#WMDCC2019: Sports Media Trainee blog

© WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik

Bailey Martens and Jason Bennett, are the latest recipients of the World Curling Federation’s Sport Media Trainee Programme. Not only is this their first time covering a curling event, it’s their first time part of a media team at an international sports competition.

Bailey, 21, has recently completed third year of her degree in Media and Communications, with a specialisation in Professional Writing, at Trinity Western University, in Langley, Canada.

Jason, 20, is a second year Photography student at the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston, England.

Among their duties this week is to contribute to this daily blog, recounting their experiences from their first international curling event.

Bailey Martens

Day seven: The whole picture

Stavanger, Norway, where the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship and the World Seniors Curling Championships are currently being hosted, is famous for its street art.

After reading about the self-guided street art tours, In the first break of the week, I dragged Jason, the other trainee, in search of what has made this city so loveable.

As we wandered through the cobblestone streets I quickly missed the art. “Slow down, relax,” Jason said as I insisted we needed to keep going. He quickly spotted the art before me every time. It wasn’t always easily seen. Sometimes the narrow dimly-lit alley-way one would expect to find street art in was barren. Other murals found their home on the side of large public buildings. You could not predict where the gems would lie just that you knew they were there.

That is very much how this whole experience has felt. In the often very cold moments at the rink, I haven’t always been sure how to spot my growth. It has felt hidden down an alley. The areas that I thought I would find apparent growth I am not sure I see it just yet. I am sure it is happening and once this all winds down I will be able to stop and see the masterpieces in front of me.

I am seeing glimpses of that change, even if not the whole picture.

Anybody who has met me this week will have likely heard me say that I am not a sports reporter. That still may be true but I am learning that maybe my goal is not to fall into a certain reporting beat but to just seek out great stories. The feature stories I got to write this week required far more transferable journalistic skills than a deep understanding of curling. My knowledge of curling is still sub-par at best.

All of my tasks this week have mostly relied on getting to know the athletes as people, not just the score sheet. It is all about their stories not the stones on the ice. Whatever I go on to do, my confidence to be able to step into a new room, at home or abroad, and adjust has skyrocketed. This has brought a welcomed breakthrough from imposter syndrome.

I will leave my final blog with a nod to those who have come before and are yet to come. This programme truly does give trainees elite access, not only to some of the best curlers but also the best curling reporters and photographers. It is a privilege just to watch them work.

To whoever will fill this seat after me, know that your legs will be numb by day three which makes it feel warmer.

Day four: The difference is rapport

Prior to my time as a World Curling Federation media trainee I have not been associated with large international organisations. I have freelanced for some larger publications but most of my bylines come from student papers.

Before heading to Stavanger, I met with The Ubyssey’s (University of British Columbia’s official student paper) former sports editor. She told me to do my background research and be assertive but there is no reason I cannot do this.

Everything I knew about curling, prior to being here, I learnt on the 10-hour flight from Vancouver, Canada to Amsterdam, Netherlands and then again on my short flight to Stavanger, Norway.

I thought the enthusiasm I have been met with by teams and onlookers alike was a result of an extremely gracious sport, which I still think is true, but I now see that so much of the willingness of athletes to engage is the mutual respect that the WCF has built. The road has been paved by those who have come before me.

Upon watching my first post-game interview I was shocked by Mike Haggerty’s, the WCF journalist, relatability in the interviews. He did not shy away from inserting his own relevant personal anecdotes. Each time this was done, the athletes relaxed and continued to open up. He was able to achieve this because he has spent a lifetime investing in the sport and these athletes.

Until seeing this, I had the classic J-school perspective that an interview must be objective. I think I was wrong.

In so many instances, I have had hours, or minutes, to brief myself before an interview. Journalists often joke that they become an expert on something new every day. It has been riveting to see the impact years of investment makes.

I have been repeatedly asked this week if I am enjoying myself. I am sure part of this question is to make sure that I am not feeling completely overwhelmed but perhaps it is also a small reminder to savour my time here. They understand, likely better than I do, the immense privilege it is to be here.

Journalists Mike Haggerty and Jolene Latimer with Bailey (left), © WCF / Tom Rowland

Day one: The first taste of sports journalism

I am not a sports reporter.

I have never dreamed of writing about sitting on a media bench and capturing an athletes first jumbled thoughts after winning a world championship.

I was never meant to end up here.

A former trainee on this programme and close friend, encouraged me to apply. In an attempt to humour her, I applied five minutes before the deadline. I now somehow find myself in the chilly Sørmarka Arena, apparently qualified to cover the World Mixed Doubles.

This would come as a great surprise to my sports reporting professor who promptly pulled me from game reports after my first attempt to cover a soccer game. I simply wasn’t good enough and we both thought I would never need to file another one.

