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jack the shrimper

Youth Team
Joined
Mar 13, 2011
Messages
247
Location
Leigh-on-Sea
Not sure where this should go - thought that seeing as it's Southend-related, I'd put it here.

I'm looking towards a career in football journalism and wrote an article for the latest issue of All At Sea, which I'm sure some of you will have read. Obviously I'm always looking for ways to improve my writing, so I'd be really grateful if some people could give me feedback. What have I done well/badly? Any constructive comments would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

Secure the Future

As we know all too well at Southend, financial difficulties are a plague on many clubs in the Football League. In many of these cases, a loyal support is the saving grace of the club’s financial state. However, Blues supporters will also empathise with the belief that loyal supporters can be taken for granted and are often underappreciated.

There are those who turn up week after week, year after year, never expecting, well, anything. Each season, they pin their hopes on the fortunes of the latest team in a conveyor belt of rough-edged hopefuls. These, I fear, are a dying breed of football supporters amongst the Sky Sports subscribing, prawn sandwich eating, #footybantz participating masses: which is why it’s vital that clubs attract new generations of support on a continual basis.

For the recent FA Cup game against Brentford, my friend and I chose to sit in the South Upper stand, for a change to our North Bank season tickets. Aside from the obvious contrasts in atmosphere and view, one thing that struck me was the amount of empty seats in the West Stand Family Enclosure. Granted, season tickets don’t cover cup games, but with discounted prices that were available for a game against higher league opposition, I was disappointed to see the desolate nature of the very place where my perpetual love for Southend began.

I first went to Roots Hall at the age of 7, when the club offered £2 tickets to children at my school for a game of their choice in 2003. If it wasn’t for the discounted tickets on offer to young children and a cheap option in the Family Stand, I daresay that my parents may have guided me to support the likes of a successful Premier League team, or West Ham (it doesn't bear thinking about...). I’m a firm believer that it's vital for the club to attract young children to the club, and to make it a natural choice for local parents to guide their children towards supporting Southend.

Of course, the positivity surrounding the club in my early days of supporting The Blues meant that attendances were always going to be higher than they are now - we were moving in an upward spiral (thanks to RM for that one). However following our draw against Brentford and the sight of a mostly-empty Family Enclosure, I felt compelled to ensure that new generations of supporters would continue to come through the turnstiles and into Roots Hall.

This brings me on to the Future Blues scheme. It might not have caught your attention, but it certainly caught mine. As though the club had read my mind, it was announced in mid-January and I for one was delighted to read of its launch. In essence, the scheme gives local primary school children the opportunity to get free match tickets to various home games across the season. It may not be revolutionary, but there’s nothing to lose. Why accept having empty seats when there are in excess of twenty primary schools in the Borough alone? As unattractive as it may sound on the face of it, a trip to Roots Hall on a rainy Tuesday night in January can make a lifelong Shrimper out a child who may otherwise be lured by the quality and drama of football when they see City winning the Premier League, without even being able to point out Manchester on a map.

In conclusion, I feel that it’s vital that the club continues to make this a fundamental aspect of its involvement in the community. Each new generation of support is vital for the future of any club, and Southend is no different.
 

Jai

President
Joined
Nov 27, 2003
Messages
5,807
Location
Witham
It's a well-written piece, Jack. If you are serious about football writing for a living though it's a tough gig to get into. You'll probably have to start off writing about news and learn the skills you'll need to transfer to sport. I strongly recommend you take the NCTJ course because it's worth far more as a qualification than a journalism degree.

You also need to realise that, as a job, journalism pays the square root of **** all so be prepared!
 

jack the shrimper

Youth Team
Joined
Mar 13, 2011
Messages
247
Location
Leigh-on-Sea
It's a well-written piece, Jack. If you are serious about football writing for a living though it's a tough gig to get into. You'll probably have to start off writing about news and learn the skills you'll need to transfer to sport. I strongly recommend you take the NCTJ course because it's worth far more as a qualification than a journalism degree.

