Shrewsbury School

Futures Feature - Becoming a Sports Journalist

Friday 4 December 2020

Sam Bayliss (Rt, 2013-2018) is currently part way through his third and penultimate year studying English Literature at the University of Edinburgh.

An aspiring journalist, Sam kindly put together the following article for current pupils who share the aspirations he has with regards to this profession. It is a super read and an excellent demonstration of how proactivity combined with awareness of abilities can lead to opportunities.

Mr Wain, Head of Futures

I was lucky enough to know from a relatively young age what I wanted to do in the future. An obsession with sport and an enjoyment of writing led me to settle on sports journalism.

With the realisation that there is more to life than Plymouth Argyle vs. Accrington Stanley, this interest has since refined itself into more traditional forms of journalism.

Currently in my third year as an English Literature student at the University of Edinburgh, I have recently had my first major breakthrough into the world of journalism. Earlier this month I had an article published by a national magazine, meaning I can now claim to share a platform with Richard Ingrams OS, Peter Hitchens, and many others.

Now one step closer to the real world of journalism, and as a relatively recent OS, I have been asked to reflect on what I was doing at Shrewsbury as I sought a career in journalism. Even if you are currently only dabbling with the idea of journalism there may hopefully be some useful pointers here.

Seeing your name credited alongside your work gives you a buzz regardless of whether anybody will read it. Bylines are what motivated me. They may feel unachievable, however The Shropshire Star and Wolverhampton Express and Star provided me with my first credits. I did work experience with them in my Fifth Form and Lower Sixth summers after getting in touch over email. They are all very friendly there and give you a good amount of freedom. This article was a back-page headline back in August 2017.

Clearly this cannot be done during term time, however there is plenty you can do to further your prospects in journalism whilst on school site. From time to time I would write reports of events for the newsletter; I am sure teachers will allow you the chance to give this a go if the opportunity arises. Joining the Creative Writing Society also gave me the opportunity to write every Thursday afternoon.

I never quite appreciated how lucky I was to have access to such a wide range of newspapers everyday in house. It goes without saying that any aspiring journalist should read them. I know the library certainly used to have a subscription to FourFourTwo football magazine. Such was my interest that during my time at school I had a few letters to the editor published in the magazine. Again, this is an achievable means by which to see your name in a national publication. It serves to build up that portfolio of clippings and works that will prove so important a few years down the line.

In Lower Sixth I set up a Twitter account designated to football trivia. The day Jamie Carragher followed the account was rather an exciting one. I kept it going for about a year, and whilst it may not have had a lasting effect on my prospects as a journalist, it provided me not only with niche knowledge, but a platform on which to engage with some of football’s most famous faces.

The importance of perseverance cannot be stressed enough. You can never be afraid of chasing people up. On a few occasions now a speculative email from me to an editor after a couple of weeks of silence resulted in an article being published.

Looking back, at school it is perfectly possible to give yourself a fairly solid grounding from which to pursue a career in journalism. University has allowed me to further this: it will for you too. With ambitions of entering an industry often perceived as dying, and that has been further ravaged by COVID-19, this is the least anyone can do.

Sam Bayliss

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