After graduating from Nottingham University, David Gurney completed an NCTJ post-grad in journalism in Harlow. He joined the Dorking Advertiser in 1996, moving on to the Leatherhead Advertiser and Surrey Mirror, as reporter, then news editor. David also freelanced at the Guardian, which lead to a job as a sports sub at Metro in 2000, becoming sports editor in 2006.
Cision: In response to the rise in digital media and, more recently, the issues raised by the Leveson enquiry, have you seen significant changes in the way newspapers operate? Where do you believe the future of journalism, specifically newspapers, lies?
David: I wouldn’t sound the death knell for the printed newspaper just yet but everything is shifting towards a digital future for papers, and what we can do on the iPad and other tablet devices. The need for good journalism remains, the challenge is in what format do you deliver it – and make money at the same time of course. Metro already has an impressive, and free, tablet version but this is really just the start. Over time, the key will be to take advantage of what this technology can offer. Yes, it can be a version of the newspaper but it can also;
– use social media to engage readers far more and get them involved.
– make video, audio, blogs integral to these tablet editions
– give them live elements so the stories are updating all the time.
It is not going to be easy. With new technology and the ease of access readers have to huge amounts of content, newspapers have a massive challenge on their hands to get people’s attention – and to meet their expectations. They don’t just want a report and a picture of a football match. They want;
– the reporter to be tweeting updates and opinion during and after the game
– the ability to respond to that, and in a sense become part of the newspaper’s coverage
– blogs from Metro writers about the match, and to be able to blog themselves
– use social hotspots to show, for instance, they are at the game and have something to say about it
– video highights, from the game and the managers afterwards
– to interact further by voting in polls on the big issue coming out of the match
– to play ‘news games’ where some talking point is translated into a game hours after the final whistle – eg you see a major incident from the referee’s viewpoint and have to decide if it’s a sending-off or penalty.
And on and on, so the paper doesn’t just become a one-hit moment each morning but is with the reader throughout the day, the weekend, etc. And all accessible simply, with no hassle, so you can move seamlessly through this myriad of offerings all coming out of the same publication.
Cision: In your experience, what differences, if any, are there in editing the sports section of a ‘freesheet’ rather than a paid-for newspaper?
David: For a start, we don’t call it a free sheet. Bit too patronising and dismissive for our liking. There is no difference in terms of mindset in sports editing a free newspaper as opposed to a paid-for one. Our aim is to produce the best possible section, with breaking news, superb features, brilliant columns, and to a standard that rivals paid-for papers. The difference is in resources, namely that we have less than many other publications. So the challenge is to use them more effectively.
Cision: Later this year the UK will host the Olympic and Paralympics Games. What sort of features will you be looking for and how will you work with PRs?
David: This will be by far the greatest challenge and opportunity in Metro’s history, something that could also be said for myself and my team. Working on a sports desk in the host city of an Olympics is almost certainly a once-in-a-lifetime for us and we intend to make the most of it.
My advice to PRs would be don’t bombard us with the same people for interview opportunities all the time. Even the highest profile names have already reached the point of over-exposure. There is a far better chance of getting a Jess Ennis feature in the paper if she is used sparingly, and ideally offered as an exclusive rather than just part of a mass round of interviews. And dig out some names and competitors we may not have heard of but who have an interesting story to tell. And never, ever ask for copy approval or a PDF of a page before publication. We won’t do it. And while we’re at it, we are a national paper, not London only.
Cision: So, will the Metro’s sports coverage be geared towards Team GB or will it take on a global focus?
David: Inevitably we will give prominence to British success at the Games. But if the story is interesting, the focus can be on foreign athletes. From Usain Bolt to Russian weightlifting triumphs, our coverage will be extensive – in paper, online and on tablet.
Cision: Will you be relying on any freelancers to help with the coverage of the games?
David: We will be increasing our staffing levels during the Games and so we are looking for freelance subs.
Cision: As a journalist, how do you use social media? To what extent is social media integrated in the metro newsroom?
David: It is integrated into the work of the sports desk already but will become more and more central to what we do. All members of the team are on Twitter, with key columnists and writers using it to interact with readers, break news and seek reaction to their columns. It is also one of our top sources of news and quotes. Again, though, this is just the start.
For more insight into sports, read our previous spotlights with media including sportinglife.com, Footy-Boots.com, The Tennis Space, FitPro and Nicola Joyce as well as our sport media rankings.