Job title Freelance Sports Writer
Employer Mirror Online and Sky Sports News
Alex Milne is a freelance sports writer and produces content for the Mirror Online and Sky Sports News.
Here he outlines the challenges in his role and gives some insightful careers advice for those people keen to forge a career in the sports media industry.
“Breaking news stories”
Can you tell us about your current role as a sports writer?
As a sports writer I am responsible for breaking news stories, coming up with original ideas for articles, writing match reports and live blogging.
The full 926 word email sent by BeINstaff to Premier League clubs re Newcastle takeover is well worth a read.https://t.co/LOh6x5h1sw
— Alex Milne (@RealMirrorMilne) 22 April 2020
“There is always competition with other outlets.”
What are the biggest challenges in your role, or facing the sports media industry generally?
The consumption of news on a 24-hour basis means there is always competition with other outlets. I have regularly worked night shifts from 11pm-7am in order to keep the production of stories going and keep the numbers on the website ticking over, something which would have been unthinkable 25 years ago.
Entry level roles or internships are often poorly paid and difficult to get on. Despite them being advertised as for recent graduates they often end up in rejection due to a lack of experience, which goes back to the chicken and egg argument of how you are supposed to gain necessary experience without being given the opportunity to do so in an entry level job.
“I would say to people it is never too late.”
Tell us a bit about your career in sports media to this point. What experience does a role in sports media require?
I was an English teacher in Spain for three years until I realised I had had enough of students running rings around me. Media had always been a passion on the side and so I started a personal blog and soon realised writing was something I wanted to do on a permanent basis. I took the big decision of moving back to England and enrolled in an NCTJ Multimedia Sports Journalism course at News Associates. While learning the ropes there I picked up experience at the likes of the Mirror, Sky Sports News and Sportsbeat.
I would say to people it is never too late. I was a relative latecomer to the industry but if you work hard and are prepared to put the hours in you have just as good a chance as anyone else of finding work.
If you are looking for different opportunities to gain experience in sports journalism like Matt did in his training, there are always opportunities for voluntary and paid work in our jobs section.
“You need a positive outlook.”
What skills and knowledge do you need in your role as a sports writer?
You need a calm head and thick skin. You will inevitably make mistakes in this job and receive constructive criticism. You will also experience knock backs, rejections and the occasional feelings of inadequacy. You need a positive outlook. Every time you feel like you failed, you should try to take the positives out of it, move on and try again. There are a lot of learning curves, but they will all help in the long term.
Interviews are the most crucial part in securing any job, your CV could say all the right things but if your interview is poor then an employer will have a completely different view of you. Check out how to improve your job interview skills here.
“Don’t be afraid to talk to everyone and anyone,”
If you had one bit of advice you would tell your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t be lazy! Take every opportunity even if it means doing something not so appealing at the time. Don’t be afraid to talk to everyone and anyone, make contacts and ask for phone numbers.
It’s been a year to the day since the new Spurs stadium opened, but it hasn’t exactly been plain sailing since then.https://t.co/pGFEGCI7rV
— Alex Milne (@RealMirrorMilne) 3 April 2020
“Always pack snacks!”
What was the best advice you were given?
Always pack snacks! Whether you are out at a match which goes on longer than expected or whether a big news story breaks in the office as you are about to go home, it is always best to be prepared, as you may be waiting longer than you think for an opportunity to get food or drink.
“Doing something you love means days fly by.”
What are three great things about working in the sports media industry?
The variety of work and the fact you are doing something you love means days can fly by. Journalists are generally friendly, extroverted people, so the social element is great. There is nothing as satisfying as reading a piece you have worked hard on. It offers a feeling that you have done it to the best of your abilities.
“Gaining a reputation at the start of your career is tough”
What are three challenging things about working in the sports media industry?
The hours can be long and anti-social, and often mean sacrificing birthdays, nights out and other events. Gaining a reputation at the start of your career is tough and requires hard work and going the extra mile to put yourself out there. It is possibly the worst industry for working with a hangover – trust me, you don’t want a big story breaking when you are recovering from a heavy night!
Alex studied for his NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism at News Associates – officially the number one NCTJ course the UK.
Interested in having a career in sport media then visit the ‘Careers in Sport Media’ section on our website. If you believe that being a sports writer is the career for you then read our piece on what Editors are looking for when they read your work here.