sports gazette

Interview: Daragh Minogue on BJA 2016 and Public Interest Journalism

Former FA Chairman Greg Dyke and Olympic gold medallist Susannah Townsend presented the Sports Journalism Award on behalf of St. Mary's
Published: 9 Dec 2016

Chief Sports Reporter at the Daily Mail, Matt Lawton, won the Sports Journalism award at the British Journalism Awards in London on Tuesday 6th December. Afterwards, Daragh Minogue, course leader of the MA in Sports Journalism at St Mary’s University, spoke to us about why the university is sponsoring the award this year and the importance of public interest journalism.

"To see Olympic gold medallist Susannah Townsend, who is now one of our students, and former BBC Director General and FA Chairman, Greg Dyke, currently a Visiting Professor at St. Mary's, hand Matt his award tonight was a special moment for us.

"It shows how far we have come since we set up the MA in Sports Journalism just six years ago," said Daragh.

The reasons behind the university’s decision to sponsor the award, while obvious in one aspect, are in fact two-fold.

"Of course, St Mary's will get some good publicity from sponsoring the award; it underlines that we are a world leading university for sport.

"This was not however my main reason for asking our university to sponsor the award. I am more interested in the journalism. Although we focus on sport, it signposts to our students that the MA is committed to public interest journalism,” Daragh explained.

“Reporters like Matt Lawton can offer real inspiration and insight, especially during a time when the industry is undergoing so much change. I'm delighted he's coming to talk to the students in the New Year,” he added.

Daragh went on to mention a recent tweet from Gary Neville that highlights the adversity that journalism is facing these days, sometimes wrongly.

Neville objected to a Daily Mirror story that ran with the headline 'Gary Neville leaps to Jose Mourinho's defence after another disappointing performance'. It was based on Neville’s tweets earlier in the day that Manchester United were struggling in the Premier League because of their commitments in the Europa League.

Reporters like Matt Lawton can offer real inspiration and insight, especially during a time when the industry is undergoing so much change.

"Neville may be on to something about the direction of online content, but on this occasion, he was wrong. First, he picked the wrong story. The Mirror saw his earlier tweets as a defence of Mourinho and his former club and wrote it up accordingly. I’ve read them and they don’t twist his words,” said Daragh.

"He also picked the wrong journalist. The author, Jack Rathborn, is one of our former students, who finished his degree in September with a distinction. Jack is a talented, thoughtful, hard working journalist with a bright future.

"Neville has 3.49 million followers on Twitter and he's been working in the media long enough to know that Twitter is now a major source of news stories and that his tweets and comments as a pundit on Sky Sports have huge currency. I’m naturally biased, of course, but I would defend Jack’s article not because he is one of our graduates, but because the story was accurate,” Daragh added.

He continued: "I don't think Neville could have picked a worse time to make such a daft sweeping statement. It was the same week that print journalists led the way exposing the extent of historic sex abuse in British football. This is public interest journalism at its best that will have far reaching consequences for the sport.”

“There is a huge difference between Jack's Twitter story and Matt Lawton's award-winning journalism, but they share a commitment to reporting the truth. And this is what matters. With so much fake news and clickbait online these days, journalism courses need to focus on truth and accuracy more than ever”.

St Mary’s University offers full time and part time postgraduate courses in sports journalism. More information here:

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