Leading from the BackPage – online

23 March 2010

Written by: Matt de Neef

Ashley Browne remembers what sports journalism used to be like. If you wanted to interview a footballer after a game, you turned on the ground after the match and fired away. Nowadays it’s a case of contacting the player’s media manager and ‘hoping for the best’.

20 years after starting a career in sports journalism Ashley Browne finds himself at the forefront of the industry, thanks to the launch of BackPageLead, a collaboration with long-time colleague Charles Happell.

Where websites like Sportal, Fox Sports and ABC Sport are dedicated to providing sports news, the focus for BackPageLead is to provide sports opinion and commentary pieces from experienced sports journalists. With a team that includes the likes of Tim Lane, Francis Leach and Michael Reid, Browne hopes BackPageLead will become a key player in an ever-changing sports media landscape.

 Browne ‘stumbled into journalism’ at the age of 25 with a cadetship at The Age and spent 10 years there covering AFL football, tennis and golf. He has since been an integral part of the Sportal Australia launch team, the managing editor of the official AFL and Cricket Australia websites, and the national editor of the Australian Jewish News.

Despite Browne’s depth of experience, it is still very early days for his new venture, and a challenge to generate traffic for a website that nobody has heard about. According to Browne ‘the strategy was to get word out through the media’ and with content from the site appearing on the Sports Entertainment Network (SEN) and through the Australian Associated Press (AAP), the initial steps have been taken.

Browne is also keen to harness the power of social media to generate and sustain a readership for BackPageLead. The site’s Facebook page had attracted 130 ‘fans’ within a week of its March 9 launch date and is building a dedicated following on Twitter.

Ashley Browne will be appearing in conversation with upstart co-editor Matt de Neef at La Trobe University’s sports journalism symposium on April 8. His experience and insights into what’s happening in sports media should prove fascinating for anyone interested in pursuing a career in sports journalism. Some free places at the symposium are still available and full details about how to RSVP can be found at the symposium page. Get in quickly, places are limited.