My Big Break: David McKinney, head of media and drama, City of Glasgow College, and former football reporter

DAVID McKinney is head of media and drama at the City of Glasgow College. He is a former football reporter, including at STV.

When did working in the media first start becoming an ambition?

Since I was at school. I was interested in journalism but back in the, ahem, 1970s, the careers advice wasn’t what it is now and I had no idea how to even start down that road.

Edinburgh Napier University – as it’s called now – was the only place to go, but Edinburgh was like a different planet to a young boy in Smalltown, Scotland.

The start of the journey began much closer to home when the local paper ran an advert which asked, ‘Do you want to become the new Archie Macpherson?’ It was for the local hospital radio service which was looking for commentators to cover football matches at Dumbarton’s Boghead Park. Five of us turned up and started a rota: the five dwindled to three and then to two. Eventually, I was on my own most weeks but it was great fun and just what I wanted to do.

I later wrote for the local paper, the Lennox Herald. I never went to Napier, did teacher training instead and became a teacher of English and Media.

But I was to later work with Archie Macpherson.

What was your first ‘media job’?

The first paid media job was for Westsound Radio, covering the Ayrshire Juniors football scene. That was an experience. There were plenty of incidents to report on, as you can imagine. At my first Cumnock versus Auchinleck game, it was like walking into a war zone. The police were positioned all the way round the pitch, the fans and players fought with each other, two were sent off and the referee required safe passage from the ground provided by ‘Ayrshire’s finest’.

One of the grounds didn’t have a phone so the reporter had to run 100 yards up the road to the home of the club secretary and ask his wife for the use of their phone. The reports were delivered to a background of the secretary’s wife telling the children to keep quiet because “that’s the man from the radio”. Then there was the dash back to the ground. I never saw the first ten minutes of the second half in any of those games.

But being on the radio and being paid felt like I had a ‘foot on the ladder’ towards a media career.

Describe, briefly, how your career unfolded between your first media job and where you are now

I had been reporting for Westsound for a while and had moved up to report on the Seniors (mostly Kilmarnock, then managed by the late Tommy Burns) when an advert appeared in The Herald for a sports reporter at the Glasgow Sports Agency. I applied and was offered the position but turned it down because the money wasn’t so good and I would be leaving a secure, well-paid job.

They came back to me again about a week later and, after agonising for a couple of days, I accepted. I felt that if I didn’t take this opportunity I would be a teacher for the rest of my life. I took over from Graham Spiers and was with the agency for three years.

I turned freelance after that, one of the first independent freelancers in Scotland at the time, who wasn’t tied in with an agency. Those years were spent collecting experience of all areas of the media. There wasn’t much radio work, but plenty of writing for papers and some television work, comprising after-match interviews.

A friend then asked if I had applied for a job at a new Paisley radio station, which was opening. I hadn’t heard of them but within a week I was at Q96, supplying sports reports. We added a show about the local club, St Mirren, on a Friday night and a half hour on a Saturday morning. A young Colin Kelly made the tea and answered the phones for us.

By now, I was the Scottish football correspondent for The Independent. When Q96 was taken over by Scot FM, I became head of sport for both stations. This was just after they stopped the commentaries so while it was a good job to have, it lacked the live Saturday input. While there, I gave a young reporter his first media job. His name was Andrew Cotter; I often wonder what became of him!

STV was the next stop. Applying for the sports slot on Scotland Today, I lost out. But just as with Glasgow Sports Agency, a week later I was approached and offered a position with Scotsport.

Eight years later, Scotsport ended so it was back to being freelance. Unfortunately, the majority of my income came from Setanta and when it folded I moved back into education.

Any particularly big breaks along the way?

Several. Glasgow Sports Agency allowed me to work full-time in the media, Q96 was a big move as it allowed me to access to PA and IRN and gave me a base to work from when I had operated from home before. Moving to STV was also significant.

Who would you like to thank more than most?

Too many to list here! It’s the people who have shown faith in you. Iain Ferguson at Westsound, Bob McWilliam at Q96, Glen Stirling at Glasgow Sports Agency, Henry Smith at Scotland on Sunday, who gave me a lot of work, and Denis Mooney at STV.

What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started?

Probably like many others, that working in the media won’t make you rich. It’s been good fun though. Perhaps the time was right for me to get a proper job.