You also need to realise that, as a job, journalism pays the square root of **** all so be prepared!

Thanks a lot, I'm looking forward to writing for AAS in future issues.

I'm planning on doing an English degree first, to keep my options open. Unless I change direction during that time then yes, I'll hopefully go on to a NCTJ course afterwards. They seem to be much more relevant and useful than a journalism degree.
 
Joined
Mar 9, 2012
Messages
519
Hi Jack,
Whenever someoe asks for feedback i'm always wary because with my CSE1 in English i'm hardly qualified. However I was interested in your article because me and my 2 'Erberts would have been in the Family Stand. Most games we have very few people sitting either on our row nor in front nor behind us.
The problem with the FS is that the view is not the greatest -it's alright when we attack the South Bank but for half the game you're trying to avoid a post.
Re attendances it doesn't seem so long ago tome that we were grateful for 2-3k now we are pushing for 5-6k so i think progress has been made but there is room for improvement as ever.
I think your article is well researched,well written & asks an important question about the not so distant future. It's my opinion that the club is doing a good job in the local community & is heavily involved in local school etc & there a quite a few kids who have a large awareness of the club even if they also like Man Utd etc. Hopefully this can be developed & turned into bums on seats.
 

EastStandBlue

Life President
Joined
May 29, 2005
Messages
15,477
Thanks a lot, I'm looking forward to writing for AAS in future issues.

I'm planning on doing an English degree first, to keep my options open. Unless I change direction during that time then yes, I'll hopefully go on to a NCTJ course afterwards. They seem to be much more relevant and useful than a journalism degree.

Unless, of course, you do a journalism degree with the NCTJ course bolted on as part of the curriculum, where you leave with both a degree in journalism and the NCTJ qualification :winking:

With journalism in its current state, employers aren't likely to think any differently of you as a graduate if your qualification is in English or Journalism. History's a current favourite as it demonstrates your ability to meticulously research something before presenting your findings, whilst constantly referencing your source material. This may be obvious advice (but you'd be surprised how many ignore it), but you need to be filling your summers with work experience, as that's where your skills are demonstrated.

Fortunately, everybody wants free help (if you're lucky, they'll pay for your expenses), so you can afford to be slightly selective for you work for. Try to get a good range, there's no point working for four local newspapers if you want to be a club journalist or work for Hayters or something. Also, research the company you're applying for as some of the more established names have form for treating interns/work experience kids as nothing more than free PAs (Grazia notoriously bad for this, as are most of the fashion/gossip magazines, New Statesman earned my company a blacklisting from the NCTJ after it emerged the editor was using the interns to pick up his dry cleaning, so we can't officially advertise for interns anymore). Make sure that you'll get some writing published during/at the end of any placement. You'll need a strong portfolio of published work to entice any employers, and demonstrate that you can actually write and tow an editorial line.

As Jai said, journalists are paid not much more than a pittance. One of my first lectures at university informed me that, on average, McDonalds employees earn more than entry-level journalists, particularly those on the sports desk. When it's as competitive as it is, editors can afford to pay as poorly as they do, safe in the knowledge that there's always someone else who'll take the job. Generally speaking, B2B journalists earn a little more, while those working on academical journals more than those.

Back to the piece though; it's good. It's paced well and the structure is good. It's a quite a common mistake for people to put all the information they have in the opening two paragraphs, leaving another six consisting mainly of rehashed versions of the same point, so your ability to share your subject matter across the piece is good. This is a very minor quip, personal preference more than anything I'd suggest, but when it's quite a confined subject try to relate it to something that's happening on a grander scale. Southend's crowds have dwindled, but Football League attendances on the whole have risen - what's happening at Southend? How they can arrest that slide? Surely, with Premier League ticket prices the subject of such scorn, families will find Southend a more affordable experience?

