The internet had been available as a commercial tool for a decade, so naturally sports organisations were just twigging to its possibilities in the summer of 2000/2001.
New Zealand Cricket, unsurprisingly, was at the forefront of a push into a brave new digital world.
It’s hard to imagine cricket statos not having wet dreams over the possibilities opening up before their squinty gazes as digital cricket reporting platforms burst into life around the globe.
Numbers though, would not be enough. Fully utilising the internet would mean delivering real time reportage direct to a fanbase that had become increasingly trapped in front of the wonderful labour-saving device known as a computer. Words were required, and that, unfortunately, was where I (very briefly) came in.
Writing live match reports for the then Cricinfo-powered New Zealand Cricket website was a dream gig.
I was even allowed into the pavilion for a free lunch, although my comparatively dishevelled presence didn’t seem to go over all that well with the blazered types.
Neither, it turned out, did my enthusiastic embracing of the instruction from my boss, a veteran sports journo, to “liven up” the typically staid approach to first class cricket reportage.
I’ve never really figured out what he meant by “liven up”, but he definitely didn’t mean filing totally unsubstantiated reports about senior international batsmen being prissy about having to cancel their Christmas parties to play in a cricket match; similes for flat pitches referencing breast size; or the labelling of disinterested fielders behind square leg as resembling Liverpool football supporters – largely unemployed – (a brilliant reference to the chant Man United fans direct to their scouse neighbours: “You’ll never get a job, sign on, sign on” sung to the tune of You’ll Never Walk Alone).
My boss turning up at the Lancaster Park press box to sack me during the drinks break of a Canterbury v Zimbabwe match was when I discovered something must have got a little lost in translation.
There’s nothing like getting frogmarched out of a press box to stimulate a bit of self-reflection. My genuine bafflement was replaced by a blunt realisation – it doesn’t pay to piss off the people who pay the bills. Good chunks of my reporting had held NZC up to, if not ridicule, then at least gentle ribbing, and the (humourless sods) had seen no good reason why they should be bankrolling such tomfoolery.
Having attacked my first journalism job with the all the tact and diplomacy of “Sir” Allen Stanford in a players’ wives’ enclosure, I walked away with a newfound appreciation of the value of circumspection. A full appreciation that journalism had to be paid for one way or another – and the ramifications of what that would mean for my industry as the tidal wave of digital disruption gathered momentum – would be another 13 years in coming.
At least when I was punted the second time – from the NZ Herald sports department as part of a by then annual restructure – I got to unplug my own laptop (and keep a job in the news department).
That was when the penny firmly dropped. For almost a decade, I’d watched with what now seems an indefensible detachment as the redundancy fairies swept through the newsroom and made off with valued colleagues.
Turns out an invitation to bring a support person to a meeting with the boss is how the fairies tip you that you are about to be digitally disrupted, joining the tens of thousands of journalists globally who can no longer be supported by an ageing business model’s collapsing revenue streams.
As experiences go, redundancy is a bit of a bummer. But it can also be the catalyst for an important process of reinvention (as well offering a chance to buy a $4000 mountain bike).
For me, the long walk to freedom (from a steady income) provided a chance to ponder how good journalism could be sustained in a world where modern metrics rate a story about an All Black dick pic ahead of literally every other sports story on the planet?
Newsroom is very much a collective of people dedicated to finding an answer to that (well, maybe not that specific question – but you get the picture).
Journalism That Matters is at the heart of the Newsroom approach. In a sporting world that juxtaposes the trivial with the vital and the inconsequential with the life-changing, often within the same contest, and where accounting for individual taste is largely impossible, defining what matters isn’t straight forward.
Better, then, to simply provide content that attempts to engage, inform and entertain. That’s what you can expect from Sportsroom. We won’t always hit the bullseye, but at least we’ll be aiming for it.
But there are no free lunches. To be successful journalistically, Sportsroom needs to be successful commercially. We’ll need the support of sponsors and readers, and won’t be shy about asking for it.
If you like what you find here, there’s a tab you can click on to explore ways of helping us out. Or if you’ve got a sponsorship budget and see the value in branding great content, give us a call.
Welcome to Sportsroom.
Author’s note: Steve Deane was very nearly also sacked from his second job covering international cricket for a UK website from his bedroom in Blenheim for insinuating that Shoaib Akhtar was a chucker. That website is now funded by a major international gambling agency. Steve still believes Akhtar biffed his quicker ball.