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. He outlines the challenges in his role and insightful careers advice for those people keen to forge a career in the sports media industry.
Can you tell us about your current role as a sports writer?
I am responsible for breaking news stories, coming up with original ideas for articles, writing match reports and live blogging.
What are the biggest challenges in your role, or facing your 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.
Tell us a bit about your career path to this point… What experience does your kind of career 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.
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.
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.
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.
My biggest mistake was turning up early for an interview with a football club whose training ground was absolutely in the middle of nowhere. I assumed I would be able to get a coffee beforehand but ended up strolling up and down country lanes dressed in a suit feeling rather self-conscious at the bemused stares by drivers.
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 and feeling sure that you have done it to the best of your abilities and knowing it is good.
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!
Follow Alex on Twitter: @alexmilnejourno
Alex studied for his NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism at News Associates – officially the number one NCTJ course the UK.
Interested in becoming a sports writer? sports journalist? career in sport media? Visit the ‘Careers in Sport Media’ section on our website.