I grew up relishing and poring over the words of the late, great, legendary George Sands, the writer sans pareil for The Middlesex Chronicle. Those were gentler, less hurried and frenetic times when he could spin out an elegant, witty and erudite match report to at least a couple of thousand words and he had the time and opportunity to do so given that he had pretty much the whole week to hone and refine his words until the publication of the one weekly edition. He was not required or expected to interview players, or ferret out stories regarding transfer rumours or behind the scenes manoeuvrings – only the games mattered with perhaps a brief respectful comment from the team manager of the time.
George held the title of Sports Editor at the newspaper for thirty-five years and is best remembered for attending a total of one thousand one hundred and twenty-six consecutive Brentford games between December 1953 and May 1976, and his incredible achievement is listed in The Guinness Book of Records. He was so well regarded within the local community that he served so wonderfully that a testimonial match was held for him in 1980, surely an unparalleled mark of respect for a journalist. One day perhaps The Chronicle will mark his memory by publishing an anthology of his columns which have easily stood the test of time and remain a wonderful read to this day.
The life of a journalist today has totally changed given the ever-changing and evolving media landscape, the emergence of social media and the overwhelming need for immediacy with news having to be disseminated instantly and accurately before it passes its sell-by date. I therefore went to one of the best and most popular local exponents of this art, Tom Moore, and asked him to describe the role of a local football reporter in 2015.
1. Please describe you current role and job
My current role is sports writer for GetWestLondon and our local papers. My main tasks are to cover Brentford, Barnet and Wealdstone as well as local sport in Hounslow but, depending on what the team needs, I will help out regarding covering our other clubs (Chelsea, Fulham, QPR, AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe). I also report on Middlesex CCC.
When it comes to reporting on Brentford, I see my role as someone who is a bridge between the fans and the club. On press conference day, I’ll always put out question suggestions for Marinus Dijkhuizen on my Twitter page (@TomMooreJourno), which is why I end up asking about Lewis Macleod most weeks. He won’t be fit before the international break so forgive me if I don’t ask about him this week!
I also report on local sport in the borough of Hounslow. If you have a sports story, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. How did you get there? Were did you work previously?
I studied English at the University of Salford before enrolling in News Associates’ journalism course. After passing my exams and gaining experience, I started at London24 and worked there between October 2011 and December 2014 before taking on a role at GetWestLondon in February.
3. Did you always want to become a journalist? Any unrequited ambitions?
Everything from my A-Level choices onwards was geared to becoming a journalist.
4. Are you a Brentford fan? If not who do you support? If so is supporting Brentford a help or a hindrance?
I am a Brentford fan. It is a help in that I know where the club has come from, having stood on the terraces for ninety long minutes to watch us suffer a 7-0 defeat and I know all about the players of different eras. It is also a hindrance when you have to remain professional after tough defeats (Doncaster, Yeovil) or the great moments (Preston).
5. No cheering in the press box! Do you remain impartial and is it easy to do so?
I will talk to other journalists and offer my opinion about the performance. Cheering in the press box – as a rule, no (it may have failed on certain occasions – Chelsea). Normally a smile. When it comes to copy, I believe honesty is the best policy, whether people like it or not.
6. What are you favourite and worst memories of following Brentford?
My favourite memories as a fan normally revolve around the day out. Walsall in 2010 was a dire game but I had a great day with a mate. Leeds away last season was special. My favourite away day as a fan remains Darlington in 2009. The worst has to be losing 7-0 at Peterborough – a seven hour round trip and a lot of money spent for a disgraceful showing. Barrow away in the cup was also grim.
7. Any favourite players – or ones you hated?
I’m not going to reveal my favourites in the current squad. My first favourite player was Jay Tabb; the last one was Tony Craig. My least favourite player was Thomas Pinault. I wasn’t a fan of Sam Sodje by the end. I thought the hype had gone to his head.
8. Talk us through a week in the life of Tom Moore
Monday – Send a fair few emails regarding the previous weekend and produce stories from whom I have spoken to the previous weekend. Have a think about print coverage.
Tuesday – The paper takes more priority as I compile the local sport content for print. I’ll keep an eye on what’s going on at the Football League clubs I specialise in.
Wednesday – Finish off the paper and prepare web copy.
Thursday – Ring managers and attend Brentford’s media day, typing up stories from them ahead of the weekend.
Friday – Day Off (or help out colleagues if needed)
Saturday – Game
Sunday – Day Off (it can include a swim to provide me with some me relaxation time, alternatively I’ll try and get ahead for the following week)
9. How much pressure are you under to get scoops and unearth your own stories?
I put pressure on myself to do that.
10. How hard is it to get information from the new regime at the club? Was it easier in the past?
Not dramatically different.
11. How would you describe the attitude towards the club now from the national media? Are they hoping our new approach totally succeeds or fails?
It depends on the person.
12. Can you compare your dealings with the current Head Coach and previous managers?
The first manager I dealt with was Uwe Rosler. It took time to build a relationship with him but we got on well by the time he left for Wigan. I had plenty of time for Mark Warburton and spoke to him regularly. He’d always pick up the phone when I needed to ring him. As for Marinus Dijkhuizen, it’s early days so it’s just a case of working out how he ticks.
13. Do you have much contact with the players and how easy are they to deal with? Most/least helpful?
I speak to a player or two at least once a week on Thursdays and after games. Most are easy to deal with. George Saville was not always the most forthcoming. Compared to other clubs I’ve reported on it is easy.
14. No names but do you have your sources within the club who give you off the record information?
15. Are you aware of any of the greats who came before you like George Sands?
I’m aware of George Sands. My direct predecessor, Jake Murtagh, did an exceptional job covering the club so I know I have big shoes to fill.
16. How do you feel about Brentford’s raised profile in the national media?
A raised profile means an increase in competition for stories etc. Reporting on the club in the League One/League Two days had its advantages.
17. Your favourite football journalist?
I’ll always read Jonathan Liew’s articles. I’ll also make sure I read stuff by people I get on with, whether football or not. Tim Wigmore is an excellent cricket/politics journalist.
18. How would you describe Brentford’s current strategy?
If Brentford tried to do what every other club did we’d lose out every time. It’s a novel approach. Whether it works, time will tell.
19. How would you describe Brentford’s playing style?
I loved the Mark Warburton style of football of just pure ‘all out attack’ but I do feel it went slightly too far at times. I want to see positive football as in every decision made is a positive one.
20. How do you feel about all the changes in personnel on and off the field and the recent spate of player sales?
I view Brentford players and staff in a different way to supporters; namely on how good an interviewee they are. Some players, not naming names, are better talkers than others.
I had a good relationship with Mark Warburton. I interviewed him over the phone soon after the announcement was made that he was going to leave the club. So, from that perspective, it was sad to see him leave. I knew how to work with him. Others were less helpful so it didn’t matter to me on that score that they left.
21. Are the foreign players different/easier to deal with than the English ones? How do they differ in approach or professionalism?
It all depends on the player. Jota’s English, for example, is not at ‘interview standard’ so I’ve yet to speak to him since his arrival. Others know English so can talk. Lasse Vibe and Marcos Tebar speak excellent English.
Thanks again, Tom, for providing all of us with such a detailed insight into your work and explaining so cogently how you operate and what is expected of you every week.