This is what sports journalism should be

15 03 2013

I don’t fangirl very often, but I’m willing to make an exception for the thoroughly awesome David Walsh.

For those of you who may have been on a desert island for a couple of years, he’s the guy who unmasked Lance Armstrong as a lying drugs cheat. And it’s taken nigh on 15 years for Walsh, chief sports writer on the Sunday Times, to have his suspicions confirmed for sure.

Those of us of a certain age will remember when the Sunday Times, with Harold Evans at the helm, was a true campaigning newspaper and uncovered the Thalidomide scandal. Forty (eek!) or so years on, they supported Walsh (being interviewed beforehand in the pic below by Will Carpenter, one of our final year journalism students) in his quest.

A quick-thinking Tweet from my colleague Mary Williams brought Walsh down to Portsmouth this month to speak at the Guildhall to nearly 700 people about the Armstrong story. And as he unfolded his gripping story, it reminded me again of how dire a lot of sports journalism really is.

will c and david w

Those of us who’ve worked as sports journalists will remember the endless loop of match previews, groin strains, match reports and signings rumours that never quite seem to make it. If it’s a quiet day, you might get to do a profile on the stalwart full-back or the groundsman who’s been with a club for 40 years. But sadly, few publications in these stripped to the bone staffing days have the resources to devote to investigative journalism. And even more sadly, your average sports reporter seems more interested in the minutiae of everyday life at Man Utd than anything outside of that safe routine cocoon.

And god knows, there are enough sporting stories out there that would merit a tenacious reporter being given six months to poke around to their heart’s content and then to file a blow your socks off exclusive.

Sadly, the best we seem to get in the name of sports reporting is yet another interview with Harry Redknapp while he’s sat in his car with the window wound down …