It looks as if 15-year-old JAMES LORENZO is determined to become a third generation sports journalist, following his grandfather Peter and father Matthew. Here, he interrupts his GCSE Latin revision to outline how he used the internet to help practise and publish his own sports writing
A career in sports journalism is one of the best in the world. Imagine watching football and being paid for it, writing reports when you’d do it for fun anyway, meeting the stars of the game and travelling the world to do so. But as my father, and careers master, and just about everybody I meet says, it’s not too easy to get a job like that. Harder now than it’s ever been.
Which is why I decided to do it myself, put myself into print, see my stories published – even if I was the publisher and editor, too, for that matter.
It may be difficult to get a sports journalism job these days. But it’s really very easy to get your voice heard. I started with a blog.
I simply went to the free blogging site Blogger, where I could write when I wanted and what I wanted. It is very easy and not particularly hard to get a great looking blogger site either, with hundreds of free HTML themes to download. I gave my blog a plug to some friends on Facebook, and voila, I had people seeing my work.
And then I moved on to a sports podcast with a blogging friend. It wasn’t hard nor expensive to get a great sounding talk show, or indeed to put it on iTunes. We managed to get over-the-phone interviews with Sky Sports’ Tony Gale and Kirsty Gallagher, which was great for the content of the show – and all from the comfort of my bedroom.
From there it seemed a natural step to start a website. I borrowed less than £100 from my unsuspecting dad and spent a weekend following a guide I found on the web, which consisted of a domain name from Google (that I had originally purchased for my blog), a cheap hosting package from iPage, and a design from the highly popular and professionally used WordPress system (even the SJA’s website is based on WordPress software).
By Monday morning First Thought was born – take a look for yourself.
I enlisted the support of two classmates and between us we set about producing the sort of site we’d like to see on the web. I had decided that we should attempt to write about as many topics as possible – to make the site as much like an online newspaper as we could. Gradually, we have been getting more writers to join us through simply letting other school friends know or by networking over Facebook.
The first reaction was encouraging – 6,000 hits in two weeks – more than my blog had managed in its 11-month lifetime previously. After that, we hit a plateau. So we started to investigate the dark arts of SEO, search engine optimisation – how to make sure First Thought gets to the top of the Google rankings.
The best trick is to get a major website – like The Guardian for example – to put your link on their page. A link from them to us means a lot of traffic in the right direction.
I have sent details of the site to everyone I could think of – admittedly I found a few of them in dad’s contacts book.
A couple of big hitters came back to me. I’m about to go and see Elisabeth Ribbans, Managing Director of The Guardian, to see what life is like on a major national. Then Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy Advertising and one of the industry’s leading gurus, gave us a thumbs up on Facebook.
Of course you learn a lot from experience. Like what the libel laws are for. Dad now and then gives me the inside gossip on a few football stories. After one close shave, I’ve learned not to just regurgitate them the next morning.
I am waiting to hear back from Sky about an idea which keeps recurring, namely the Catch 22 problem when anyone applies for a job in this industry. It seems you can’t get a job without experience. I’m hoping editors, producers and bosses in general will divert the thousands of applicants they receive annually towards our site. That way they can keep an eye on what they write and ask the cream of the crop to sign up, or at least come in to make the tea and coffee on a regular basis.
If nothing else, I am getting a glimpse of what life would be like in my chosen profession. And I hope that glimpse will become a full-time job. Just as soon as I deal with my GCSEs.
- The David Welch Student Sportswriter Scholarship is a new award for full-time students aged 16 to 25, which offers the winner some invaluable work experience at the Daily Telegraph. Entries are open until February 6, 2012. Click here for details.
- For the full SJA online archive of advice and support articles about journalism courses and how to become a sports journalist, click here
ENTRIES OPEN NOW FOR SJA BRITISH SPORTS JOURNALISM AWARDS