Perseverance is key: Greg Baum’s advice for aspiring sports reporters

Greg Baum at The Oval, London, during the 2019 Ashes Series. Photo Adam Collins
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“If you really love writing and you’re prepared to knock on doors until your knuckles are sore, then persevere.” Greg Baum, chief sports columnist and associate editor at The Age, speaks to Jack Bennett.

How did you become interested in journalism?

I was interested in newspapers and writing for as long as I can explicitly remember. There was a day when the Southern Aurora train between Melbourne and Sydney crashed. I was only nine and I remember hearing about it and then reading about it on the front of The Age the next day, and being fascinated by how this calamitous event that had happened one particular day could be on the front of the paper the next day with pictures, interviews and descriptions. 

How did you break into the industry as a sports writer? 

Most young journalists come straight from school and I was no different, I got a cadetship with a local newspaper, which eventually led to a job with The Sun News-Pictorial as it was known. I did two stints there, about four years originally before I went overseas backpacking. Then I came back and worked there for another five years and then moved to The Age

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a journalist? 

I’m constantly working against very tight deadlines. When I started working for suburban newspapers, there was a twice a week deadline, which turned into a daily deadline of 11 o’clock at night when I worked for daily newspapers. Nowadays, employers expect you to write a story just moments after you get the quotes, which can be quite challenging. 

What’s the biggest highlight of your career? 

I wrote an article for The Good Weekend about 20 years ago which I still remember fondly. I was in India at the time with the Australian Cricket Team and my editor asked me to interview a Test cricketer and talk through one innings in considerable detail, and I had a good relationship with Steve Waugh so I suggested it to him. Steve loved the idea and wanted it to come to fruition. He made 69 in a losing test match in Delhi and we talked for hours about every aspect of playing a Test innings. 

How do you decide what to write about in your column? 

I’m not especially strong on original ideas so I depend strongly on the workshopping. I’m fortunate I have colleagues in the newsroom bursting with ideas, and between us we’ll arrive at a set of story ideas each week. Often my stories are just driven by the events of the day and anything that arises over the previous weekend. 

What advice would you give to budding sports reporters looking for employment? 

Perseverance is key. If you’re looking to get into journalism as a way to make money and grow rich, don’t do it. If you really love writing and you’re prepared to knock on doors until your knuckles are sore, then persevere. That’s the way most journalists get in.