The second day of the annual ‘Media Festival’ week held at The University of Gloucestershire allowed for a series of fascinating talks on industry matters, with many graduates and current/ex professionals getting involved in an active capacity.
The most interesting talk held on the day was a discussion held by a select panel of active professionals currently working in the industry, as they sat down and gave a focal analysis on the relationship between modern-day journalism and it’s Public Relations (PR) counterpart.
The panel itself was made up of editors Mike Lowe, Rachel Sugden and Aidan McCartney 10 Yetis digital co-founder Andy Barr and media/communications managers Katherine Litchfield and Duncan Wood.
McCartney tailored my interest in particular, what with my desires and ambitions to achieve a role in a footballing-related media industry set-up at some point in my career, and took great interest as he spoke about some of the struggles he has faced while working for a media publication and confronted with ongoing PR battles.
McCartney, who now works as Sports Editor for the Bristol Post, covering all sport across the South Gloucestershire and North Somerset regions, had previously encountered some PR issues whilst working in his previous job at the Coventry Telegraph, admitted how the journalists had to “adapt” in the face of adversity.
He explained that a fellow reporter covering Coventry City FC, had leaked confidential information regarding players and the manager at the time, which had ultimately compromised their position as a respected local media outlet, accused of “looking to do damage to club morale”. Coventry City banned all Coventry Telegraph reporters from the club.
“Whilst I was at the Coventry Telegraph, Coventry City banned us from attending all press conferences and matches. We were still able to provide the content that our audience wanted to read, even if the access was severely restricted.”
“Although many outlets are now banned by clubs, it doesn’t stop you from covering the clubs you just have to adapt your way of working to get around it.
“However, you need to be able to adapt and develop your set of skills otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll be left behind.”
Due to the modern-day shift in power between the media and the clubs PR staff, a lack of trust among the two has meant that journalists as the outside-looking-in scope, must find fresh new ways of covering particular angles of stories, this whilst keeping it intriguing enough but adherent enough to club constraints, so as not to completely compromise the working relationship.
“Players and coaches are now media trained and clubs now view themselves as a separate entity in providing its fans with content rather than that of sports journalists.
“Our job as journalists is to tell stories.
McCartney highlighted the “fan-lead” approach as one successful way in which this bridge has been kept intact through all of the hardship.
“Despite clubs now serving themselves after previously having to go to journalists for content, we still attend press conferences and speak to clubs daily”, said Aidan.
“We’ve adopted a more of a fan-led approach which has given us more control over what we put out and the audience certainly seems to be enjoying it. We use fan reaction to create content such as podcasts, videos and articles. Opinion pieces are vital in leading with what the fans want, it means we don’t have to rely on the clubs as much for access.”
The media landscape is an ever-changing face of portrayal and as McCartney conceived it is “hard work” but ultimately it is “worth it” in meeting the modern demands of sports journalism.