Ed Draper: “You don’t need permission to get practice.”

I’ve been an avid viewer of Sky Sports News since I was in primary school, it’s constantly on in the background in case something interesting happens. As I’ve become more involved in sports journalism, I’ve wanted to learn more about how Sky Sports News operates and what it is like to work as a presenter. I recently connected on LinkedIn with Sky Sports News presenter Ed Draper who regularly posts about day to day life working at Sky. He has a strong desire to pass his knowledge on to those coming behind him. I caught up with him recently to discuss how he got started in journalism and what advice he’d give to students.

I began by asking what motivated and inspired him to become a sports journalist. 

“What inspired me was the realisation that I loved sport from an early age. I used to kick a football in the back garden, I had about ten footballs I used to kick over the fence. I began to watch sport when I was about five or six, the FA Cup final with Man United was a big one for me. My dad used to live in Manchester, he would have seen George Best playing, so I began to support Manchester United because of him.”

English was Ed’s favourite subject at school and it was the fusion of communication and sport that drew him towards sports journalism. Sports broadcasting was growing during Ed’s teenage years with the creation of Sky Sports News which made him aware of opportunities within sports journalism. Year 10 work experience provided Ed with his first glimpse of what working as a sports journalist entailed.

“I went to a local paper because I kind of had an idea that sports writing was what I wanted to do. I went to the Worcester Evening News for a week and I wrote for a magazine while I was at Loughborough University. This provided me with a good background, but when I did my masters in America I was working for lots of outlets. I threw myself into TV, radio and local newspapers out there.”

As we now live in a world where people can create and monetize their own content, I asked Ed whether he thought a journalism degree was necessary to succeed.

“Traditional media outlets like Sky Sports News want journalism qualifications or they provide in house qualifications. A degree teaches you the nuts and bolts of reporting like how to structure reports. It also teaches things like ethics, impartiality and giving balance to both sides.”

We discussed how the development of new media platforms like podcasting gives people the chance to develop their skills.

There’s just so many opportunities now. You don’t need permission to get practice. In the past you had to wait for someone to give you an in at a radio station. If you’re self-motivated now, you can do it. It is still beneficial to get a journalism qualification, but it doesn’t have to be a degree. You have to decide if you want to pay £9,000 a year because journalism doesn’t necessarily pay that much money.”

Working as a Sky Sports News presenter may seem like a dream job but Ed wants people to know that it comes with a lot of sacrifices.

“If you’re someone who’s conventional and wants to work regular hours and be able to play sport in your free time that’s fine. But if you’re a sports journalist, you’re on when everyone else is off. My wife’s very supportive of my job but it means that she has to attend a lot of family events on her own. You have to work around the fixtures and that does mean that working hours are going to be quite irregular.”

Aside from his role as a Sky Sports News presenter, Ed has presented Sky’s boxing podcast, Toe to Toe.. He would like to do more work on the podcast but it has proved difficult since going full time at SSN He would like to do more work on the podcast but it has proved difficult since going full time at SSN

“Boxers are very accessible and the podcast provides a good opportunity to learn stories about people’s personal and professional lives. There’s not a big following on it yet, it’s been a bit stop and start. Podcasting is growing because it is complementary to the way people live nowadays. You can listen to a podcast while cooking the dinner. You can see a different side of someone on a podcast than you would on TV.”

Ed stressed the importance of being aware of changes within media and not just rigidly sticking to what you read in a textbook at university. He thinks that people should not fear the collapse of certain forms of media like newspapers because they can get the content through other means. Just before we wrapped up, I asked Ed what advice he would give to up and coming journalists, based on his own experience.

“I think young journalists should try all the outlets and find what they’re good at. If you’re a good writer you could do match reports, if you’ve got a good voice you could do audio. It’s just getting to know yourself.”

Throughout our conversation, Ed really made it clear that you should only enter the media industry because you love it, not because you want to impress people. He told me to reach out to people in the media to build relationships and not to feel discouraged if you didn’t hear back from someone.

“You might send an e-mail and nothing comes back and you feel a bit insecure about it, you think they didn’t like your tape. Then you realise they were off on holiday. Just keep going and don’t get too down, keep yourself on an even keel.”

You can find Ed on Twitter at @eddraper81 and Instagram at ed_draper81

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