Practical Sports Reporting Lessons part 1

My intro to Suncorp Super Netball, as a match report for Netball Scoop, has been … enlightening.

On the media bench, we have a mixture of seasoned journalists and inexperienced reporters, such as myself. The netball aside, this mixture of experience is one of the reasons I love this gig. I have had a chance to share my obsession with netball, help out those reporters and photographers who aren’t as enthused as myself, and also to learn from those more knowledgeable than me. Here are just some of the things I have learned in the past two weeks:

My first Suncorp Super Netball media badge. Just a tad excited

1. Allow plenty of time, pre-game, just in case

At both games (one in Brisbane and the other on the Sunshine Coast) I have hit snags in my pregame preparation. The first game, in Brisbane, I couldn’t get in because my pass wasn’t at the gate, which left me hanging around outside for 30 minutes waiting for someone from the home team to bring me a pass. The second game, I got lost on the way to the sports centre. Ordinarily, these mishaps would have left me frazzled and cursing about how little time I had to sort myself out. But, because I left an hour leeway, I was only slightly frazzled (and only cursed a little bit).

2. Be creative with questioning

It seems obvious, but still needs to be said – don’t ask the same questions every week! These athletes do numerous interviews in the lead up to the game and post-match. They get sick of answering the same questions and, your readers won’t enjoy reading the same answers week-in, week out.

View of the media bench. Something intense must have been happening. Image courtesy of Simon Leonard, Netball Scoop

3. There is an unspoken hierarchy amongst journalists

There is one journalist who, I found out last week, will be at every game that I am at, this season. He is one of the aforementioned seasoned journalists, and his writing is amazing. But, my initial impression of him was that he was rude. He butted-in and controlled the interviews and dismissed the athletes before anyone else had a chance to ask questions. On discussion with a fellow reporter, I learned his name and found out the reason for his ‘abrupt’ nature: deadlines! So, rather than allowing this comrade to get under my skin, I have learnt to allow him to control the interviews, his questions are better than mine anyway (there’s a learning experience from remembering his line of questioning).

4. Don’t be afraid to speak up

Allow the hierarchy, but do not allow the other journalist to dismiss the athletes (or coaches) until you have asked your question. I learnt this lesson in week two when I tried to ask a question, got spoken over-the-top-of, and ‘control-journo’ then dismissed the athlete. Lucky for me, the very gracious athlete heard my attempted question, and at the conclusion, put her hand on my shoulder after the interview and said, quite forcefully to the other journalists, ‘hang-on everyone’, then looked at me ‘you had a question?’. It turns out this question was of interest to the non-netball-minds in our group. Speaking up shows the others that you know you belong there. They will respect you for it.

5. Interview the lesser known names

During week two’s post-match interviews, I was able to speak with some of the less familiar faces of the teams. And, to be honest, I preferred these interviews. These athletes didn’t have an arsenal of preformed responses and were far more obliging with their time. These interviews felt more candid, which allowed me to garner some valuable insight into the team’s inner-workings.

Interviewing Firebird's captain, Gabi Simpson, after their Round 2 Suncorp Super Netball win over the Sunshine Coast Lightning. Photo courtesy of Simon Leonard, Netball Scoop

As the season progresses, I am sure I will be able to learn more. So far, it seems that what I was taught at uni about match reporting, has only applied to writing the report, not on how to gather the information or on the culture of the media bench. I have 12 more games to attend and much more netball to write about, so stay tuned!

You can read my reports on the Netball Scoop website.

North Mackay, Queensland

ABN 76 822 140 489

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