Tag Archives: journo talk

Journo Talk 4: Ireland ‘must test ourselves against the best’

By Sam Blackledge

 JBT FOODTECH

This should be one of the most exciting periods in Irish cricket history.

The country is seemingly on the cusp of entering the Test arena, and last month its domestic game was awarded full first-class and List A status by the ICC.

But Ian Callender, cricket correspondent at the Belfast Telegraph, is not getting carried away.

The 57-year-old, once described as “the doyen of Irish cricket journalists”, started his career at the now defunct Carrickfergus Advertiser in 1980.

Ireland’s recent nine-wicket defeat to Australia – their 12th loss in 15 matches – was the 509th international Ian has reported on.

It’s little wonder he is in sceptical mood, and he pulls no punches when asked about the reason for this alarming dip in form.

“The big change has been since (former coach) Phil Simmons left and John Bracewell has come in,” Ian says.

“I am sure he is under a bit of pressure to hold on to his job. We just have not got the results.

“It’s gone downhill ever since he came on board and I don’t think it’s a coincidence unfortunately.

“The fielding has obviously suffered, there is not as much work being done on that.

“It’s hard to put your finger on it to tell you the truth. I haven’t really been able to work it out. The batting has not been able to get partnerships going, we rely too much on Ed Joyce, our one class player.

“Boyd Rankin is a big loss as well. We probably have not been able to get our best team on the field, particularly after the retirement of Trent Johnson and John Mooney.

“There are a lot of young players coming through, but they are probably going to take a year or two yet to make it on the international stage.”

 

Ireland hope to play their first Test as early as 2019 – possibly against England at Lord’s – and Ian says it would be welcome reward for years of hard work.

“The 2007 World Cup was the big changeover,” he says.

“People watched that Pakistan game who had never watched cricket before. Ever since then it has taken off, both on and off the field, and has become a lot more professional.

“Now the three-day game has been given first class status, that’s put us into the professional records.

“It’s going to be more professional setup, a lot more money so we can have more contracts. There are 23 contracted players at the moment, so that will go up a bit. A lot of players are still doing other jobs and having to take time off.

“We have dominated the four-day game, we’ve won four Intercontinental Cups.

“We will need to test ourselves. We’ve got people like Ed Joyce hanging around hoping to play Test cricket, he will be 40 by that time.

“Whether there are enough people coming through to hold their own, that’s still to be proven.

“We need more experience in the longer game.”

 

Like my other Journo Talk subjects, Ian fears for the future of traditional cricket journalism.

“It’s getting harder and harder, papers are losing advertising and losing circulation,” he says.

“The web-based stuff is the way to go. I do ball-by-ball commentary with Cricket Europe, so that helps me.

“It’s a big ask for people trying to break into newspapers.”

Would Test status boost Ireland’s interest in cricket, and therefore lead to more demand for coverage?

“That’s what we’re hoping for, that’s what everybody is hoping for, but only time will tell,” Ian says.

“The newspapers will have to grasp it and the TV as well. Cricket is such a time consuming game, it takes a lot of commitment to follow it.

“If there’s a big rugby or football game, cricket is always going to be relegated. It needs a big win, then you get the coverage. If you lose, you don’t. It has always been results-based.”

Are you a proper cricket journalist? Would you like to feature on Journo Talk? E-mail samblackledge@yahoo.com or tweet @samblackledge

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Journo Talk 2: There’s life in the old Selve yet

By Sam Blackledge


A 16-year first class playing career, followed by 32 more as broadcaster and writer, makes Mike Selvey one of the most respected voices in the cricketing world and well qualified to offer advice to newcomers.

But right now all that experience seems to be weighing heavy on the former fast bowler’s shoulders.

“I’ll be really honest,” he says. “I’m not sure I would want to be starting out now.

“There are plenty of people, brilliant young writers some of them, wanting to write about cricket, but traditional outlets are shrinking and the openings are just not there.

“The way forward for aspiring writers has to be digital, and within that to find a niche, either in style or in areas that others do not cover.

“For example, there are some who have made a speciality out of women’s cricket, which I think will expand massively during the next decade.

“The same applies to T20, in which I believe lies the game’s future.

“But also remember the adage: ‘It has never been easier to get published and never harder to get paid for it.’ Aspiring writers or journalists will find it a tough market place.”

Selvey, who moved into the Test Match Special commentary box after hanging up his bowling boots in 1984, says the job of a cricket journalist has changed “beyond all recognition.”

“When I started there was of course no internet,” he says.

“The newspaper industry was in a state of flux with new outlets starting. The business was still hot metal: typewriters, copy takers, finding phones to get copy through, using telex when abroad.

“Match reporting is still important but, sadly, largely around international cricket.

“Beyond that, there is an increasing emphasis on hard news stories (often not real news in an accepted sense, but self-generated ‘issues’); quotes stories (I have generally shied away from these, believing I was paid to give my opinion rather than parrot that of others); and clickbait, where internet traffic is now seen by some managements as a measure of journalistic worth.

“Writers in all outlets have to be mindful of what will attract this traffic and how it will be presented.”

He laments the fact that financial resources have not kept pace with the 24/7 nature of the job, saying the competition with football in particular is overwhelming.

What happens off the pitch has become just as important as events out in the middle, but I sense Selvey feels the balance sometimes tips too far towards breaking news.

“There have always been hard news stories – World Series Cricket, the D’Oliveira affair, match fixing – and it is important that the game is held to account when necessary, as long as it is done in an informed rather than simply emotive way, he says.

“Cricket, indeed sport, has always been about strong debate and opinions.”

Selvey left his job as The Guardian’s chief cricket correspondent last month.

He is not willing or able to discuss his feelings about this on the record, beyond saying he is “saddened” at an “undignified end” to a distinguished career.

Asked what the future holds, he says he has no intention of disappearing into the shadows.

“I’m 68 years young and have three 19 year olds, two of whom are at university and one who is applying for acting school, so I’m not ready for pipe and slippers yet,” he says.

“I suppose the freedom I have now might send me in directions I had never considered before.

“The one thing that has astounded me in recent weeks is the regard in which I seem to be held by colleagues, administrators and players.

“I have received overwhelming support, surprise dinners, unexpected awards. It has all been very humbling but at the same time a nice confidence boost for someone who has lacked that all too often.”

Are you a proper cricket journalist? Would you like to be featured on Journo Talk? Email samblackledge@yahoo.com or tweet @samblackledge

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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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