A group of eleven young reporters learned about being a sports journalist at UEFA Women's EURO 2017, in a programme jointly organised by UEFA and the international sports journalists' association AIPS.
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Austria were not the only successful tournament debutants at UEFA Women’s EURO 2017. Eleven young reporters from eleven different nations teamed up with UEFA and AIPS, the international sports journalists' association, for their first major tournament experience – and also made it to the final.
AIPS has been developing its unique Young Reporters programme for six years, and this was the third successful venture with UEFA after the European Under-21 tournaments in Israel (2013) and Czech Republic (2015).
Alongside learning how to interview or write match reports against deadlines on the job, the Young Reporters were 'competing' with established and experienced journalists in the stadiums.
This might have appeared a daunting task, but thanks to the guidance of three mentors – Keir Radnedge, Martin Mazur and Riccardo Romani – the AIPS Young Reporters learned how to work in a stadium environment, as well as how to explore, develop and practise the key skills required for journalism in the modern era.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, who handed over the certificates to all of the participants on the day before the final, added his backing to the programme: “UEFA is proud to support, together with the AIPS, this group of young journalists who have been covering the UEFA Women’s EURO,” he said.
“We are sure that they have gained valuable experience reporting about this great tournament, and this will surely help them in their careers in the future.”
Days were filled with press conferences, matches and mixed zones. Some of the fledgling journalists had never written a match report before, and all were ready to improve, so the 12 group stage games in the opening 12 days presented a formidable challenge.
Jeroen Adriaanse, AIPS Young Reporter from the Netherlands, thinks that this intensity was vital in his learning process.
“You start to take a different approach,” he said, “because you realise how different each game is. You don’t merely focus on your own team; for example, when Iceland played against Austria, that was an entirely different game with different stories.”
“As you do more and more mixed zone interviews, you start to develop your own mindset for the questions you ask.”
Being inside the stadium and talking to players was key to obtaining stories – but it was the classes with the mentors that were an important catalyst in helping the budding reporters improve as the tournament progressed. The lectures covered topics such as questioning, preparation and styles, but it was the mentors' personal insights which truly illustrated what it means to be a successful sports journalist.
For example, when explaining how crucial the introduction of an article is, one of the mentors referred to the opening paragraph as being like a first date. Coincidentally, after this session, the quality of introductions improved significantly.
By the end of the tournament, more than 140 articles had been produced, all varying in content, and all increasing in quality. Gianni Merlo, president of AIPS, said: “We are working all the time to improve our courses, and value the cooperation we have been able to undertake with UEFA.”
“Together, I think we have been able to create a programme that is an investment in the culture of journalism and football, something which is necessary in these times. This is all about education, related both to our profession and to understanding the future of football.”
The Netherlands lifted the trophy – while all eleven AIPS Young Reporters return to their country with a prize of their own in terms of a sports media education.