News Associates welcomed four sports journalists for an evening of top tips and invaluable insight into the exciting and fast-paced world of sports journalism.

We heard from MailOnline sports reporter Tum Balogun, Sky Sports News reporter Fadumo Olow, Formula 1 duty editor Alasdair Hooper and bunkered content producer Ben Parsons. (Job roles at the time of the workshop in January 2024.)

They discussed the importance of having a diverse skill set, talked about embracing every opportunity and offered their best networking advice. 

Here News Associates trainee George Nash shares what he learnt from our panellists.

All four panellists completed their NCTJ training with News Associates but each took a very different pathway into sports journalism.

Fadumo, a recipient of the Journalism Diversity Fund, studied sports science at university. She landed a role at The Telegraph while completing her 40-week part-time course with News Associates.

Moving from print to broadcast in her current role at Sky Sports, Fadumo highlighted the work of organisations like The Black Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMS) for enabling her to build industry contacts.

@fadumo_oo Stormzy with his all star 5-a-side team for @skysports Would @chunkz make your team?! Full interview is linked in bio #sport #football #merky #stormzy #manchesterunited #chunkz ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

History and politics graduate Alasdair, who also co-founded and co-presents the podcast SportSpiel, started out as a regional news reporter before pivoting to sport, while Tum completed an architecture degree before embarking on a career in sports journalism.

Ben, who graduated from The School of Journalism in 2022, knew he wanted to be a reporter from an early age and began pitching and writing articles in his mid-teens.

The panel were all in agreement, however, that creating a portfolio of work was an important first step in showcasing your passion and commitment to editors and potential employers.

Tum said: “I had no formal work experience before studying at News Associates so I started a website about the men’s football Euros in 2021, writing my own on the whistle match reports and features.

“Then, when I was unemployed for six months, I started a YouTube channel to get to grips with editing skills and talking to camera.”

Alasdair added: “Having something like even a very basic WordPress blog or podcast to show your enthusiasm is key. It helps build contacts and gives you that experience. “And try to focus on the quality of what you produce rather than agonising over analytics and how many people are going to read or listen to it.”

The panel stressed the importance of adaptability in an increasingly digital landscape, and how having wide-ranging knowledge and a diverse set of skills can really help you stand out.

Fadumo said: “You don’t necessarily need to be an avid follower of every sport but it is a real bonus if you’re an all-rounder and have a general idea of what is going on in other sports.

“It really can help when interviewing sportspeople as there is a lot of overlap and athletes will often say how they’ve taken things from other sports.

“So I’d recommend keeping abreast of things going on across different publications. Read a newspaper, have something like the BBC sport app, and have access to a data-driven resource – it’s all about variation.”

Alasdair said: “The visuals of storytelling are so important now. It’s more than just the words. “So I think having basic graphic design skills and an ability to present data in graphs and graphics is so useful.

“You’ve got to think about how people are consuming things these days. You’ve got to be thinking about innovative, forward-thinking ways of creating content.”

@newsassociates_ Daily Mail deputy chief sports writer Ian Herbert’s top tips for getting into sports journalism ⚽️ #SportsJournalism #TopTips #News #PostgraduateJournalism #JournalismDegree #JournalismWorkshop #NCTJ #JournalismStudent ♬ ALMOST HOME – Mad Adix, Marc Steinmeier

The question of imposter syndrome was then put to the panel and while each admitted to grappling with it in their job, they emphasised that it gets easier with time.

Ben advised networking with fellow sports journalists as a way of both increasing self-confidence and getting your name out there.

Ben said: “Everyone experiences imposter syndrome but it’s easier to overcome when you realise everyone else is there for the same reason.

“So I’d recommend introducing yourself to as many people as possible. When I was at The Open I made a point of speaking to all the other golf writers. “It just helps build contacts and gets your name out there.”

With the sporting calendar more jam-packed than ever, the opportunity to cover a range of different sports has arguably never been greater.

As a final question, the speakers were each asked to give their best piece of advice for those hoping to break into the industry.

Alasdair said: “Listen. To interviewees and to colleagues both experienced and starting out.

“Ask as many questions as you can. What you might think is a stupid question is usually the one that doesn’t get asked.”

Ben added: “Getting in touch with your local paper is always a good start. Local media is a great place to get valuable experience.”

Fadumo said: “Take on advice and persevere with whatever you’re most passionate about. Above all, enjoy it as much as you can.”

While Tum added: “Under promise and overdeliver. You want to build up a reputation as someone who is dependable and reliable.”

To find out more about our NCTJ multimedia journalism courses, click here.

Find out how you can study sports journalism alongside your degree here. 

To sign up to our free journalism workshops, click here.