There is a brilliant episode of the Simpsons in which Sideshow Bob runs for Mayor of Springfield, using mass voter fraud to eventually win a landslide victory. As a suspicious Bart and Lisa approach Smithers in an underground car park a la Watergate, an excited Lisa exclaims: “This is so cool, Bart. We’re just like Woodward and Bernstein!”
That level of childish excitement is close to how I felt last Sunday, when I along with around 20 other aspiring journalists visited the Guardian offices in King’s Cross to attend a football journalism ‘Masterclass’.
I had slept for barely four hours the night before. I knew I wasn’t going to be given a tour of the all-action newsdesk, featuring frantic reporters with loosened neckties covering their phones with one hand and screaming “HOLD THE FRONT PAGE!”, but all the same, I knew it could be something pretty special. (In fact, someone who has been around the news section described it to me as surprisingly serene – and certainly not of the All The President’s Men variety).
And special it was. For me, an unashamed Guardian fanboy, simply walking into blazingly colourful reception area would have constituted a decent day out. Instead what I got was a series of workshops focusing on the essentials of world-class football writing, including match reports, minute-by-minute commentaries and getting a foothold in the industry.
I will not bore anyone with a blow-by-blow account of the day’s events. What the day did do, however, is make me realise that at the age of 27 I finally know what I should be doing. What the day also provided was a sense that the world of journalism was not seperate to my own, and with the right amount of practice, training and dedication it might be something tangible.
It also disintegrated my frankly ignorant and stereotypical impression that journalists were at war with PR. Our lead tutor, David Hytner, spoke about the relationships that are built between press officers, journalists, managers and players. They are based on mutual trust and respect for one another’s professions and the understanding of constraints that come with them. Of course frictions occasionally arise and some are not resolved, but it was made clear that active working relationships across the different professions are mutually beneficial.
Let’s not get carried away. The day I get frogmarched out of an Old Trafford press conference at Fergie’s behest (yes, I do think he’ll still be there at that point) will probably never come. I can sit here and pontificate all I like about how it’s a good thing I’ve realised that Premiership press officers aren’t the enemy, but there’s a lot of work ahead.
My fellow masterclass-mates and I know that we’ve been given an advantage.
Let’s hope I can make the most of it.