ANDREW Southwick is a freelance reporter, focusing mainly on sport, and has edited his own website, theawayend.net, for the last four years.
It was launched while Andrew was an university journalism student, as a platform for himself and others to gain experience.
The site has since partnered with the BA (Hons) Sports Journalism degree at the University of the West of Scotland, while other journalism students from all over the country use The Away End to boost their portfolios.
Away from the website, Andrew also does regular shifts on the sports desk at BBC Scotland, writes a column for new Daily Record weekly, Aberdeen Now newspaper, and has just written his first book.
He submitted this on Thursday, May 9.
What exactly is it that you do?
I’m editor of The Away End website. A lot of that is simply run for the benefit of media students who are looking to get some experience and a byline, so a lot of my time is spent setting them up with interviews, getting them access to matches to report on or press conferences to attend.
Sometimes, especially in the case of producing video content, I’ll take them with me to an event. It’s essentially an opportunity to get work experience that they may only get once or twice a year by applying for work at a newspaper. Students can go their whole three or four years of a degree without ever being at a press conference or reporting at a big match, so The Away End offers that opportunity.
We focus heavily on women’s football, and we’ve found this is a great grounding for aspiring sports reporters. Generally, save for the odd occasion, we’ll be the only media at a game, and the women’s game in Scotland is crying out for publicity. That means our reporters get as much access as they want; be it conducting interviews with players or staff, or producing match highlights or feature videos. The guys that cover it are learning real journalism skills that they simply wouldn’t get from covering Scottish Premier League games where it is so easy to put your voice recorder on a table and let others ask the questions.
In addition to that, recently I’ve started doing the odd shift in the office at BBC Scotland, and I write a weekly Dons column for Aberdeen Now. I’ve also written my first book, as yet untitled, which is aimed at 17 and 18 year-olds away to start university. But my real passion is writing novels and I’ve got a few that I’ve started but have never got around to finishing, so that’s something I’d like to concentrate more on.
What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?
Today I spent the morning editing and uploading a number of really good articles onto the site, which show the high level of talent we have writing for The Away End. One of the articles was by a student who had managed to get an-one-on-one interview with Ross County manager, Derek Adams.
We also had students who went along to a couple of press conferences this week – one with John Collins and Craig Levein, the other with Danny McGrain, so these guys are working on editing their videos and we’ll have them up on the site at some point.
I was also replying to emails from journalism students at Edinburgh Napier University who want to help us with covering women’s football in the East of Scotland, while tonight I hope to be able to make the long journey from Glasgow to Fife to cover the women’s football League Cup semi-final between Forfar Farmington and Glasgow City.
No doubt, I’ll be the only journalist at the game, just like I was the sole representative of the media at last night’s semi-final between Spartans and Hibs in Newtongrange. So, I’ll try put some interviews together and see if there are any takers elsewhere in the media. Sadly, club football in the women’s game isn’t a lucrative area – if it was, there would be a lot more people keeping me company.
How different or similar was it to your average working day?
I guess I’m fortunate in that I have a variety in my working week. One day, I can be working from home, others I’m maybe at the BBC when there’s breaking stories happening, and others I’m sat at a Scottish Cup final.
At other times, like last night, when it’s a long drive through the rain to cover a game for no pay, it can be a bit of a slog.
I enjoy it more when I’m just getting to do journalism. Some might enjoy being at a press conference with Neil Lennon or Gordon Strachan, but I much prefer bringing a video camera to a Glasgow City training session and speaking to the manager, one-on-one. It might not be the most sought-after story in Scotland, but at The Away End we at least get to produce what we want, and we take great pride in having original content and something different from the mainstream media.
How different or similar is your average working day to when you started in post?
I started as a student with the intention of creating a monthly Scottish football magazine in print, and the website was nothing more than an after-thought.
I still have that dream, if I’m honest, but the reality is we’ve had to concentrate on what we can do, and that is being able to produce online videos, podcasts, a website full of original features, interviews and opinions pieces. Only now are many of the newspapers actually catching up with their own websites.
How do you see the job evolving?
It’s difficult to say. It could go one of two ways. Either, I’ll move away from the website and hand it over to someone else (preferably a student or university course so that it remains as it is today: a platform for those looking to get into the business).
Or, it will become my full-time focus. But the rest of the online media are already starting to do the same things as us at a time when we’re still struggling to build up a sizeable following.
I think the site is essentially there as a work experience platform, and students will rise up through the ranks and get jobs elsewhere, and therefore everyone – myself included – are always going to have at least ‘one eye’ on elsewhere.
I like the idea of doing more broadcast journalism, and we’ve already produced a couple of pilot episodes of a planned women’s football TV show. I’d love for The Away End to evolve into a TV show or channel, even just an online one, covering women’s football. I’d also love to be editing a Scottish FourFourTwo magazine.
What gives you most job satisfaction?
I’m easily pleased, to be honest. I remember my first day at the BBC when I was being introduced around the office, and hearing people like Richard Gordon, Jane Lewis and David Currie say they read The Away End. That was definitely very satisfying, because there are hundreds of sports blogs out there, all vying for attention.
Likewise, looking at our twitter followers, there are journalists from every major media organisation in Scotland following The Away End. That means that, when we do something, we’re being noticed, and that makes my job easier when convincing new students to come on board.