Network, embrace technology and write endlessly, SJA members’ advice for aspiring journalists

More than 140 aspiring and student journalists joined us for a Q&A panel on the future of sports journalism.

Advice and invaluable knowledge was dispensed by PA Media sports editor and SJA chair Ash Broadley, TalkSport’s Faye Carruthers, BCOMS founder and SJA vice-chair Leon Mann and The Guardian’s Sachin Nakrani, in a session chaired by Sportsbeat managing editor James Toney.

The panel discussed everything from the rise of technology and esports to pitching and applying for jobs, while also sharing their top tips for zealous journalists.

The overarching theme of the evening was the importance of networking and being likeable.

“People help each other in this industry,” Mann said. “We have all been helped by somebody, you should not be afraid to ask for help.

“We need to make our industry as accessible as possible.”

While Carruthers said she always replies to aspiring journalists who get in touch with her. “LinkedIn is the best way to get in touch to ask for advice. Networking is absolutely key,” she explained, while also stressing the importance of being on the ball. “Try and have your finger on the pulse. We’re more accessible than ever.”

Carruthers’ top takeaway was the importance of being personable.

“It’s really important to be nice and approachable and kind,” she said. “Be eager to learn, but not pushy. Be engaged, helpful and a pleasure to be around.”

Nakrani shared valuable advice on pitching stories. “Offer something you think that publication needs and keep your pitch concise,” he said.

Our audience were keen for insider information on breaking into the industry.

Broadley started with some guidance for job applications. “When applying for a job try and stand out and answer the brief. Don’t send a generic cover letter and CV, make it relevant for the job,” he explained.

Nakrani re-stressed how to write a pitch before talking about the importance of a good portfolio and social presence.

“If you can come with a body of work, that’s really impressive. Write. Just write endlessly. Initiative is really impressive. If you like video, create a YouTube channel. If you like audio, record a podcast,” he said.

“You will get noticed on social media too. There’s no barriers to anyone on social media and I hope that helps us diversify our industry.”

He continued: “Do look at behind-the-scenes jobs. It may not be glamorous, but it can be rewarding and the way into the job you really want.”

Carruthers once again emphasised the value of likeability, as well as being professional.

“Turn up on time, dress smartly. Don’t fanboy/fangirl – try and be professional, you have a job to do,” she said.

It was hard to avoid the topic of the Coronavirus, but Mann believes having time to reflect is a good thing.

“If we didn’t have a year like this would we have stopped and paused to think? This year will make us a better industry,” he said.

The panel also discussed how journalism is adapting because of technology and we touched on the rise of esports.

“Journalism is about adapting,” Mann said.

Carruthers explained: “Technology makes us more accessible, there is no limit.”

On the subject of esports Broadley said: “How to solve a problem like esports? It’s enormous. The amount of people interested in it is astonishing. It’s a huge challenge.”

And Mann concluded with: “If we want to stay relevant to our audience, we need to get with it. There’s a big opportunity there. Your audience will tell you want they want.”

For more information of our new-look SJA Academy for aspiring and student journalists click here