While the world of sports is brand new to me, the world of journalism is not. I have moved my way up the ranks from high school and onto four university papers and vast freelance work. I cannot tell you the last day I did not have an interview or was forming a story. Newsrooms feel like home even on the hardest days.

The World Mixed Doubles media bench is an unexpected welcomed change in pace. Hopping off the news desk has given me space to see the value in other types of reporting. I am so often pigeonholed into particular beats not getting the opportunity or declining the chance to try something new. While I never dreamed of growing up to be a sports reporter, I am starting to see why others want to.

I report primarily on vulnerable populations and public policy. Many of my best days as a reporter are as a result of other’s worst. Regardless of what happens over the course of the week, stories will be based on victorious wins, not devastating tragedies. It has already given me space to breathe.

On my first day as the World Curling Federation media trainee, I have been welcomed by other members of the media and athletes alike. There is no doubt that the athletes at this world championship are extremely talented, but I do find myself surprised by the excitement of media presence by athletes. It is a stark difference from having to claw my way into rooms that still try their best to shut me out.

Looking forward to the rest of the week, I am expectant to continue to learn that journalism does not have to be high stakes.

Jason Bennett

Day eight: It’s gone in a flash!

Finals day was a bit of a blur! The time went by in a flash as the pressure of winning for the athletes mounted up. I enjoyed capturing the highs and the lows of the finals and it made for some fantastic images.

It seems almost surreal to think that last week I’d never seen a live curling match in my life, despite considering myself to be an all-round sports fan. So, to be given the opportunity of visiting a country I’ve never been to before, to photograph a sport I’ve never seen was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to miss.

Hopefully my anticipation and excitement was the same as the 96 players from the 48 teams from around the globe competing in the mixed soubles championship. This work experience has been by no means a holiday, in fact, quite the opposite. Each day we’ve had to be fully focused on every match, and thankfully being part of a photography team (Tom, Alina and
myself) made it easier, but the days are long and hard.

As this was my first official shoot I didn’t know what to expect, but I did feel it would be a great learning experience. This has proved to be the case, and I will be forever grateful for the feedback I have received which has helped me to think about the different aspects of photography and presentation.

The only downside would be that three days in, one of my lenses decided not to focus correctly, but I had to learn to adapt on the go and that’s why you always bring extra lenses.
This has been my first time in Norway, I just wish I could have had more time to explore this beautiful country. But who knows, in years to come I could be here again.

Day five: Three days in and all still going well

I’d like to say I feel like a pro, but as the saying goes, “Every day is a school day.” So, I’m learning more each day, and receiving helpful feedback as well. Being close to the action, I have enjoyed it so much that I have to remember I am actually working.

The venue itself, the Sørmarka Arena, is a great place to work as the media bench is placed in the middle of both the mixed doubles and the seniors sheets which gives a great vantage point to photograph from. The food isn’t too bad but a little variety from pasta would be nice.

Whilst shooting, I have been encouraged to incorporate different techniques and to think ’outside the box’. Panning shots have been a favourite of mine but mastering the perfect shot takes time.

It’s much more technical than you may think, it’s not just ’point and click’. There’s also the uploading to the official curling website with the correct metadata preset (or tag). This is the central library where all the teams and world media take their images from.

Upon stepping onto the ice for the first time I expected to slide across but to my surprise there was enough grip to walk or push run. I was also impressed by the pebbling which took place after every heat as found myself intrigued by this technique of waving water droplets from side to side

After watching a tremendous amount of curling I have found that I am enjoying the sport and the technical aspects of it more than ever.

Here’s to hoping it carries on!

© WCF / Jason Bennett
© WCF / Jason Bennett

Day two: This is really happening

This really is a ’pinch me, it’s real’ kind of moment for me! When I got the email inviting me to attend the World Curling Mixed Doubles Championship 2019 in Stavanger, I didn’t give it a second thought, it was an opportunity that I really couldn’t miss.

Being involved in sport has been a passion of mine since I was young. I played football for my local home team, Poulton Youth FC [near Blackpool, England] from the age of four, cricket, various other sports and finally college basketball. It’s that being part of a team spirit that I enjoy the most, and being here with the World Curling Federation, in Stavanger, feels very much the same for me.

I must admit, curling has never been a sport I’ve immersed myself in before. But, being here and capturing those defining moments of their sporting passion and successes is something I can relate to.

Tom [Rowland, former trainee] and the rest of the media team have made me feel most welcome and very much part of the team, so a big thanks to them all. It’s intense and long days here at the arena, but I am learning so much and enjoying every moment, and still I can’t quite believe that I’m here.

The championships – the World Seniors are on too – have been underway for two days now. So far, I’m really enjoying the whole experience. I shoot with two cameras to capture a range of shots, which I believe works well for me.

I enjoy the diversity between the mixed doubles which incorporates two curlers compared to the senior championships which involves four curlers. Both for me, are a fantastic opportunity to capture and I have enjoyed every moment.

I’ll keep you posted.