Making a play for sports journalism: tips and insights

Broadcaster Gabby Logan shares her career story and gives advice for those wanting to forge a career in the industry

Many careers are shaped by an individual or a mentor, and my sports journalism career was no different. I grew up watching Grandstand on the BBC and thought Des Lynam was brilliant. I was also inspired by Helen Rollason, particularly because female sports journalists and presenters were such a rarity back then.

I was lucky enough to meet Giles Squire, who was the head of Metro FM, a radio station in Newcastle, when I was 19. He was very supportive and said: "When you come to university, come and see me and we'll look into training you up to read the news." I waited about three days before ringing him and, true to his word, I was being paid to read the news by the end of the term. By the time I graduated, I had my own show.

Life as a sports journalist

There is no regular routine. Saturdays are generally the most consistent day, as I host Final Score, rugby or athletics depending on the time of year. This means that Fridays are usually travel or preparation days and Sundays, if I'm abroad, are coming home days. As for Monday to Thursday, they can be different every week. I might host an entertainment show, head into board meetings for the company I am a non-executive director for, or visit Leeds Trinity University, where I was recently made chancellor. No two weeks are ever the same and, with two children, I have to be very organised.

Broadcasting covers a broad range of career options, but personally, I love working "live". The best part about sport is that there is no script and when you sit down to work, the show evolves around the action and drama that unfolds. There is only so much research you can do on the players or the history of a fixture. You never really know what you are going to end up talking about because every game is different.

Career options in sports journalism

Broadcasting isn't the only aspect of sport journalism to consider. There are lots of other areas that are just as fun and interesting, from print-press and digital news to social media and blogging. There is still plenty of appetite for commentary but, as attention spans are much shorter today, people want bite-sized clips and news instantly at their fingertips.

I'm a big fan of social media and an avid user of Twitter – it's become very important in sports journalism. For me, however, 140 characters can never replace an in-depth interview in a newspaper.

Top tips for breaking into sports journalism

Have a passion for your subject. You just won't make it if you don't love sport.

Write match reports for fun and practise writing. Writing will never be a wasted skill, no matter how much technology takes over. Read articles and reports by your favourite sports writers to learn about different styles of writing – ask yourself what sets them apart.

Apply for work experience. Do placements on local papers, radio stations and any other media outlets you can think of.

Look into university courses that specialise in journalism. Many universities offer well-respected, specialist courses in a variety of journalism areas.

Interview sports people. It doesn't have to be David Beckham: think about your local championship rugby team, non-league football team or gymnastics squad. Get used to talking to sports people – they're your bread and butter so you need to know how to communicate with and demystify them.

Talk to as many sports journalists as you can. Find out the route they took. You'll often find that there is no set route and every journalist will have different career experiences that you can learn from.

Gabby Logan is chancellor of Leeds Trinity University.

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