Sports writing is a lovely profession – full of meeting great people, travelling to great places and getting your name and face in the paper. But it’s also hard work, and the reality of high-level sports journalism is that it’s a deadline- filled, nit-picking profession in which you are constantly looking for stories, filing stories and developing contacts.
It can be great fun, but most of the time there has to be such an attention to detail that you spend as much time worrying about exactly who the replacement scrum-half used to play for as you spend extolling the virtues of a timely drop goal.
Sports journalism is a specialism. It is taken seriously by newspapers and magazines because it sells. You have to be utterly professional to cover it properly, because there is nothing in the world that’s more ‘newsy’ and up-to-the-minute than a sports event. If you’re an athletics correspondent covering a race, you have to know as the first runner hits the tape whether his time is better or worse than the last time he ran, whether it’s good enough, whether there are any surprise finishing positions and how the results compare with the results from Zurich the week before. At the back of your mind you need to have a list of key questions to ask him at the interview after the event, when you’ll have about 15 other journalists to fight through for a 20-second quote, and that's after you've filed a piece for the website. Throughout most rugby and football matches, there will be sports writers constantly on the phone, filing their stories at 15-minute intervals. Then within minutes of the final whistle they file an introduction to go on the top of the piece, before rushing to the press conference to get quotes, then prepare to rewrite it all for the second edition.
The best sports journalists are extremely knowledgeable, have brilliant contacts and an over-riding passion for the sport that they are covering. They will tend to be cynical, but deep down they believe in what they are covering - they have to, in order to do it any justice at all. Their job can sometimes be wonderful and brilliantly fulfilling; it is always taxing; and
like in most areas of journalism - the low points can be dreadful.
Whether you’re interested in winning the Sports Journalist of the Year award, or just in putting together a match report about your local team that will get into the local paper, there are the same key rules to follow and the same advice that is relevant. If you approach the subject rationally and are determined enough, getting yourself on the sports journalism ladder in some way is not too difficult. Because of the profusion of publications which now touch upon sport in some way, there should be some avenue that you can explore to get yourself published.
There have never been more outlets for sports journalists. You can get your work seen by setting up a blog and tweeting about it. You can write match reports on Facebook or get your pictures seen on Instagram. Getting published is easier than it's ever been. Getting seen, and getting yourself into a position where you're being paid for your writing is still as hard as ever.