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Becoming a good sports journalist Written by Leon Mann @Leon_Mann
When Andy 'Tekkers' Ansah offered me the opportunity to write this blog, I was well up for it. But with so many issues I feel passionately about I was struggling for a subject to stick with. My mind was a hive of activity. Buzzing. I juggled a number of issues including racism in football, the rise of social media and power of PR in the game... before settling on tackling a question I get tweeted a lot: How did you get your job? I'm still relatively new to sports journalism and television. But these are the things I have learned and I wish I knew when I started out 5 years ago.
Getting a foot in the door
You may the best writer sports journalism has ever seen or maybe the most natural broadcaster to grace our screens. But the reality for us all is we need to start somewhere. Keep your initial goals realistic. To get noticed, learn and go onto impress you need to get a foot in the door. My entry-level job was as a Broadcast Assistant. It's a tough but important job helping the producers and presenter put their show together. I did this for 2 years before getting a break.
Work hard and use your time wisely
Obviously! You may say. But it's not that simple. I worked hard at my entry-level job then as soon as my shift finished I'd be pitching ideas to bosses, developing contacts and writing as much as I could do get published. Outside of my entry-level role my work was unpaid. I saw it as an investment in my own future. It eventually paid off and at the time I got a buzz from seeing my work published. In no time at all I'd built up an impressive portfolio of interviews to show the bosses what I was capable of.
I see this a lot in TV... People come into the industry and essentially try to broadcast exactly like Des Lynam, Clare Balding, Jim Rosenthal or Gary Lineker. Yes - we can all learn from these established figures, but ultimately by copying them you'll end up looking like you're doing a poor impression of them. Not a good look. Be yourself. Trust me... it's not easy. But if your comfortable in your own style you'll be a better broadcaster or writer.
Contacts are key
Having good contacts can be everything in this industry - but it's not as simple as having just having someone's number in your phone. It takes time to build up relationships with sportspeople, agents and club pr people. If you can achieve good relationships with contacts you'll be bringing in those exclusives time and time again. I find being yourself, not making outrageous promises and delivering fair and journalistically sound pieces will keep everyone happy.
Never stop learning
Everything I've written to this point I'm still working away at. I need to as I want to get better. I want to offer up better features, films and interviews. If you find yourself getting into a groove, or rut even, then make some time to evaluate the work you are delivering. You should be doing this all the time anyway. I remember first stepping into the newsroom and watching presenter constantly reviewing their bulletins. I'd think, 'bit weird, watching yourself back all the time', but they were identifying how they could improve.
It is easy to take yourself too seriously sometimes - no matter what job you are doing. Remember you are talking, producing or writing about something you love. Something trillions of people love. It's great to get paid to have an involvement in sport - so enjoy it. I firmly believe you'll go much further in your job if you do it with a smile. Ask Andy Ansah!
Do not be put off
There was a time I felt sports journalism wasn't for me. I didn't see many black or mixed race sports reporters who weren't former sports people. Nor did I see many young faces. This put me off. It shouldn't have. Sports journalism is for everyone no matter your background, gender or age. A more diverse sports industry is a better one as far as I'm concerned. But make no mistake about it. No one is handing out jobs, you've got to come with some tekkers to stand a chance. Getting there starts with believing in yourself.
Leon Mann is a sports journalist and film maker. You can follow him on twitter at @Leon_Mann
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Social Network SitesWritten by Mark Bright @mark__bright
I’m a big fan of social media, in particular, Twitter.
They say the modern day footballer is out of touch with the fan, well I believe through Twitter it's brought people closer.
We have more media outlets now than ever before: Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, Linked-In, Badoo, Mylife etc, and in many ways I think they have transformed how incidents are reported.
I joined Twitter in 2009. At that time only Darren Byfield, the former Aston Villa, Gillingham and Walsall player, and my former Crystal Palace team-mate Stan Collymore were the only players on it I knew.
I’m sure Twitter has surpassed all expectations. It's powerful, current, it leads the way in instantly informing people to news, be it good or bad anywhere in the world.
Having experienced the rise of the site and how celebrities have embraced it, I really believe it has given the fan access to people they would not normally get a peep out of.
The list of footballers on Twitter is long and distinguished. They engage with the fans, journalists can write articles on the tweets of players who they can’t otherwise get access too. When Fabio Capello resigned, players tweeted and their tweets were read out on 24-hour news channels.
Wayne Rooney said this, Rio Ferdinand said that or Joey Barton said the other. I saw Stan Collymore rubbish a journalist on twitter who wrote an article about the former Liverpool player. The journalist apologised and it was an egg on face situation.
There are many positives about Twitter but there are also some negatives. One is that anyone can have an account; setting one up is easy, you don’t even need to post a picture, and once you’re up and running, some feel they can abuse any celebrity they want.
Most footballers get abused on Twitter simply because football has embraced the social networking site, and any opposing fans think if a player posts something he disagrees with he can say what he likes.
Wrong. The Police have arrested and charged plenty of abusers on Twitter, many for racial slurs. Footballers aren’t exempt either. West Ham player Carlton Cole and Hammers new boy Ravel Morrison have both been charged by the FA, the latter under rule E3 for use of abusive and/or insulting words including a reference to a person's sexual orientation.
So the pitfalls are plentiful. A good rule of thumb is don’t say anything on Twitter that you wouldn’t say live on TV.
Recently we saw the furore surrounding Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. The United player accused the Uruguayan of racially abusing him. Normally the coverage of a story like that would have been covered by the various news channels.
