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Get experience, network and know the business of sports journalism – panel’s tips for Leeds Trinity students

Quality and persistence are key to a successful career in sports journalism, according to a panel of industry professionals speaking at Leeds Trinity University’s Journalism and Media Week today.

The panel of four speakers all emphasised the importance of getting practical experience to sell to an employer, and also networking to make contacts in the industry.

Yorkshire Voice The panel of sports journalists (clockwise from top left): panel chair, lecturer Darren Harper; Gavin Wilson, media manager at York City Knights; Thom Kirwin, head of Leeds United TV; Jake Millard, head of media at Featherstone Rovers; and Ryan Sparks, director of communications and commercial at Bradford City AFC

Ryan Sparks, director of communications and commercial at Bradford City AFC, said: “I began to learn how to network properly… You’ll build up a contact book of people you can call upon for help.”

Jake Millard, head of media at Featherstone Rovers and a Leeds Trinity graduate, said it was important to remain open to sports other than football in order to get that first foot in the door, whilst a tip from another Trinity alumnus, Gavin Wilson of York City Knights, was never to say no to anything.

The panel also highlighted the importance of social media in today’s world of sports journalism, with Wilson saying it was essential that students leave university with the knowledge they would need in this area.

“A module on social media, codes of conduct, etiquette, behaviour and how people act and react on social media would be useful to know,” he told the audience.

Yorkshire Voice Thom Kirwin, who discussed the business side of Journalism.

For Thom Kirwin, head of Leeds United TV, being knowledgeable about the business of sports journalism has become increasingly important – “an understanding of why clubs are investing time and money into resources that used to be done externally.”

Ryan Sparks agreed, highlighting how crucial understanding the business aspects of journalism is to clubs nowadays.

He said: “It’s about understanding how important elements of what we can achieve content-wise, and how that is for the bigger picture of the club.”

There was encouragement from the panel for students trying to get into the industry, with Jake Millard telling the audience that perseverance is key.

“Don’t get disheartened when you’re out there trying to make your way through the door,” he said.

Ryan Sparks highlighted how placements are a great way to attract employers’ attention.

He said: “Make yourself indispensable and make it very difficult for [a] business to carry on without you.”

The talk ended up a light note, with a question for Thom regarding Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa.

When asked how it was working with the enigmatic Argentinian, he said: “It’s nods, a thank you, and a Wayne’s world style bow when he walks past… He’s got a certain aura about him that’s for sure!”

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