendices……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..9

3.0 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: BBC Sky Press Gazette Wikipedia NCTJ Francis Quinn – Law for Journalists Youtube Daily Mail New York Times

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4.0 TERMS OF REFERENCE: 4.1 – This report was produced for Southampton Solent University under the tutorship of Julia Newman, FMAS, for the Career Skills for Sports Writers unit. 4.2 - The purpose of the report is to provide any aspiring journalists with the knowledge of the skills needed to be successful in the sports writing industry. 4.3 – The report looks mainly at Sky and the BBC and what requirements they want from potential employees are highlighted.

5.0 INTRODUCTION: 5.1 – There is no doubt that the sports writing industry is competitive , and a demand for sports coverage has grown in recent years as sport has grown in wealth, power and influence. This means as a sports journalist you have to make the best of your personal traits and skills to try and be the best that you can be. 5.2 – The industry has also changed in recent years in terms of technology as we see social networking sites such as twitter (released only in 2006) come into the forefront and newspapers have started employing people to look through twitter to try and gain stories. This shows the industry itself is changing which therefore means that the journalists that are working in this area need to adapt their skills to meet these needs. 5.3 – Does this therefore mean that we need to be training journalists’ skills for jobs and a style of reporting that hasn’t even arisen yet? Newspapers have started employing journalists to do more than one job and this could have a say in whether the availability of jobs will decline even further. 5.4 – I will be looking at what organisations such as the BBC and Sky would want from a potential employee, and the skills needed to be a successful sports journalist.

6.0 METHODS OF INVESTIGATION: 6.1 – The internet has been used to gather information for this report. 6.2 – Other reports on a similar topic have also been considered.

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Daniel Faulkner

7.0 FINDINGS: Press Gazette: 7.1.1 – Press Gazette is a British media trade magazine which dedicates itself to journalism and the press. 7.1.2 – In a section on the online version titled “tips of the trade – Sports Journalism” already well-established sports journalists such as Tom Fordce of BBCi , Louis Massarella of FourFourTwo Magazine and others, voice their opinion on what skills are needed to be a successful sports Journalist. 7.1.3 – First and foremost most journalists emphasise you need to be passionate about sport, “an insatiable appetite for even the most obscure sports” Carrie Brown – British Eurosport. 7.1.4 – Know your audience and deliver the best news story possible, “You need to be able to spot the best news angle when you're being confronted with 100 different possibilities” - Tom Fordyce, BBCi. “It's easy to fall into the trap of writing something for yourself rather than the reader, either in substance or style.” - Louis Massarella. 7.1.5 – Many journalists stress the importance of building contacts in the industry and having good work experience. ( Reference 1.)

BSkyB: 7.2.1 – The largest pay-TV broadcaster in the United Kingdom with over ten million subscribers. They employ sixteen and a half thousand employees. 7.2.2 – In 2002 they paid over £300 million to secure the rights of premier league matches which in itself provides a strong customer base and have since launched their 24 hour a day dedicated sports channel (Sky Sports News.). (Reference 3.) 7.3.1 – The serious nature of the company makes Sky internships and work experience highly competitive. “ We consider one placement per month so only the very best applications are considered” 7.3.2 – Sky state that any aspiring sports journalist wanting work experience or an internship needs to have either a BCTJ or NCTJ accredited journalism or sports journalism qualification. 7.3.3 – They need to be able to write 100 words per minute shorthand. (Reference 7.)

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BBC: 7.4.1 – The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster and is the largest broadcaster in the world with over twenty three thousand staff, plenty of jobs for aspiring journalists. 7.4.2 – Its main purpose is to provide public service broadcasting but has a sports division named BBC Sport. It covers sport from Formula 1 to Tennis Championships on TV, Online and even has over five dedicated sports radio stations. (BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Five Live and BBC World Service.) (Reference 11.) 7.5.1 – BBC state a journalist applying for their “talent pool programme” needs to have a keen interest in a wide range of sports. 7.5.2 – Knowledge and understanding of current affairs and news is key. 7.5.3 – Have the NCTJ qualification. (Appendices 11.3) 7.5.4 – Be able to write quickly, accurately ad compellingly under pressure. Tell stories fairly, accurately, simply and engagingly in a way that is accessible to a wide variety of audiences across a range of platforms. 7.5.5 – Have a good editorial judgement and legal awareness. 7.5.6 – Be co-operative when working with colleagues. (Reference 12. 13.)

