Barry Newcombe has been chairman of the Sports Journalist’s Association (SJA) since 2007. A veteran journalist, Barry has over 50 years of experience, including stints on the Evening Standard and Sunday Express where he was rugby and tennis correspondent. More recently, he has freelanced for the Sunday Times, covering rugby, and has contributed to the Wimbledon website.
Barry is also chairman of the Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive (AIPS) Rugby Commission as well as the UK Olympic Press Attache for the London 2012 Olympic Games, having performed this role at the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics.
With over 30,000 website views a day and over 8,000 Twitter followers, online communication is vital to the SJA. “We break stories about sports journalism and other related aspects and whereas in earlier days you heard what was happening in a pub in Fleet Street now you are a click away from being right up to date. Our website changes constantly and reflects the hard work which goes into its operation. I imagine during the London Olympics the site may well attract huge and unprecedented levels of interest.”
Founded in 1948, the SJA has developed enormously over the years: “The pioneers established some firm foundations and their ideas have been incorporated and enhanced as we have moved on. Our awards within the industry are well respected and as new media platforms have developed so has the SJA. Our annual sports awards lunch is one of the highlights of the year. The SJA website is always busy and the amount of traffic is considerable and increases year on year. We will endeavour to reflect that interest as we move on without forgetting our heritage and ideals.”
As the SJA has changed so too has the nature of sports journalism and its relationships with PRs: “In my early days I was reporting a rugby match at which I wrote by hand and dropped the material through a hole in the stand. It would then be collected, taken to a phone and the material read out, word by word, to my office. At the end of the game I went under the stand to check and there, on the ground, were all my pieces of paper, not one of which had been transmitted. We have moved on. Some will recall the advance of the Tandy word processor into Fleet Street. We took many of them to the Seoul Olympics in 1984 and I can still hear the roars of excitement when someone made a connection to their offices after minutes or even an hour or so of trying.
“The relationship between PRs and journalists has grown over the years and will continue to do so. Much news and feature material is generated in this way and there does seem to be an increase in PR inspired features across many sports. PR might be able to create feature opportunities which would not be available by other avenues.
“The basics of sports journalism and transmitting information used to change slowly. But not anymore. Who knows what is around the corner? We just have to be ready for it.”
For more insight into sports, read our previous spotlights with media including sportinglife.com, Footy-Boots.com, The Tennis Space, FitPro, Nicola Joyce, Oliver Brett, Metro, David Gurney, TalkSport, Craig Bloomfield and Runners World.