From the grandstand: News service now crucial

11 October 2011

Written by: Ben Waterworth

‘Hurry! Hurry! Wait! Wait!’

It’s just like being in the army, but in fact it’s the life of a reporter working for the Rugby News Service at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

And it’s just another typical day.

It’s 6.45am. That hideous alarm goes off again. Drag yourself out of a nice warm bed ─ time for work.

It’s then into the car and a 90-minute drive to cover a team announcement.  I walk into the hotel’s press conference room noticing that not many other media have bothered to turn up.

Suddenly, the team captain and coach walk in, the media manager just behind him handing out press releases at a feverish pace, as if his life depends on it.  Well, it might!

The press conference concludes, and my hand’s incredibly sore from taking down quotes. But there’s no time for complaining with a deadline looming.

I rush, trying to make sense of my long shorthand (or is it short longhand?).

I type the quotes from the captain and coach into the computer so they can be published and accessed by the international media as soon as possible.

Submit.

A few hours later it’s time to do it all again.

I recently returned home from a three-week stint working at the Rugby World Cup for sports data company Infostrada Sports  ─   a Netherlands-based business contracted by RWC 2011 to provide the event news service.

Infostrada has a massive sports database; among  the biggest in the world.  It can provide biographies and statistics from sports around the world, and does so for many international sporting federations. And if you want to access live scoring for a major sports event….well, this business has it all.

Another service Infostrada provides is an intranet/internet based news agency-style service for major international sporting events. It has covered summer and winter Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

When the Rugby World Cup was at its busiest, a team of 113 Infostrada Sports staff, including 48 trained volunteers, were stationed at venues throughout New Zealand.

That included a team of editors and sub-editors, statisticians and administrative staff based in Auckland.

Our reporters were at every match and every training venue, ensuring what we produced was of the highest quality. We provided match previews and reviews, general news articles, statistical articles, flash quotes and press conference reports. If a player or coach said or did anything of note, it was on the official RWC website within minutes.

Immediacy is the priority of the Rugby News Service.

We don’t write fancy introductions filled with hyperbole, or elongated feature stories. We provide sharp and succinct flash quotes which journalists from all around the world can use – and do use – as the basis of their stories.

When I introduced myself to other members of the media during my time in Hamilton and told them I was from Rugby News Service, a number of them enthusiastically replied:  ‘You guys are life savers!’

Our main focus as a news service was to fill the gaps. When a journalist couldn’t make it to a training session or press conference, we were there. When an online website based in Wales desperately wanted quotes after a training session, we were there to provide them.

A rugby side is team orientated. The Rugby News Service takes the same attitude. Our goal was to be the best team we can.

It’s clear now that the news service at a sports event should no longer be the exception, it should be the norm. It has become crucial, because companies like Infostrada have spent years collating the information required, and building the experienced workforce necessary to carry out the terms of its contracts.

A number of external media outlets have reproduced our material throughout the World Cup.

Local newspaper The New Zealand Herald has constantly used our flash quotes to create short stories in a daily ‘team briefings’ column in their ‘Rugby Herald’ section. To see some of my quotes published in the paper was a huge thrill.

UK agency Reuters and French international agency, Agence France-Presse, plus Australian publications The Age and popular sports website Sportal, have all made use of our content.

The popularity of our material from the media is a direct correlation with the hits the official World Cup website has been receiving.

By the end of September, there had been just under 10 million unique visitors to rugbyworldcup.com, over 70 per cent of the total during the 2007 Rugby World Cup already. There had been over 2.6 million app downloads and over five million page views on the Match Tracker.

In the end, it was all worth it – despite that damn alarm.

Ben Waterworth is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is upstart’s former sports editor. You can follow him on Twitter: @bjwaterworth