Thursday: “Journalism is a difficult sport”

The life of a journalist is not unlike that of any other profession.

Admittedly celebrities and politicians may hate you, plus you’re probably getting paid peanuts. But other than that, one has to face up to the same day-to-day challenges.

One must be ethical. One must be personable. One must be ruthless. One must make sacrifices.

And, of course, one must be punctual.

I learned this latter lesson midway through my third day at Sportal. No, I wasn’t three hours late for my shift; rather, I watched with amusement as a journalist from a rival organisation arrived halfway through a press conference.

This is by means a punishable crime. People turn up late to stuff all the time. Heck, I would’ve been late to work four out of five days had my Mum not awoken me from my slumber.

What did raise a few eyebrows, though, was the journo’s nerve.

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy was the man under the spotlight. While it’s hard to tell the mood of anybody in the rugby industry, I was able to gather that he wasn’t a happy pappy. After all, his star player Adam Blair had just agreed to terms with rival club Wests Tigers. While mid-season transfers may be the norm in the league fraternity, such events inevitably leave one feeling sour.

It was thus no surprise that Blair was the first article mentioned in the press conference. Bellamy told the media pack (all three of them) that he was devastated at the outcome. He proceeded to talk about Blair’s career under his reign, before expressing some unlikely emotion.

Ten minutes later, with Bellamy ready to conclude his weekly media session and return to training, the belated journalist popped in with a final question.

“Could I just get your reaction to the news on Adam Blair?” he asked.

Bellamy looked less than impressed, as did the other journos. But to Bellamy’s credit, he repeated the main points of his earlier answer, holding himself back from giving the questioner a coach-like spray. Then again, I guess you can’t afford to upset the media when your team’s most recent claim to fame is an infamous salary cap breach.

From my outer perspective, I found the tardy journo’s actions to be a little unusual, but nothing worthy of a life sentence. Judging by the reaction of Bellamy and the other media peoples, though, I sensed that an unwritten rule of journalism had just been broken.

Apparently I should never get on the wrong side of coaches.

Rugby coaches, in particular.

Back at the office, I was dealt another brutal lesson.

For the two days beforehand I had spent much of my working hours converting press releases into news pieces. Most of these articles focused on rugby player signings, a topic I knew little about but could nonetheless wing my way through.

Today’s press release, however, was a whole new bag of worms. Instead of league, my subject was origin. Instead of contracts, I was required to write about team selection. With those switches triggered, my easy job was made a hell of a lot more difficult. This time around I would have to know what I was talking about.

Thanks to Dr. Wikipedia and some similar articles on the same topic, I fumbled my way through the process to churn out 300-odd semi-digestible words. To my delight, my accompanying editor made just a few edits to the final copy, before releasing my ignorant spiel to the desktops of judgmental rugby union supporters, the world over.

I got away with that one, but that was just the entree.

The next item on the pile was a transcribed interview with Formula One driver Robert Kubica. Before today, Formula One meant little more to me than a computer game. It’s a “sport” I have always treated with cynicism; why sane people would bother watching endless hours of dizzy vehicles is beyond me.

Yet I sucked in my pride and worked my way through the piece. And when I was done, I reflected on an uncomfortable predicament.

If I want to work in sports journalism, I need to expand my horizons. I can’t expect to limit myself to the twin pillars of cricket and footy.

Rather, I have to explore the intricacies of synchronised swimming, the tactical nuances of equestrian, the antipodes of Greco-Roman wrestling.

God forbid, I may even have to sit through a rugby match.

Oh, the sacrifices journalists have to make!

Articles written on Thursday 14 July, 2011

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