BCOMS had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Clive Petty, assistant sports editor of The Times. He took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to Nigel Wallace about his role in the newsroom, before looking back on his career.
With 21 years at one of the world’s most respected newspapers under his belt, he took us on a trip down memory lane to where it all began. Clive progressed through practically every role on the desk, including news editor, chief sub-editor, Saturday sports editor and night editor, before taking up his current role as assistant sports editor, where he primarily runs the football desk.
FIVE FACTS ABOUT CLIVE
1. Completed a degree in Communication and Media Studies at Sunderland University.
2. His first job as junior reporter was at Slough and Windsor Express, before moving onto Ealing Gazette as reporter, sub-editor then sports editor.
3. Whilst working for his local publication, Clive was offered two national paper jobs; The Daily Star and Today newspapers. He opted for the latter.
4. Today newspaper folded and he joined The Times as a sub-editor, later becoming deputy chief sub-editor.
5. Clive had a one-year stint away from The Times at a football website in 2001.
I’ve been a sports fan from a young age but I think it became clear when I was working on a local paper in Ealing. I got to cover QPR and Brentford so it was a good patch to be on and some great sporting personalities were around in that era as well, like Linford Christie who had his rise during the 1988 Summer Olympics. So it was a perfect way of combining something I really loved with work. I mean, what could you not like about that? It gave me the opportunity to meet other people in the industry when I went out and covered matches. It seemed like a no-brainer, really.
I started off as a news reporter and it was a great learning ground during a time when the red tops labelled Ealing council the “loony left”. But then the job of sports editor of the paper came up and they knew that I was a sports fan, so I put myself forward and was offered the job.
Things now are vastly different from working on a newspaper back in the 90s. I don’t think anybody imagined how big the internet was going to become. It surely cannot go on though that media organisations continue to see their websites as online extensions of their newspaper. I’m still surprised people think that way. But you can see that other news organisations are now striving to follow what we’re doing. Some other organisations were pretty snide at first, to put it mildly, about The Times and the paywall idea but now everybody is looking at a way of making the internet pay for newspapers. It just has to happen at some point. However much we want to believe it, newspapers are not as huge or as important as they used to be – new media is obviously the way to go. The way of making that profitable and sustainable is the biggest challenge facing all of us now.
I don’t think it’s a hindrance at all! It’s great for aspiring journalists because there are so many more avenues to explore now. Print and radio are still here, multi-channel television, terrestrial and cable, and websites, blogs. The way people consume those things is changing all the time. So there’s a whole range of different media platforms that now exist which are expanding all the time. The employment market, however, is getting increasingly competitive and staff levels are unrecognisable from when I started. So it makes it even more important for aspiring journalists to get an edge, to be the best they can be and work as hard as they can. Networking is as important now as it was back in the day, although it was something I was never really good at! But I would still encourage people to do it, get your name out there and known by as many people in as many outlets as possible.
I believe the hardest struggle is to get your name out there or your face in front of camera, especially for aspiring black journalists. I still feel it’s quite difficult because there is this tendency among TV stations and newspapers, especially with columnists and presenters, to go for ex-sportsmen. But we can’t all be Ian Wrights! So there’s got to be another avenue for those who haven’t scored 180-odd goals for Arsenal. As good as ex-pros may be, they probably don’t have the ambition to go on and be an editor or producer. As well as young black talent stepping up, finding new journalistic talent is a responsibility for the newspaper and TV chiefs and officers and currently they seem to have a very narrow way of searching.
Always keep asking questions and be inquisitive, never just accept what someone tells you. Frequent ideas; always keep re-evaluating what you’re doing and be prepared to work hard. If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that whatever time of day I step into the office, I’m going to leave at an unsociable hour and even when I’ve left I’m going to have to carry on working afterwards.
Increase your breadth of knowledge and expand your horizons so that you can jump into anything at any time. I look back at the number of people who used to make up a newspaper office when I started and wonder how we got away with so many. I would love for them to come back, though, because it’s much harder now. Office environments are getting smaller, so the more adaptable you are and the more things you can offer the better.
Get another job. Ignore everything I just said and go get a proper job!
I think it would be adaptability. I take my hat off to ‘portfolio journalists’, who have loads of strings to their bows. Spread the risks and your skills, you can be an expert in one field but don’t limit yourself.
Be persistent, never give up. Finding your niche and perfecting it is all well and good but try to operate all the different platforms available at your disposal.