Basketball Forever journalist Nick Jungfer

Nick Jungfer. Photo Jet Nye.
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"You surprise yourself with what you become interested in and how much you enjoy it." Nick Jungfer, Basketball Forever’s lead writer, talks about the competitive nature of sports journalism and what made him the writer he is today. Jet Nye reports.

When you started as a student journalist, did you envision yourself writing about sports, in particular the NBA?

It was always the dream. I always wanted to write about sports. The way it happens is you often end up starting in news writing, but sport was always the dream. I wanted to write about the NBA as well, I played basketball my whole life, that was always the dream scenario.

I was reading an article where you got to sit down and interview Josh Childress. I’m curious how that interview went and how you remain collected when you’re talking to an ex-NBA player?

It’s just kind of reps. You’re nervous the first couple of times when you chat to a big athlete. But after a while, you gain the confidence through repetitions and trying to build a rapport with them early on. Some guys give you nothing and it makes it hard, and other guys are really peoples-people…getting used to it just helps to get better naturally.

How did you first get involved writing for Basketball Forever?

Originally these guys [Basketball Forever], they didn’t really give me a look in because I wasn’t from Sydney. They were chatting to Sydney guys about the job and a few of them sort of fell over for various reasons. I just kept on calling the guys here and eventually, they returned the call and said, “can you write something for us today?” I said, “well today’s a bit soon but maybe tomorrow.” And we went from there. You need to bash people’s doors down when something is as competitive as this. Journalists need to force the issue.

What’s advice can give to Australian journalists who want to be involved in international sports journalism like NBA?

I think being open to starting at the bottom and working your way up. Not a lot of people necessarily want to go out to a country town and work for a small paper. For a small time, I thought, “I just don’t think I can do that”. In the end, it was a fantastic experience. You surprise yourself with what you become interested in and how much you enjoy it. I got a bit of a kick out of just going to local council meetings, and things like that. It was never the plan, but I’m definitely a better writer for it.

Living in Sydney, is it difficult competing with journalists in the US for a good story considering they have the advantage of being closer to the story?

Definitely. It’s not so much about getting the Woj or the Sham scoop because that’s just not possible from Sydney. It’s more about putting our unique or funny take on what’s going on. Obviously when news breaks we have it up on our Facebook as soon as humanly possible. But in terms of the writing, it’s more about just trying to give people some fun stuff to read, rather than always trying to break the news.

Do you find it difficult dealing with some of the negative comments or disagreements on social media that might correspond with a story you have written?

It’s not a big deal. I think sort of the whole vibe of the site and all the social media is that it’s meant to be a bit of fun, so if people want to take the article’s a bit seriously, that’s all good. When you’ve got that many people following, not everyone’s going to like the content, but if 2.5 million are following, we must be doing something right. I should also say, if people roast us, the guys that are running the show encourage us to roast people back, which makes it even more fun.

Is it stressful trying to keep up with stories and meeting deadlines? If so how do you deal with that pressure?

There definitely is pressure. I think journalists are increasingly expected to pump out four or five stories a day, and it’s very hard for those stories to be as good as you would want them to be. All you can do really is put in the hours and notice that as time goes, on you begin to do so much more in much less time. Then suddenly, you feel like you can still put out some quality. But there’s no doubt it’s a pretty tall order.