Social networking: 7.6 – Twitter has over 300 million users and is a social networking service. (Reference 15.) 7.7 – Twitter launched in 2006 and already many top news organisations have twitter, ( CNN being the most followed news organisation with over five and a half million followers.), which shows how news broadcasting can rapidly change and journalists would have to adapt to be able to suit the reader’s needs. (Reference 16.)

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8.0 CONCLUSION: 8.1 – A journalist must have a keen interest and knowledgeable understanding of sport in general. 8.2 – Perhaps the most crucial point that the findings show is that you need work experience. The effect of being at an organisation and experiencing the industry for what it is will only excel you as an aspiring journalist. This is where you exert yourself and put the skills you have acquired to the test. 8.3 – Most organisations want you be able to write shorthand, this is considered one of the most essential techniques a journalist can have. Despite all the technological advances, short hand remains the easiest and most efficient way of noting down what you need. 8.4 – Most organisations require an aspiring journalist to have an NCTJ accredited qualification. The possession of one of these shows an employer you have the base of journalistic skills needed to be successful. (Appendices 11.3) 8.5 – The way news is being covered is ever changing; a Journalist needs to be able to adapt their skills to keep up with the way news is published, be it by twitter or any other new means that may arise. 8.6 - A journalist needs to know the laws of Journalism, otherwise they could see themselves being sued for defamation, and ultimately end in losing credibility or readership. (Reference 14.)

9.0 RECOMMENDATIONS:

9.1 – Due to the vast competitiveness of this industry, you have to be confident and go out and sell yourself. A sports journalist cannot do enough work experience or online blogs; this will really help give yourself a credited name in the industry. 9.2 – Get out there and read material. Follow news organisations and sports journalists on twitter, read what they are writing and take note of how they put across certain agendas. 9.3 – Make sure you are adaptable and flexible; due to technological advances we do not know which will be the dominant way of providing news in ten years’ time. 9.4 – As well as having an accredited NCTJ qualification and gaining work experience, keep up with the world of news, read as much journalistic work that you can. 9.5 –Journalists need to be able to work well with others, cope with the pressure of meeting deadlines and be confident to be able to make contacts.

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10.0 REFERENCES:

1. http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=28262&sectioncode=1 21/11/11 2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_journalism 21/11/11 3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSkyB 21/11/11 4. http://www.jobprofiles.org/artsportswriter.htm 20/11/11 5. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-1284597/Twitter--Daily-Mail-sports-writers.html 21/11/11 6. Shift happens http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljbI-363A2Q 20/11/11 7.http://corporate.sky.com/work_for_sky/graduates_and_apprentices/interns_and_work_exper ience.htm 21/11/11 8. http://www.nctj.com/careers/sports-journalism/ 21/11/11 9. http://corporate.sky.com/about_sky/key_facts_and_figures.htm 21/11/11 10. http://www.bbc.co.uk/jobs/jts/about-the-scheme.shtml 21/11/11 11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC 21/11/11 12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/jobs/jtp/about-you.shtml 21/11/11 13. http://www.bbc.co.uk/jobs/jtp/values-qualities.shtml 21/11/11 14. Francis Quinn – Law for Journalists , Longman, 2007 15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter 21/11/11 16. http://twitaholic.com/ 21/11/11 17. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times 23/11/11 18. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/business/media/18times.html?pagewanted=all 23/11/11

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11.0 APPENDICES: The New York Times. 11.1 – The question that arises today is that why can people simply go online and read news content from a newspaper website for free? If more and more people simply go online and read articles rather than going and buying the newspaper itself the organisations that are producing copy will not be making as much money as they should be. 11.2 - The New York Times the suggested that their readers would have to start paying for online content if they wanted to continue reading it. On march 28th 2011 they said that customers would be able to read 20 articles a month without paying but after that they would have to pay a subscription to the site. This saw a rise in 31% in sales for the New York Times. This shows that people are still willing to pay for good content. The reason this fits into my report is that is shows there is a future for online journalism, this shows that as the internet is relatively new, skills always need to be learnt and developed to suit the needs of the readers. NCTJ 11.3 – The NCTJ accredited diploma in journalism has three main values:   

To focus on the vital skills of finding and telling stories accurately and to deadline To reflect that most journalists work in a multimedia environment and that ‘new’ and ‘traditional’ skills should be fully integrated and embedded in training and assessments To ensure the core essential skills are covered and assessed to a national standard but with flexibility to specialise (NCJT website)

Sports journalism is one of the specialist options. The exam for this is divided into two parts. The first is a one hour written exam that tests current sporting knowledge, the second is a live match report to be produces at half time and full time.

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Formal Report - Sports Journalism Industry  

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