Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is Assistant Sports Editor, Aaron Flanagan!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Aaron Flanagan, I’m 28 and I’m currently working as Assistant Sports Editor across Reach PLC‘s national titles, specifically the Daily Mirror and Daily Star. My break in journalism came on the back of work experience at the Manchester Evening News during my final year at University, where I ended up taking on their speedway coverage, which developed into non-league football, ice hockey and all sorts. I then got an opportunity at the Mirror, where I have worked on their production staff, as a sports journalist, SEO editor and now as Assistant Sports Editor. I’ve also previously ran the Mirror’s sports podcasts. With Reach buying the Star and Express, my role now works across all titles, but I am specifically working day-to-day on the Star website in my current project.
What do you do in your current role?
At the moment, I am involved in the day-to-day running of the Daily Star’s sports coverage, running the desk on a day-to-day basis, forward planning for events and generally trying to revamp our look. The role involves communicating with our journalists, deciding the news agenda for the day, designing the website layout and also liaising with the homepage and other departments over stories, to ensure we can get the most out of everything we produce. On the side, I cover motorsport for Reach’s three papers, as well as produce the occasional feature spread, all of which has given me some great opportunities to travel and get to know some really cool and high profile personnel.
What does a normal week look like for you?
What’s a normal week?! Genuinely, no two weeks are the same. The most standard week would start at 7am on a Monday morning and I would begin to set out the agenda for the week. But as with working on a live news desk, anything can then happen from there on in. It’s a case of staying alert to stories, developments and keeping everyone on task. With the websites, the natural goal is to drive as much engagement on our stories as possible and provide a 24/7 stream of interesting and engaging articles for our readers.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
The first that I really knew that I wanted to work in sports media was while my dad was involved with Winsford United FC in the fifth tier of non-league football, while I was aged 13 or 14. I would write match reports, take photos, film games, all sorts. It was my first real exposure to covering sport and it never stopped from there across a host of non-league clubs. I went on to study sports journalism at the University of Huddersfield and got my opportunity with the MEN. The key has been to never say no to an opportunity. If someone asks you to do something out of your comfort zone, go and do it. Breaks in the industry are few and far between so you have to take any little opportunity that comes your way.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
Well the fact of the matter is that coronavirus has caused massive upheaval in the industry, but it has given us the chance to effectively start from scratch: new working models, new structures, new ideas. The Athletic’s model over the past 18 months is especially interesting and it’s cool to see how different types of journalism can work for different audiences, whether it be free copy or behind a paywall.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Put yourself in the right places, then ‘right place, right time’ doesn’t become a coincidence. Take work experience, make contacts, be enthusiastic. At the Mirror, over an 18 month period, we took around 60 work experience students on a weekly basis and 11 of them have since received paid work – and a few full-time jobs – from Reach PLC on the back of it. Don’t be afraid to work unpaid to get your name out there. It’s largely a ‘who you know, not what you know’ industry. There will be setbacks and rejections along the way, but if you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t win the raffle.
How to follow Aaron Flanagan on social media…
I’m on Twitter on @aaronflan but please follow @dailystar_sport. We’re in the process of completely revamping our coverage and there will be some major changes over the coming months, with quality being at the centre of what we do. If you’re interested in hopefully seeing how we can try and develop a national brand, we started with almost a blank canvas on the Star a few months ago and we’re really pushing to create an identity of our own, where possible. There’s a long, long way to go, but we’ve made great progress.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider feature with Assistant Sports Editor, Aaron Flanagan!