Brighton Journalist Works’ tutor and director, Richard Lindfield, shares his successful Sports Journalism career, and tells how you can do the same…
This is, to put it mildly, an exceptional time to be a sports journalist: an engrossing and unpredictable World Cup with England against all the odds down to the last four; seeds falling like flies at Wimbledon; a thrilling, incident-packed British Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton oh-so-close to making it a record-breaking sixth Silverstone victory; the Indian cricketers revelling in the sun-baked pitches ahead of an intriguing test series against England; and that most competitive of sporting encounters, the Ryder Cup, just weeks away. I could go on.
For ten years of my journalistic career I was sports editor at BBC Radio Sussex and the question I was asked more than any other was how does anyone win the golden ticket (occasionally tarnished) and become a sports journalist.
Determination: if you want it go for it. One of our part-time students, Jack, is passionate about earning his living covering boxing so, at the same time as learning the tools of his trade at Brighton Journalist Works, he pestered the life out of the editor of Boxing News until he relented and gave Jack some work experience. In his microscopically short career Jack has already interviewed Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Chris Eubank Jnr.
When I was sports editor at the Beeb, one particularly annoying individual kept sending me cassettes (that’s how long ago it was) of him commentating on non-league football matches. In the bin. Until one day I was stuck in a massive traffic jam on the M25 and, on a whim, slotted his commentary on Havant and Waterlooville v Crystal Palace Reserves pre-season friendly into the Fiat Punto’s cassette player. I was totally blown-away. This man had magic in his tonsils. He joined the team at BBC Radio Sussex, gave up his salesman’s job and is now earning a very handsome living as a football commentator.
Thick skin: remember someone is going to read every word you write, listen to every word you utter and sports people are notoriously prickly. I have been sworn at before breakfast by an enraged Albion manager; another left a foul-mouthed drunken tirade on my Ansaphone; one of the players pinned me up against a wall, upset that in my previous commentary I had said he missed a goal my grannie could have scored. You get the picture?
Surely there must be a flip side? There is. You get the best seat in the house. If you are covering a Premier League match next season you will be entitled to a parking space, a three-course meal before the game, the perfect view and a cup of tea at half time. And you get paid for going. Tell me that’s not a great deal.
I have commentated on play-off finals at Wembley, one-day finals at Lords, pro golf tournaments, I have covered test cricket in India and the West Indies and indoor hockey finals across Europe. And for ten years without a break I wrote a weekly, occasionally too whimsical, column on Brighton and Hove Albion for which the sub-editor dubbed me The Man Who Knows The Score and for which I was banned from the Goldstone, Brighton and Hove Albion’s pre-Amex home.
I nearly forgot. These days you need to train. You need to learn the basic skills common to any journalist. So, you need to talk to us at Brighton Journalist Works. It’s what we do, and we do it extremely well.