Jake Niall, chief AFL reporter at Fox Sports

Jake Niall, Chief Sports Reporter at Fox Sports
"People who initiate things and who are self-starters, those traits will out-weigh a lot of other abilities." Fox Sports' Jake Niall tells Halle Skews what it takes to be a successful journalist.

How did you get started?

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do once I had finished at university, but I knew I’d always had an interest in journalism. I was actually a bit disorganised and didn’t apply for any cadetships and I guess you could say I meandered my way into it. I worked on a couple of papers in the Mornington Peninsula and very briefly in Cheltenham. Then I moved and worked on the afternoon paper called The Herald, which subsequently merged into The Herald Sun, which was a great training ground.  After that I moved oversees and started writing for The Age and Sunday Age and initially got a full time job there (initially The Sunday Age) when I returned, which I then stayed at for 21 years before moving to Fox Sports around five months ago.

Print or TV. which outlet would be a better place to start as a young journalist?

I always thought that print media was the best place to start because there was more journalistic rigor. I generally think the written or print side aspect has always been stronger, but whether that continues because the financial models are being challenged, I don’t really know.

Could you describe one of the biggest highlights of your career?

When I lived in the US of America I travelled down to Mexico and wrote about an assassination of a presidential candidate. I even went to the site where it happened and it was quite an interesting experience just to talk to the locals about what had happened. I mean I didn’t know much, but going to the actual place was a great experience.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced while working in the journalism industry?

I’d have to say maintaining professional standards at a time when there’s cutbacks going on, and trying to do the best job you can even when you’re being asked to do more in a shorter amount of time.

 How has the industry changed since you first started out as a journalist?

When I first started there were main pillars, such as Channel 7, Channel 9, ABC, and the main newspapers which included The Age, Herald Sun, The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Now what’s happened is that the institutional media has withered and pay T.V. has come in, along with digital media which has made it a lot broader. The digital models have really changed the journalism industry. Anyone can create a website now, you just have to have a strong and interested audience.

Was there ever a time when you thought maybe this wasn’t for you?

I’ve never felt that about journalism but I think that more about whether I should have been a sports journalist. I probably never questioned journalism really, but what I did question was sport. I had a bit of a passion towards politics, and I probably could have done okay in that field. At times I have wondered about that choice, but it’s a bit late to change now. I do love sport and there wasn’t exactly a burning ambition to become a political writer, but I think what happened was I developed an increasing interest in politics over time because it was an escape from sport. You can become a bit stale writing and reporting on the same topics so I found politics a bit stimulating.

Do you think it’s harder for young journalists to break into the industry today?

Probably have to say yes. Mainly because there’s a lot less jobs collectively TV. outlets might be expanding, but print jobs have been heavily subsidised and therefore a lot of jobs have gone.

What is your greatest tip on to be a successful journalist?
ENTERPRISE, have great enterprise. In any field of Journalism, you need to know your subject matter. Good journalists are people who are good at getting information, but know what people want to know and what is news worthy. People who initiate things and who are self-starters, those traits will out-weigh a lot of other abilities.