5 things we learnt from BBC sports journalist Ian Moss
Ian Moss, Assistant Editor for Sport at BBC News, came to meet the MA Sports Journalism students at St. Mary’s University last week.
Moss studied and worked for a short time as a graphic designer before retraining in journalism, starting out in local radio, then joining BBC TV Sports News in London in 2006. He helped relaunch the sports news service when the department moved to Salford in 2011, and now runs the sport bulletins on the BBC News Channel and Radio 5live.
He also trains and recruits new staff at BBC Sport, so if anyone in sports broadcasting knows what newly qualified journalists should know, it’s Ian Moss.
1) Less is more
There are now more ways than ever to present news content to audiences, but some news outlets are guilty of dumping far too much material online. The worst model, according to Moss, is putting content online that didn’t make it to air. If it didn’t make the broadcast version, we should seriously question why it's going on the website. When it comes to producing online content, particularly video, less is more.
2) Entry-level job expectations
Coming from courses in which you are expected to do everything from writing to broadcasting and everything in between, the reality of a first job may be a bit underwhelming. Performing basic and often menial tasks that don’t meet your talents is, however, an experience every graduate needs to embrace.
Do everything to the best of your ability and demonstrate your enthusiasm, getting involved where possible, and you will soon be finding yourself doing jobs more fitting of your ability. This also applies to work experience. You must take advantage of these as much as possible and try and get involved as much as you can.
3) Think about the future
Journalism and news is constantly changing, with new platforms and technologies emerging every day. As a broadcaster, what is particularly key here, according to Ian, is thinking about your relationship with your audience and how that is possibly going to change in the near future.
Journalists that can predict or pre-empt these changes will have a head start on others, and will be a promising employment prospect for many news outlets. Ian also urges aspiring journalists to have clear ambitions for themselves and their future in the industry.
4) Interview tips
Interviews with sports professionals are difficult to arrange these days, and when they do happen a media minder is usually hovering in the background, ready to step in if they don’t like your questions.
Watching a video of Ian trying to interview Wayne Rooney just before Euro 2016 we heard Rooney’s PR manager repeatedly interrupt, most memorably when Ian asked: “Are you droppable?”. Our PR villain argued that Ian’s questions were deviating from the ones they had agreed, but Ian told us he never sends questions out in advance, only broad topics.
The video was never aired. Ian’s advice: never give the PR people copy approval. This compromises your independence as a journalist. Leaving the tougher questions to the end of the interview also gives you a chance to build up a rapport. Strike a good balance between being assertive and cordial.
5) Manage your time
Ian’s final bit of advice focuses on time management, particularly when you have a job. Managing your time is essential to doing your job to the best of your ability and you must leave yourself ample time to get around. If you are late for a broadcast, ‘DON’T RUN’. The BBC’s Olly Foster found this out the hard way: