James Muggeridge

“Sports journalism has been characterised as a form of “soft” journalistic practice, without the rigour and credibility of other forms of “hard” journalism. It was an area of journalism that was viewed as an uncritical booster and promoter of sport”. – Raymond Boyle, University of Glasgow

Sports writing is a type of journalism that is refined to its own niche market. Unlike other forms of journalism such as crime, national affairs, and business journalism etc., sports journalism can only truly be understood and viewed by a sports-watching audience. However, there is the ability to merge forms of journalism together in collaboration. Sports journalism has recently collaborated with business journalism to document the financial and marketing sides of sporting events and corporations. For my project, I have aimed to move away from the conventional sports journalism practice and have tried to incorporate a storytelling convention into my writing. By doing this, I have tried to increase my target market and expanded from the sports-watching audience. Through telling a story through the athletes’ eyes, I have created a more emotive form of writing which has increased my interaction statistics from previous semesters. This is ‘Mugg Sport’, the modern-day sports journalism redefined.  

CONTEXT

Coming into the second semester of my final year at the University of Wollongong, I was in a position where I was struggling to find my own niche within the Communications and Media Degree. In starting my Bachelor of Communications and Media and Journalism, I decided to hone in on my passion for photography and videography. I created JJ and Co, a photography and videography platform which would aim to showcase my design and creative skills. This was a platform that gained over 300 followers and obtained hundreds of likes and views, however, was not a feasible career path. Moving into my second year of university, I decided to pursue journalism. I and a few aspiring journalists decided to create a media and news platform called ‘Ransack’. An Australian news outlet which stretched from politics to entertainment to sport. I myself decided to head down the road of sports journalism, finally selecting my own niche within the Communications and Media degree. I was content with writing and decided to incorporate my passion for design within the Instagram platform. However, unlike my original ‘JJ.and.Co’ platform, I didn’t gain enough traction from my intended targeted audience. My content was plain and simple. Sports news from around Australia and basically news which had already been documented over large-scale sports-media outlets. 

‘MUGG SPORT’

Arriving at the BCM302 subject I knew I had to make it a big project. A project which would truly showcase my passion for sports writing and sports journalism. Yet it couldn’t just be your everyday news. In collaboration with my journalism course, I decided to intertwine my feature writing subject with the advanced media subject to create a platform that would incorporate feature articles on the topic of world sport. ‘Mugg Sport’ was started as a platform to promote positive sports news articles on athletes around the world. By branching out of pure sports media content, I was able to increase my audience via not only showing positive on-field stories, however, showing positive stories off the field.

CONTENT

“The prototyping activates the idea, giving it a few material features and some density, and forcing the refinement that comes from making something.”

Mugg Sport started with a prototype. An idea which was sampled through a 3-post-a-week aethetic collaborating journalism with design. There were only a few material features, however, when distributing the first article, I framed an idea for my audience to see.

My first article was on English Footballer and advocate, Marcus Rashford. Rashford had always been known as England football’s most promising young talent and had shown his prowess in recent years. However, during COVID-19, Rashford decided to do what not many footballers have done in the past. In the wake of prime minister, Boris Johnson’s decision to cancel England’s legislation for free school meals, Rashford decided to advocate against the prime minister’s decision. In teaming up with the charity, ‘Fair Share’, Rashford decided to deliver meals himself to the families that needed it the most. This act of pure kindness along with countless other examples of charitable work earned Rashford the prestigious MBE. An article that acted as a catalyst to start my new journey, the post gained 45 likes and received plenty of feedback. 

After a few weeks of writing feel-good stories on famous athletes in the world of sport, I decided to dive out of my comfort zone and seek an interview. After drafting countless messages, I finally decided to reach out and ask Cronulla Sharks young gun, Franklin Pele, for an interview. Within 10 minutes he replied and granted my interview within a few days’ time. A true breakthrough for my journalistic work would act as a catalyst to change in my writing and my own self. The article gained 315 views on the website, 78 likes on Instagram, several shares, upwards of 40 comments and 469 accounts reached. From that point on I decided to reach out for interviews with athletes from different sports. My next interview was with Adelaide Striker, Liam Scott, who had recently made his debut. Not only did he make his first professional debut, yet he had made the move away from his home in Sydney to pursue a career in professional cricket, therefore there was that added news element other than just his sporting career. Courtney Newbon was next. A 20-year-old goalkeeper who had made five professional W-League appearances and had recently sealed a new two-year deal with Perth Glory. We spoke about the new move as well as her passion for advocating for climate change. A multi-faceted news story that appealed to a wider target market as it was further shared by Newbon herself.  My latest post was with Luke Bain. A 20-year-old professional rugby league player from Bathurst and born in America. Luke had already played for three NRL clubs and had yet to make his debut at each one. It was interesting to go into detail about the different clubs and his take on training and how important your mental state is when trying to reach your goals. 

