So you want to be a sports journalist?

NextGen. Just to let you know that we at the SJA think about you too. Here training expert, KEITH ELLIOTT, sets you on the first step towards becoming a sports journalist. 

The fact that you know who scored for Manchester United in the 1977 FA Cup final will not guarantee you a job as a sports journalist. Even the fact that you can name all the players in both teams (Liverpool were the other), plus subs, won’t win the heart of any sports editor I know.

However, if you can take a series of facts, interview a manager who’s just lost 4-0 at home and construct this into a readable story within 20 minutes that might get you an interview (though let’s not go overboard on the job prospects yet).

We all think we can write. Telling someone they can’t string a sentence together is as insulting as saying they have a big nose or a golfer’s dress sense. But very few people post-university are acceptable – let alone good – writers by journalistic standards.

The fact you have achieved first-class honours or had several letters published in your local paper are sadly not enough to land you a plum sports job. 

Let’s talk for a moment about those at university and those considering it.  In the last few years dozens of bespoke sports journalism degree courses have sprung up, many of them accredited by the two main training bodies – the National Council of Training of Journalists and the Broadcast Journalism Training Council.

I’m not saying: don’t take English at degree level. But if you’re good at history, computer science, Spanish or biology, make that your choice. It won’t hamper you one jot.

But it is not compulsory to do a sports journalism degree – in fact it is not compulsory to do a degree at all, although most entry-level candidates tend to come from university. 

I’d say it’s a good idea to avoid “soft” courses like media studies, art and design, or performing arts. Looks like you’re choosing an easy option.

This applies just as much, maybe even more so, to those thinking about which A-levels to take. One that you must have on your CV is a decent grade at GCSE English.

However, you don’t have to take an English degree. Journalism isn’t writing like Chaucer, Shakespeare or James Joyce.

I’m not saying: don’t take English at degree level. But if you’re good at history, computer science, Spanish or biology, make that your choice. It won’t hamper you one jot.

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