sports gazette

INSIDE THE INDUSTRY: Matt Lawton on being the 'Sports Journalist of the Year'

Published: 31 May 2017

To conclude our 'Inside the Industry' series, Sports Gazette spoke to sports journalism royalty, Matt Lawton, about his road to the top and the challenges of becoming the Sports Journalist of the Year.

In an age where graduate schemes and work placements lead the way in entry-level jobs to journalism, it’s always satisfying to see the story of someone who’s worked their way up.

This is what the Daily Mail's chief sports reporter, Matt Lawton, did. The Croydon-born journalist, with a passion for athletics, cycling and football, started at 16 at the Croydon Advertiser.

From studying at Loughborough and City, his career took him to the Western Daily Press and Daily Telegraph before arriving at the Daily Mail.

There, Matt has won the British Journalism Awards Sports Journalist of the Year two years in a row- in 2015 for the Malkay Mackay texting scandal, and 2016 for the Team Sky controversy.

It’s clear that Matt had a deep passion for the coverage of sport, but where did it all start?

(Credit: Daragh Minogue)

Matt said: “I was quite a keen runner and my ultimate dream would have been to run in the Olympics and then turn to journalism.

“However I realised there were people who were paid to cover the biggest sporting events in the world, so the idea of doing this was brilliant to me.

“Yes, it won’t make you as much money as being a lawyer or a banker but friends who do those jobs always seem quite envious of me!”

Matt made the move from the Telegraph to the Daily Mail a few years ago, saying it was a better job on offer.

“I was the northern football writer for the Telegraph,” Matt said. “And I was offered the chief football writer job at the Mail.

It’s very rare that something just drops in your lap

“It was simply promotion- Henry Winter wasn’t going anywhere at the time!”

Matt spent some time at the Daily Mail as an executive sports editor but returned to reporting later.

“I don’t think I’ll go back to editing, certainly not in its current form,” Matt said.

“Even though I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, I don’t think I really understood newspapers until I went and did that for a year.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it- I just didn’t enjoy it as much as being a reporter!

“To actually produce and edit a section, it’s quite a fulfilling thing to do but I love being a reporter. For me, as a journalist there’s no greater buzz than breaking a story- it’s the best feeling professionally!”

Matt has taken on some tough assignments in his stellar career but the big question is which one was the toughest?

Matt said: “The Malkay Mackay story was challenging.

“We felt we were on very secure ground because we had documents to support the claims but there were legal challenges to the story, so that was a pretty tough day at the office.

“Most stories require a lot of effort, and the Qatar 2022 story was no different. It’s very rare that something just drops in your lap.

“With some stories, it’s about building relationships which can take years before you get a story like that, so they all have their different challenges.”

We hope you enjoyed our 'Inside the Industry' series! Check out the rest below:

Matt Cooke, Lead for UK, Ireland and Nordics, Google News Lab

Emma Paton, Sub-editor & Digital journalist, Sky Sports News

Hugh Woozencroft, BBC Sportsday presenter

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