JON RYAN, former sports editor of the Mail on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph, on why sports writing has a bright future after judging entries at the SJA 2018 British Sports Journalism Awards
I was lucky enough to have worked in newspapers in the age of three great writers about sport.
Ian Wooldridge started his weekly sports column around the time I started out as a reporter on the Daily Mail. Hugh McIlvanney was sitting under a haze of cigar smoke in his pomp at The Observer and James Lawton was the must read writer at the Daily Express.
For over half a century this trio set a standard of sports writing so high that Hugh’s death last month , at the age of 82, was recorded as the end of an era. James, whose memorial service takes place later this month died aged 75 last September. Ian Wooldridge was the same age when he died in 2007.
I spent a dozen years as a sports editor in what we then still called Fleet Street even if my time was spent at Kensington on the Mail on Sunday and at Canada Water on the Sunday Telegraph.
The speed of social media may have made a mockery of all forms of news but for terrific writing, pugnacious views, humour and true revelation head for the back pages and the sports sections
I like to think I worked with sports writers of huge talent people like…no,I’m not that daft as to name them all and risk missing a name out. But that was a few years ago now and for the past few days ,having completed my task of being a judge for the SJA sports awards, I have done a similar stint in two categories of the British Press Awards.
And the spirit , the fervour, the insight, the immaculate literacy of Ian, James and Hugh is alive and well within the pages of our newspapers. Not just in the broadsheets but across the spectrum.
The speed of social media may have made a mockery of all forms of news but for terrific writing, pugnacious views, humour and true revelation head for the back pages and the sports sections.
Here there are writers with talent to spare who might have had the great triumvirate looking over their shoulders. The culture of journalism may have changed in the past decade but the depth of the talent well has not.
If someone had asked me to draw up my shortlist of six for the sports journalist of the year before I saw the entries it would have been woefully inaccurate simply because defining a shortlist from nigh on 30 entries was like trimming a piece of Patrick Barclay copy. Indeed in my final list the first two changed each time I re-read their articles.
Sitting in judgement was not a torture but a delight. I may have got it hopelessly wrong but believe me there was hardly an entry that didn’t make claims for the shortlist.
- Young writer, photographer and broadcast winners 2018
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- About the SJA British Sports Journalism Awards
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