The power of Twitter kicked in with full effect, views were exchanged with many believing there was a conspiracy to convict Suarez from the outset. I believe the story was bigger than it ever would have been had Twitter not been around.
One thing we know is it was an unsavoury period for one of England’s most successful football clubs. Only time will tell if the race row has damaged the great name of Liverpool FC.
Twitter can be used in so many positive ways too. Liverpool fans, former players, and celebrities asked the Twitter community to sign the online E-petition, where 100,000 signatures were needed calling for Hillsborough disaster Cabinet papers to be released. They were successful.
Abuse is plentiful on Twitter and many footballers just close their accounts. I suppose multi-millionaires just can’t be bothered with the hassle.
Used in the right way, though, Twitter is an engaging tool that can help with my job and to gauge public reaction to not just football stories, but breaking news on any subject. I have some very witty and funny followers. Some days I tweet more than others, it just depends on how I feel. What I like about twitter is, ask any question, and my followers will have the answer. At times, that’s priceless.
The Last TabooWritten by Natasha Henry
As a regular feature on my new site, I will be allowing you guys to write an article for my blog on a subject that is most relevant to you.
First up we have Natasha Henry (@NatashaSHenry)
The football world has been in shock and mourning since the tragic death of Wales manager, Gary Speed. The 42-year-old father of two was found to have taken his own life on Sunday morning, by his wife, Louise.
Much has been written about the footballer, the manager and more importantly, the man. And it is with heartfelt honesty that my thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends.
A lot has been said about his demeanour in the days leading up to his death. I am not a doctor, nor did I know Gary Speed or wish to speculate. But the words depression and mental illness have featured more often than not.
And it made me think; if a football manager was struggling with life or suffering with depression, is it any wonder he wouldn't feel able to come out an speak about it? In football as in the wider world; depression among men is the last taboo of mental illness.
One of the few to admit he has a problem has been Talksport pundit, Stan Collymore. The former Liverpool player has been very vocal about his issues in recent times, both in the media and on social-networking site, Twitter. Just last week he posted a lengthy tweet about one of his darker periods.
While some praise Collymore's honesty for being brave enough to share his demons with us, others belittle his illness, abuse him for being weak, or accuse him as using it as an excuse for his previous errors of judgement. At times like that, I wonder why he bothers. But I realise it's because he wants others to see it is okay to admit you are struggling or suffering, in order for them to find the strength to seek help.
The charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is aimed specifically at young men. In 2010; 75% of people that took their own lives were male, yet they are less likely than women to actually seek help.
Since Sunday, five footballers have apparently contacted the Sporting Chance clinic which was set up by former Arsenal and England player, Tony Adams, after he received treatment for his alcoholism. The PFA has also sent a guidebook to its 4000 members on how to handle depression. The guidebook is also being made available to 50,000 ex-professional footballers. It includes case studies and comments from PFA Chairman, Clarke Carlisle, Paul Gascoigne and Andy Cole.
Having himself been treated for depression and alcoholism in 2003 at the Sporting Chance clinic, Clarke said:
"Unsurprisingly players known for physical fitness rarely talk about mental distress.
"Indeed many may not recognise what it is to know or how to seek help for stress, anxiety or depression when it strikes."
German goalkeeper, Robert Enke, was one such player. A book about his life, written by his friend and author, Ronald Reng, recently won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. In it he spoke of the fear and shame Enke felt regarding his struggles. And the demons that forced him to take his own life by stepping onto a train track in 2009 at the age of 32. At the time his widow, Teresa, confirmed he had been struggling with depression for six years.
I find it surreal that in 2011, we accept so many controversial actions and opinions. Yet some cannot accept that so many men can suffer from this debilitating illness. By encouraging those in need to speak out and seek help, we have the opportunity to allow people to begin the slow road of dealing with this disease.
If someone admits they are an alcoholic or a gambling addict, we readily accept it and praise their honesty.
The least we can do is offer those struggling with mental illness, the very same courtesy.
Words by Natasha Henry.
Stars and StrikesWritten by Andy Ansah
I had the pleasure of working alongside some of the Manchester United first team to create the latest Betfair advert; Stars and Strikes.
We used bowling balls instead of footballs, which had its challenges but all the guys managed to adapt their "Tekkers" to accommodate the obstacles. Be sure to check the final advert on my showreel here
MOTD KickaboutWritten by Andy Ansah
Check this picture out of me from my recent appearance on MOTD Kickabout.
Had some great fun dropping some shapes for camera with presenter Sonali Shah and other guest Johny Pitts.
Making football fun- keep up the good work guys!
Wayne Rooney has Unbelievable TekkersWritten by Andy Ansah
Wayne Rooney with Tekkers Founder Andy Ansah who presented the England and Manchester United forward with his personalised Tekkers Hoody.
Tekkers Launches at Choice StoreWritten by Andy Ansah
The Tekkers team was delighted to be part of an excellent launch night at the brand new Choice Store, Lakeside Shopping Centre on Thursday 25th August 2011. Among those attending were Tekkers Co-Founder Andy Ansah, Arsenal FC footballer Emmanuel Frimpong and rapper Lethal Bizzle.
Above: Andy Ansah at the Tekkers Launch, Choice Store, Lakeside Shopping Centre
Above: Emmanuel Frimpong, Arsenal FC and rapper Lethal Bizzle at the Tekkers Launch, Choice Store, Lakeside Shopping Centre. Below: Freestyler Oliver Hayes entertained guests with a great display of Tekkers.
*These blog posts have been produced by 3rd party guests and do not necessarily represent the views or position of Andy Ansah