Job title Sports Journalist & Lecturer
Employer Gloucestershire Live & The University of Gloucestershire
Qualifications BA (Hons) Journalism
Jon Palmer has been working as a sports journalist since he graduated from Southampton Solent in 2005. Over the past 15 years, he has made a name for himself as the ‘go-to’ man for football content in the Gloucestershire area. He has worked for the likes of Gloucestershire Live, and Cheltenham Town Football Club. In 2018, he started teaching sports journalism at the University of Gloucestershire.
Article by William Ledbury (WilliamLedbury)
“MY PASSION WAS IN SPORTS JOURNALISM – NOT PE TEACHING!”
Starting at the beginning, how did your career start out for you?
I originally wanted to be a PE teacher! When I first left school I studied an English and Sport Science degree, but my passion was always in sports writing. For some reason, I had always believed that working as a PE teacher would be a safer option. Throughout the course, I then soon realised that my passion was in sports journalism – not PE teaching!
After six months of working part-time in a cinema, I moved down to the south coast to study journalism at Southampton Solent University. During that short period, I started writing a weekly column for the Gloucester Citizen called ‘We can drive a tractor’. I also started writing articles for the very early Cheltenham Town FC website. So I had managed to get a few pieces of work published before I started my journalism degree. Every summer I went and did work experience at the Citizen, really getting to know the journalists working at the paper.
After finishing my degree, a Trainee Sports Reporter role opened up at the Gloucestershire Citizen. It was really good timing that as I finished my degree the opportunity came up to go straight into the Citizen – a place where I had already produced a lot of content for them already.
“SINCE I STARTED AT THE PAPER, I HAVE BUILT AN ESTABLISHED AUDIENCE WITHIN THE GLOUCESTERSHIRE AREA.”
What are your current roles, Jon? And how did they come about?
In my first 10 years at Gloucestershire Live, I progressed from Trainee Reporter to Chief Football Writer. I then left my role at the paper to work as the Media and Communications Manager at Cheltenham Town Football Club. After one year at the football club, I moved back to Gloucestershire Live to work as the Sports Editor – managing two regional papers and the website.
Since working as the Sports Editor, I got to know the sports journalism lecturers at the University of Gloucestershire quite well. It all started with students coming into the offices for work experience. Occasionally I would help students with their dissertations, as well as helping them organise their interviews. Whilst one of the senior lecturers was away on paternity leave, I was given the opportunity to teach a few classes at the university. I mainly gave lessons on live blogging and writing match reports.
A full-time lecturer role then came up at the University of Gloucestershire, so I decided to give that a go! When I handed in my notice at Gloucestershire Live, they were keen for me to carry on with the football reporting. Since I started at the paper, I have built up an established audience within the Gloucestershire area – particularly with Cheltenham Town FC.
It’s great to carry on working in the industry, as I’m able to keep on top of all the changes. I can take students out to matches and press conferences whilst working in a freelance capacity. Our level five & six students are required to take part in news days, and it has been fantastic to see them use my contacts to conduct interviews and produce digital, radio and TV content each semester.
If you are looking for different opportunities to gain experience in sports journalism as Jon did in his training, there are always opportunities for voluntary and paid work in our jobs section.
“I HAVE BEEN WORKING TOWARDS COMPLETING A PGCAP.”
Did you need any further qualifications when you started working as a lecturer?
I didn’t need any further qualifications when I started the role, however, since I’ve been at the university I have been working towards completing a PGCAP (Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice). It’s a higher education teaching qualification that I’m doing alongside my lectures.
“YOU’RE CONSTANTLY ADAPTING, LEARNING NEW SKILLS, AND EXPERIMENTING WITH NEW THINGS.”
You’re relatively new to the teaching game, how have you found being a full-time lecturer?
I’ve absolutely loved it! I really enjoy working with students who are passionate, motivated, and ambitious. It’s really rewarding when you help a student learn the trade, and they put into practice and get a successful piece of work published. Its also been really pleasing to see so many graduates secure full-time roles after leaving the university. I’m also very fortunate to work with a fantastic team of lecturers who all add different areas of expertise.
But I have learnt a lot over the past couple of years, as the industry is changing all the time. In my opinion, you can never really crack the sports journalism trade – and media in general. You’re constantly adapting, learning new skills, and experimenting with new things. I’m really grateful that I can carry on working as a sports journalist, as well as teaching because I think it benefits both the students and me. I can maybe look back at something that happened to me at the weekend, review it in a lesson and allow the students to give me feedback on what I could have done differently.
I’ve done two complete years of teaching now, and I’m really looking forward to my third!
Debutants shine, fifth League Cup upset, positive news on injury front and why new staff member’s arrival is a coup – verdict on Cheltenham Town’s Carabao Cup first round win at Peterborough United https://t.co/vhvApLxm1n #ctfc #CarabaoCup
— Jon Palmer (@JonPalmerSport) September 6, 2020
“IT’S ALL ABOUT PUTTING YOUR SKILLS INTO PRACTICE, AND NOT JUST RELYING ON THE CLASSROOM STUFF!”
Reflecting on your experience so far, what would you say are the most valuable skills when looking to break into the industry?
Yes, it’s important to have the right qualifications, but I would say that gaining experience is just as essential. Putting the hours in during the school holidays, and getting your name out there will really put you in good stead. I would also encourage people to try and build industry contacts and get to know people. It’s all about putting your skills to practice, and not just relying on the classroom stuff!
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.