My biggest piece of advice though would be to not stop writing, or reading. Keep writing for AAS. Write a blog. Write letters to your MP explaining your indignance that the stadium still hasn't been built. Read Paul Hayward's latest piece about how existentialist being a footballer is, and write in the comment's section about how pompous he comes across. The more you write, the better you'll be, and you'll get used to writing for differing audiences.
 

Mick

Life President
Joined
Oct 28, 2003
Messages
10,098
Pretty well written with no hideous spelling mistakes or crass factual errors (so that precludes a career for you at the Echo!).

Other people have advised more knowledgeably than I could about courses and options.

I would say that the whole article is, to an extent, predicated upon by a flawed premise. The family enclosure was unusually empty for this Cup match because seats were no cheaper than the rest of the ground, much of which affords a better view. Just as you chose to move for this match, many normal occupants of the Family Enclosure took the opportunity to transfer into the East Stand, South Upper or the rest of the West Stand. That explains the "desolate" and "mostly empty" characteristics on that occasion. Few people would travel in second class accommodation if first class were available for the same price.

Good luck with your chosen vocation.
 

jack the shrimper

Youth Team
Joined
Mar 13, 2011
Messages
247
Location
Leigh-on-Sea
This is a very minor quip, personal preference more than anything I'd suggest, but when it's quite a confined subject try to relate it to something that's happening on a grander scale. Southend's crowds have dwindled, but Football League attendances on the whole have risen - what's happening at Southend? How they can arrest that slide? Surely, with Premier League ticket prices the subject of such scorn, families will find Southend a more affordable experience?

My biggest piece of advice though would be to not stop writing, or reading. Keep writing for AAS. Write a blog. Write letters to your MP explaining your indignance that the stadium still hasn't been built. Read Paul Hayward's latest piece about how existentialist being a footballer is, and write in the comment's section about how pompous he comes across. The more you write, the better you'll be, and you'll get used to writing for differing audiences.

Now you've raised the point it does seem a very niche topic to have written on, I'll definitely bear that in mind when I next write about a narrow subject. Relating it to attendances across the Football League would make it more relevant to a wider audience, as well. On that point, I'm actually planning an article about Premier League ticket prices and what effect a ticket price cap in the PL would have on smaller clubs in the Football League. Hopefully this will be something that relates to a much wider range of readers.

Regarding your advice about work experience and practice, this definitely seems to be the most important thing for a lot of people. Like you suggested, I'm hoping to get plenty of work experience during the summer and hopefully that'll help me build a strong portfolio. Thanks for all the advice, it's all been taken into account.

I would say that the whole article is, to an extent, predicated upon by a flawed premise. The family enclosure was unusually empty for this Cup match because seats were no cheaper than the rest of the ground, much of which affords a better view. Just as you chose to move for this match, many normal occupants of the Family Enclosure took the opportunity to transfer into the East Stand, South Upper or the rest of the West Stand. That explains the "desolate" and "mostly empty" characteristics on that occasion. Few people would travel in second class accommodation if first class were available for the same price.

That's a good point and something I didn't pick up on whilst writing the article. I agree with your premise but as prawntobewild said (below), the Family Stand is often quite empty for league games as well. You're right in that I may well have seen an exaggerated example of the attendance in that block, but I would argue that there's still a case to be made about the empty seats in the area.

Thanks for your feedback and the point you raised.

I was interested in your article because me and my 2 'Erberts would have been in the Family Stand. Most games we have very few people sitting either on our row nor in front nor behind us.

Highlighted this quote for Mick, as above. Thanks for the reply, it was interesting to see that you think there are a lot of kids with a large awareness of the club. I wonder if the club actively encourages youngsters and their parents to come to games, whilst they are getting involved in the local community. Obviously the Future Blues scheme is taking steps to increase attendance amongst local children, but judging by our excellent reputation for working in the community there might be further scope for turning this into bums on seats.
 
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