Eight months into my two-year traineeship at PA
“My proudest moment was receiving my media accreditation to cover football matches.”
I am eight months into my two-year traineeship at PA and couldn’t have asked for a more insightful introduction to the life of a working journalist.
Right now I’m working with the Sports team, based in Howden, in Yorkshire and will move to PA’s main newsroom in London in July. After structuring a year-long development plan with PA’s Sports Editor, I started on the Digital Production desk which gave me invaluable experience in delivering fast but accurate stories for PA's customers. These include most of the UK’s national press, broadcasters and online news outlets.
From there I moved on to the main sports desk; for me, that’s been the most challenging but most thrilling part of the traineeship.
During my time there I wrote news stories on the full range of sports that PA covers including football, cricket, tennis, snooker, rugby league, rugby union, cycling, boxing and many more.
The toughest part of that assignment was having to produce page-ready reports from lower league football games each Saturday. But without being thrust in at the deep end, I wouldn't have gained the confidence, or the writing and time management skills I have developed.
My proudest moment was receiving my media accreditation to cover Premier League and Football League matches just five months into my traineeship. Having my hard work rewarded and knowing I’d made a solid start in a career reporting live sports gave me a real boost.
With this pass I was able to shadow a fellow reporter and cover Hull City v Cardiff City. This meant filing a match report five minutes after the final whistle, but I got the chance to use the shorthand skills I learnt during PA’s training course. Luckily Hull City's manager Steve Bruce talks relatively slowly so I was able to transcribe his post-match press conference directly onto my laptop!
Importantly I also had the chance to pick the brains of other journalists pitch-side, and to observe how they operate on match days. That’s been invaluable in preparing me for my first solo assignment on April 2 covering Hull City against Bristol City.
There have been so many other great rewards - another of my highlights was seeing my feature on England qualifying for Euro 2016 bylined on the website of The Independent. Seeing my name appear on a site I visit regularly was surreal. My family was so proud of me and I still can't believe it to this day.
I’m currently working on the Web Management desk where I have had the opportunity to write on cricket, rugby league and golf and have since had other bylines published. Believe me when I say cricket is not my number one sport, but seeing features I’ve written appear on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) website - here and here - have really shown me how far I've come since the start of the traineeship last year. I’ve also just finished assisting PA's European Tour Gold correspondent during the WGC-Dell Match Play in Texas. Despite not being an expert in the sport, l thoroughly enjoyed learning how to write golf reports and sidebars, and how these differ from other sports.
During my time at PA, I’ve also been trusted to tweet updates and breaking news from the agency’s official Twitter accounts PA Dugout and PA Sport. This has definitely improved my understanding of how fellow sports journalists use social media to gather and share news, and to raise their own personal profiles.
There have been many other learning opportunities in the past few months. I took a refresher session in media law with PA’s Law Editor, and have also had video training for assignments such as covering press conferences and team training sessions.
My advice to new applicants would be to make the most of this unique opportunity. When I applied for the training course last year, I didn't have the means to pay for all the expenses but PA, with the help of the Journalism Diversity Fund, has given me the best start to my career in journalism.
There’s definitely a need for more diversity in our newsrooms so I’d encourage any aspiring journalists to help address the imbalance and open doors for the future.
Ally Darlow - 'Hands down I'd recommend it to anyone interested in journalism.'
Ally Darlow // Full time Freelancer, Snack Media