My Media Day: Mike Haggerty, comms consultant and freelance sports reporter

MIKE Haggerty runs his own communications consultancy and is a freelance sports reporter.

One of his specialities is curling and he is currently working at the curling event at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in Russia.

This is the 12th Olympic Games he has reported; at Summer Games, he writes about rowing.

He has reported from numerous European, Commonwealth and World Championships, as well as many World Cups and other local, national and international events.

Formerly, he was head of communications at the Scottish Qualification Authority (brought in as a member of the management team in the wake of the ‘exams crisis’ of 2000).

For that work, the team he led won Public Sector Team of the Year at the 2003 Chartered Institute of Public Relations (Scotland) awards.

He submitted this on Monday, February 17.

What exactly is it that you do?

In this role, I’m a specialist curling correspondent. Most of the major Scottish dailies and Sundays take my stuff and I am normally on the circuit from November until the end of April.

At all major curling events, I also provide reports for the Scottish governing body’s (RCCC) website and I am a journalist on the World Curling Federation’s (WCF) World Curling TV operation that produces footage and acts as host broadcaster at all the major events (except Olympic Games, which have their own broadcast service).

I write international newsfeed scripts, carry out post-match interviews and write all WCF event materials that appear on their website. These reports are distributed to their member national federations for use by their communications teams, and also distributed as media releases to a world-wide catalogue of sports journalists and organisations. For the WCF, I also project-manage the production of their annual review.

This involves a lot of travel. This season consists of Stavanger, Norway; Fuessen, Germany; Sochi, Russia; Flims, Switzerland (two days after Sochi!); Saint John, Canada; Beijing, China and, finally, Dumfries, Scotland.

I fund my travel and accommodation up-front which I recoup through freelance payments and contracts (eventually making a surplus – theoretically, at least).

I do something similar during the rowing season, though not to the same scale, and I try to keep my consultancy going through all this, for clients that have included such as Education Scotland, Olympic champion Dr Katherine Grainger CBE, Buchanan Castle Golf Club, the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework partnership, and Riverside Inverclyde.

I am also a member of the board of management of West College Scotland.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

Yesterday was the same as today and all the days since I got here and all the days until I leave.

I wake up in my allocated room in the media village at 7am (bring your own kettle for coffee, incidentally), have a lukewarm breakfast in the large refectory, queue for a media bus to the Main Press Centre (MPC), get through security and walk to the curling venue. All before the first game of the day starts at 9am.

I watch and note four games of curling going on simultaneously for about three hours, head for the mixed zone, to elbow your way to the front to interview your selected athletes; write up game reports and file copy. Repeat this three times every day until you file your last reports of the day, trying to beat yesterday’s get-out time of just before midnight.

Every day, every session, every game, the job is to interview each winning skip, the British skips – win or lose, and one or two others for colour or to help someone else out. It’s amazing how many teams are “in a marathon, not a sprint” and are taking it “one game at a time” – quotes that I never use. I blame media training, myself.

After all this, I head back to the MPC to catch a media bus back to the village; have a beer in the pop-up bar/restaurant (okay, two beers); grab five hours’ sleep… and repeat.

Glamorous or what? Incidentally, I think I’m averaging about 7,000 words a day.

How different or similar is your average working day to when you started?

I’ve been doing this for so long that technology has made a difference – no more dictating to copy-takers from a public phone in a crowded, loud bar.

And, of course, social media is growing in activity and importance all the time.

Also, to make all this viable, you need to have more than one dependable regular client – the more the merrier. The days of specialists like me working for just one title or outlet and being financially supported to attend major events are long gone.

How do you see your job evolving?

For the likes of the WCF and the RCCC, providing the type of material I produce is really effective in linking them to the various ‘tribes’ interested in their sport (associations, players, members, clubs, officials, families and others generally interested in the sport or activity), but it is a Pandora’s box. Do it one time and you can’t go back. Under these circumstances, the best way forward is on-going improvement of the product/service on offer. All this means that, while, for me, newspaper work is declining, the more specialised work is increasing.

Also, for curling, I see much more happening in the Orient. Curling is really growing in China, Korea and Japan (they are all playing in these Olympic Games), and I can see more events taking place there than in Europe.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

If you’re a sports-nut like me, it’s great to bear witness to great sporting drama and achievements. (I don’t attend too many Scottish football games). I remember watching Steve Redgrave win his fifth Olympic gold in Sydney and thinking, “you better get this report right, because there are a million people back home who want to be where you are”.

I’ve been very lucky to get where I am, but part of the fun is working with a close-knit group of fellow-travellers (literally) that include Scots such as specialist photographer Richard Gray, Danny Parker (ex-Scotsman sport), Alison Walker (ex-BBC), Sarah Floate (ex-Scottish Institute of Sport), Joanna Kelly (ex-Euronews) and young ‘whippersnappers’, Logan Gray and Kenny Edwards.

By the way, as Olympic Games go, this has been pretty special. I’m sure the venues look spectacular on TV, particularly at night, and the ever-changing coloured roof-light displays of the Bolshoi ice hockey arena make the new Hydro Arena in Glasgow look ordinary.