Student award-winner still works hard for success

JAMES LORENZO continues to be a good example for all budding young sports journalists. Four years after we covered the enterprising teenager’s first sports website venture, he was recently named as the Student Sports Journalist of the Year. He picks up the story here…

James Lorenzo: a fan of Gary Player's philosophy on luck
Award-winner James Lorenzo: a fan of Gary Player’s philosophy on luck

I find it difficult to write about myself – something I first realised when I was asked to write a short piece for the SJA website some four years ago.

At that time, I was plugging a small site I’d set up with the aim of helping aspiring journalists (like myself) into the industry – an idea that, rather aptly, was first called First Thought, and has since morphed into a specifically football-based platform called IntoPress.

Now, I’m writing as a very lucky winner of the SJA’s David Welch Student Sports Writer of the Year award, and to say I’m proud would be an understatement.

It makes the time I put in at school seem very worthwhile.

I managed to get a place at Durham University to read English and I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here. The course is hard but varied and leaves enough time for the playing of a rare brand of football in the College third team: not pretty but we like it, and sometimes we even win.

“Imagine watching football and being paid for it,” I wrote in January 2012. Little did I think that I would actually have that opportunity come 2016.

It was a case of right place and right time when I got a freelance position with Hayters in the north-east, for example. I’m now privileged enough to be at almost every Sunderland and Newcastle home game, every weekend, and I’m making the most of it as much as I can, while they’re both still in the Premier League…

Of course, just as I was determined to get my own work published back then, I am still working hard on IntoPress now. While the scope in topic has narrowed from just about anything to solely Premier League football, the aim remains the same.

Too many young writers have their talents abused by malicious football blogs (a cursory glance at Twitter will underline the problem), where they receive no feedback on their work, no payment (even though these sites will be making money from the adverts they squeeze in and around their content), and nothing like the kind of journalistic “experience” that these sites purport to offer.

While IntoPress can’t afford to pay our writers yet (we don’t run adverts on our site, so have no income whatsoever), we are upfront about it. We offer as much back to our writers as we can, in the form of editorial feedback on every piece submitted, and we  are looking as much as possible to secure interviews and features to which we can send our contributors.

And it is still just as easy, if not easier, to get published, as it was four years ago. I’m still using the seemingly infallible WordPress software, and still paying pretty much the same affordable rates for domain names and web hosts as I was then.

So I’m continuing to work on IntoPress, and I take every opportunity I can to expand on my Hayters role.

But my degree comes first – as great as it is to be able to at least sample the career I have set my heart on.

I have learned that contacts are key to a successful career in this profession, and the awards ceremony was the perfect opportunity to meet some of the most important people in the industry.

That night I sat next to one of the judges for my award, and we found ourselves talking about the future of the industry in light of the news of The Independent ceasing its print run.

I had assumed that he would be rather pessimistic about its prospects, but he wasn’t. In fact, he actually suggested that there has never been more opportunity to write for the national titles, because of the countless possibilities that online media offers – and that made a lot of sense.

And that’s what I suppose we’re trying to embrace with IntoPress, for the better. What I’ve learnt most in the last four years is that to make it in the industry I’ll need the right combination of knowledge, willpower and contacts. And I suspect, an economy-sized portion of luck. Although I’m happy to misquote Gary Player on that one: “The harder I work, the luckier I’ll get.”