Friday, 2 January 2009

The Journalistic January Transfer Window.

In the month of January, if you pick up any national newspaper and turn to the back page, chances are you’ll be confronted by a story documenting football transfer dealings.

FIFA’s January transfer window, introduced during the 2002/03 season, has seen the turn of the year become one of the busiest, newsiest and exciting times for sports journalists.

But it’s not just footballers who are moving around in January.

Journalists themselves often tend to move from paper to paper as we approach a new calendar year. 2009 is no different.

The topic of journalists switching to different newspapers has been hammered home to me this Friday afternoon.

Earlier I was listening to Alan Oliver, the Newcastle Evening Chronicle’s long-serving Chief Sports Writer, chatting on talkSPORT radio’s Goldstein & Cundy show (themselves no strangers to gracing newspaper pages) about Shay Given’s increasing unhappiness at Newcastle United.

Alan started by saying that today, after 29 years of covering the Magpies for them, he was working his last day at the Chronicle, and would be retiring from the rigours of daily journalism not long after putting down the phone.

However, this does not signal the end of his distinguished career, as Oliver announced how he will be continuing his journalistic work as the North-East football correspondent with the Sunday People.

For those of you who aren’t quite the sports journalism anorak that I am, you might remember Alan Oliver from an excellent video report he produced with Kevin Day for BBC TV’s Match of the Day 2 a few years back, charting his match report for the final edition of the Chronicle’s Saturday evening Pink paper.

Man on the move – Alan Oliver is leaving the Newcastle Evening Chronicle after 29 years.

He is often heard giving his take on the “Geordie Nation” on rolling sports news channels and it will be interesting to see how his reporting adapts to a new, national platform.

Touching on a topic discussed in previous blogs, Oliver for three decades will have been viewed by many Magpies fans as “their football writer” and has had a long and storied career in the North-East.

Indeed his former colleague Neil Farrington, sports columnist for the Chronicle’s sister paper, the Sunday Sun, has dubbed him “Mr Newcastle” in a tribute piece.

Through the window – Paul Hayward, