‘Sorry, how many million pounds do you earn?’

20 July 2011

Written by: Lawrie Zion

Kevin Hawkins

Soccer has never really been ‘my thing’.

While I appreciate the tactics, the miracle goals and the spectator engagement, I find the whole ordeal to be a bit of a lullaby.

Wake me up for penalty shootouts. And that’s about it.

But when Greggor from Sportal invited me to join his AAMI Park expedition, I jumped at the opportunity.

After all, it couldn’t be more boring than the sport itself, right?

Indeed, the media spots with Melbourne Victory and Celtic Football Club were worth my while, even if I felt a little out of place. I recognised a sum total of one player (Archie Thompson) from both Melbourne and Celtic combined, a fact that will no doubt depress soccer fans the world over.

For an hour or so, I sat on the Bubble Dome bench (my first visit to the venue … not a bad place to park myself) as the Celtic millionaires danced their way across the pitch. Behind me, a few hundred Melbourne-based Celtic based screamed with fervor, riding the kicks and headers of each of their heroes. In contrast, I played on my netbook, giving the Scottish strangers only an intermittent glance.

When the team eventually wrapped up their session, the media pounced from their seats to get what they wanted. Journalists from a variety of media companies including The Age and Herald Sun stuffed microphones into captain Scott Brown’s face. I unassumingly watched from afar.

Had I seen this man on the street, I wouldn’t have given him a second glance. But today, I choose to keep my ignorance private. Today, I was willing to trust my ‘fellow’ journos that this man was worthy of five microphones and a camera.

Moments later, the media circus grabbed hold of a South Korean bloke named Ki Sung-Yueng. The affable young man was naive enough to shake my hand. Bless him.

My biggest brush with fame actually came after we had left the Richmond venue, when Greggor introduced me to one of Australia’s leading soccer writers. Like Brown and Sung-Yueng before him, I had never seen this man before. I could nevertheless tell that he was a big deal, judging by the way he demanded reverence from every accompanying  journalist. He asked me what my deal was.

‘I’m studying Media at Melbourne,’ I informed him.

‘Why?’ he retaliated.

‘Umm… because I want to become a journalist.’

And with that, he began his rant.

Over the next 30 minutes, the experienced journalist gave me a dozen reasons to give up on my dreams. He lamented the dying state of newspapers, criticised the pointlessness of writing courses, and condemned the internal politics of the industry. He whinged about the salaries, moaned about the entrance paths, and scoffed at the realities of freelancers.

‘You’ve got more chance of being drafted into the AFL than finding a job in journalism,’ he concluded, with almost too much sincerity.

I could definitely see the man’s point. With the onset of new media, written journalism is on the decline, if it isn’t already dead. Job losses are the new black, meaning that production teams are getting smaller and smaller. In other words, you have to be that one-in-a-million individual if you want to make it.

‘And you probably think you are that one-in-a-million. But chances are, you’re not.’

‘I was,’ he noted, just to rub it in.

Savvy enough to realise that this was not a crude personal attack, but a cynical assessment of the industry, I asked him how many aspiring writers had heeded his warning.

‘Probably none,’ he admitted.

And with that, I was happy to keep the score at nil-all.

Kevin Hawkins is a budding journalist, studying Media and Communications at the University of Melbourne. This post first appeared on his blog, knockin’ on kevin’s door.