Four interviews, three different sports and a wealth of experience with professional athletes, I have now obtained the motivation and dedication to take this project to a new level. I thoroughly believe that this project can be scaled even higher with a larger audience and a market that has the potential to grow.  

PROJECT TRAJECTORY

Starting the semester out, I intended to write articles about athletes and their positive stories, however, after completing interviews with professional athletes, my project intentions took a positive change. I decided to interview younger athletes and write articles showcasing their journey to date and promote the athlete both on and off the field. After five interviews, I know now that their potential for growth and the projects future trajectory is limitless if completed right.  

A journalism technique that I have tried to get good at is the art of interviewing. The idea of an interview has molded and developed through time. In the current age, interviewing is defined as more of a conversation. A conversation between interviewer and interviewee designed to excrete the necessary information in a light manner. In interviewing athletes, I aimed to take a conversational approach which allowed for me to ask personal questions. When asking more personal questions, I made sure I didn’t cross any boundaries and more tried to get a grasp of who the athlete was off the field rather than on it. Through experience, I believe I have gotten better at interviewing and will only increase the projection of this project into the future as there is potential to expand globally.  

Another factor contributing to the positive projection of this project is the attraction I have gained from professional journalists. I have received an offer for an internship from the work that I have done throughout the semester. A positive step in the right direction and a personal reward from the work I have done throughout this past semester.  

UTILITY

There are many sports media outlets in the current digital world. However, when looking at the Australian digital landscape, there aren’t many which highlight a variety of sports and with an inviting aesthetic.  

The first step in creating my own platform was personalising my content to cater for my audiences needs. Adding my own writing style and designing my posts in my own personalised way, separated my content to other platforms, whilst also being free to view unlike large media outlets. 

I tried to create a brand position that would separate me from other competing sports-journalism platforms. “Brand positioning has been defined by Kotler as “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”. By prototyping a 3-post-strategy and an aesthetic design which I iterated from the start, I aimed to create “brand associations” in my consumers minds to make them perceive my content in a different way.  

“A brand positioning strategy, therefore, involves creating brand associations in customers’ minds to make them perceive the brand in a specific way”.

 Creating a brand position through the uniqueness of my writing and a visually aesthetic design has separated ‘Mugg Sport’ from other competing platforms.  

TEACHINGS AND LESSONS

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

When starting my project, all wanted to focus on was writing about athletes and their stories, yet I never thought I would get the opportunity to interview these athletes. It took a lot for me to come out of my shell. I had always been scared of getting myself out there and showing my work. The most ironic thing was the fact that I had always wanted to be a journalist, therefore to get to that stage I would have to show people my work at some stage.

Thanks to friends and family, I was able to get out of my comfort zone and start interviewing. By even reaching out to athletes, I started to realise that failure can be viewed as a learning oppurtunity. I was advised by the people around me to go after interviews and not just wait for ones to come to me. It took a lot of guts personally to ask for my first interview with Franklin Pele but when looking back I’m so glad I did it. This lesson has not only changed the way I interview and write but the way I live life.

Connections are important 

I’ve been told throughout my journalism course that making connections are important, but I didn’t truly know how important these connections made actually were. With the Franklin Pele article, I gained traction from other outlets and athletes which connected me with other people. Friends and family would also tell me about athletes that they knew who would be willing to do an interview. Everything became surreal as I started to line athletes up for the upcoming weeks.

All connections matter, there is no weak connection. All athelets from all sports and all corners of the globe are welcome within my platform. I feel like it’s my job with the platform I have to share and showcase different types of stories to my audience. In doing this, I create a broad platform with an even broader audience.

Refer back to target market – feedback loop 

All feedback helps with the progression of my project. In particular, I have used the feedback loop to direct the way in which I create my content. I started with a prototype which was simply sampled through using the FIST principle in the opening weeks with the Marcus Rashford and the Patty Mills post. After positive feedback from my audience, I decided to frequently iterate and create a brand position through my work. The feedback, whether its comments, shares or positive messages, has been integral to the success of my project throughout this semester.

REFERENCES

Sports Journalism – Raymond Boyle

Alternative facts and fake news entering journalistic content production cycle – Marju Himma-Kadakas

Design Fiction: From Props to Prototypes – J Bleecker

Interviewing, Quoting and the Development of Modern News Journalism – Mats Ekström

Conversational Interviewing – Randstad Canada

Better than Free – Kevin Kelly

A Simple Definition of Brand Positioning – Marion

The road to self-leadership development – Stanley C Ross

What is a Feedback Loop? – Laura Fitzgibbons

The Symplicity Cycle – Dan Ward

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