Journo Talk 1: Jarrod Kimber tells me to get real

I am hoping this might turn into a semi-regular feature, in which proper cricket journalists talk about their jobs while I grow increasingly jealous and bitter.

First up, it’s ESPN Cricinfo’s Jarrod Kimber. 

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By Sam Blackledge

When Jarrod Kimber replies to my e-mail, I feel a twinge of excitement.

This could be it, I think. My ticket to the inner sanctum. Another step closer to the dream.

Then I read his answer to my first question: ‘What advice would you give to a budding cricket journalist?

“Find a niche,” he says.

“Just being a cricket writer isn’t going to get you anywhere unless you are lucky enough to pick up a gig with a newspaper, and even then you probably need to be known for something to get a foot in the door anywhere.

“You need to specialise in something and be known for that, because cricket is so big, so vast, that trying to make it without something you are known for would be very hard.

“So your best bet is to find something that no one is covering or focusing on, and do that.”

Translation: good luck, kid.

1

 

In the space of a few years Jarrod has gone from the enfant terrible of cricket blogging, littering the web with snarls of ‘fucken’ this and ‘Christ’s sake’ that, to an established – if not quite establishment – journalist.

He insists the potty-mouthed voice of Cricket With Balls, the anarchic site where it all started, was just a character.

“It was never really going to cross over to the mainstream,” he says.

“The way I write now is probably more like how I wrote before I wrote about cricket: long form pieces, telling stories.

“If anything it just took me a long time to come back to that in cricket, partly because I created this other identity.

“But also things change. I’m a father now, I’m almost ten years older than when I started.

“I also learnt too much about how the cricket administration sausage was made, which meant I stopped being comfortable making the players into villains.

“I still have the character of Cricket With Balls, and am working on a novel in his voice, but for now am happy with how I am writing.”

The contents of the sausage were revealed in Death of a Gentleman, the 2015 documentary Jarrod made with fellow reporter Sam Collins.

They set out to explore the future of Test cricket, but stumbled into a murky world of secret ICC meetings, questionable financial governance and intimidation.

I ask Jarrod whether, given the growing awareness of corruption, drug abuse and dodgy dealing, sports journalists are now required to think more like news reporters.

“One of the things I love about writing on sport is that you always get the chance to write about other things within it,” he says.

“Business, power, race, politics, all of it is right there.

“The problem with many sports writers is that they started working when their job was turning up at a ground or a press conference and reporting what happened.

“You would hope the future involves more sports writers breaking stories and not fearing retribution (which does happen), that more people look into the bigger picture, not just the day-in day-out nature of it. But you could say the same of pretty much all of society.

“Sport is corrupt. It is poorly run. The best interests of the sport are not being looked after and there are tonnes of stories out there.

“Sport has never been this corrupt, and there are more sports journalists than ever before.

“Instead of just regurgitating content they should be questioning people and organisations.”

I became slightly obsessed with Jarrod and Sam when they teamed up as ‘Two pricks at the Ashes’ and later ‘The Chuck Fleetwood-Smiths’, trying not to corpse their way through a series of video blogs from Test grounds around the world.

Their mock homo-erotic relationship, and the simple fact that they appeared to be having the most tremendous fun, brightened up many a dark winter night.

These days Jarrod is still hovering around the boundary edge, soaking up the atmosphere and putting the cricket into perspective with typical panache for readers of Cricinfo and listeners to his TalkSport podcast.

I’m interested to know whether, like many news reporters, the cricketing press pack are worried about the way the industry is heading.

“I think clickbait is dying a natural death at the moment,” he says.

“It will be replaced by something else, perhaps worse. The listicle is the thing now, but even that is not as full-on as it was a year or two ago.

“Long form has actually had something of a comeback, and I would say now there are more long articles written about cricket than at any time in history.

“I think what will go from cricket writing is match reports being the major form of writing.

“We can see the highlights now easier than ever before. What we need is the analysis, the context and the story.

“The best match reports often did this, but there is no need to give the entire story of a day’s play anymore, just take out what matters.”

Twenty20 has revolutionised the modern game, but it’s not just players and coaches who have had to adapt their approach.

Jarrod says a T20 match report is “about as important as a fart in a mooncup”, and believes journalists must keep pace as the game continues to evolve.

“The sport will dictate the changes and the writers and editors will follow,” he says.

“There won’t be many in the media leading the way, just like the administrators don’t lead the way.

“The sport leads, the rest follow.”

Follow Jarrod on Twitter here.

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