Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. In our latest feature, Billy Mulley sits down with Arsenal writer for the Athletic, Art de Roché!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hello, my name is Art de Roché and I have recently joined the Athletic as their latest Arsenal writer. Before joining earlier this month, I spent a year covering Arsenal as a trainee writer at Football.London.
At the Athletic, I have more time to craft my pieces than I have ever done before, and the focus is to give the reader something that they cannot find elsewhere. This notion of additional time also helps me find different voices to support my story.
My position at Football.London was my first full-time professional role since leaving university last summer. During my time at University, I threw myself into the majority of opportunities that arose. In doing so, I gained experience at Sky Sports News, The Independent, Worcester Valkyries and the Islington Gazette.
What does a normal week look like for you?
I have only just finished my first week, so I am unable to confirm whether I can deem it as normal. There is a rather loose aim to produce three articles a week, however, I am not constrained by that. I attend press conferences, but there is no pressure on me to produce content straight from it.
I guess within the role, the creative freedom allows no week to never be the same. Last week I was researching David Luiz’s free-kick technique and was able to get Mikel Arteta’s voice on the piece, next week could be completely different, and could directly relate to an emerging theme in the games coming up.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to be a sports journalist?
I must have been in Year 11 at school when I first realised I enjoyed writing about sports. I was football mad and anything I would do would revolve around the game. The writing side of the occupation has also always been something that has interested me. Growing up, my Grandma was an English teacher and she would give me exercises to do too. She knew how passionate I was about football, and tailored the week’s exercises towards it.
Although I did not take a direct sports writing qualification until I went to University, I took relating A-Levels. From university, I tried to get involved in as many opportunities as possible, something I am very grateful I did looking back.
How important is gaining first-hand experience when at university?
Experience and varied experience are vitally important in this industry. I literally threw myself out there and applied to what I could and got in contact with people who could assist me in developing my career.
For me, I put as much emphasis on my studies as I did into securing placements. Although, it can be cruel when people are not replying or if you get rejected, the end reward can be more than worth it.
One particular instance, where being confident and wanting to gain experience worked out for the best was when I was at university. I went to watch Forest Green Rovers versus Arsenal U21s and at the match I met with James Benge and Layth Yousif who was at the Islington Gazette at the time. After the game, I made sure that I kept in contact with the pair and I eventually got the opportunity to work there.
Is there anything that you are particularly interested about in your industry?
For me the different ways to cover sport is particularly interesting and an area where ideas are constantly evolving. The multimedia approach, whether it be through podcasts, analytical driven pieces or even behind the scenes work, can give the reader something different and could change the way that we continue to consume Sport.
Readers are getting smarter, so we, as writers, need to adapt and find a way to keep football fans interested in our content.
How has Covid-19 impacted your line of work?
The situation is still strange but I think we are finding a new normal. When football first came to a halt, I was still at Football.London and it was difficult to keep the articles ticking over. It definitely tested me as a journalist as I had to delve deeper and research things that I did not normally research.
However, with covering Arsenal, I feel I had it easier than most. There was a lot going on in the club during the pandemic, and was therefore keeping me rather busy.
Do you have any advice for any aspiring sports journalists?
The first thing I would definitely recommend is throwing yourself into the many opportunities that are still out there, you never know who you might meet. Also, try to be smart in the way you approach people, it is important to not be over-needy but you also want to remain interested.
Every experience, interview, piece of work is a learning curve and it is important not to be disheartened with rejection. It took 5 months of rejection, before I landed my job at Football.London
You can follow Art de Roché on Twitter here.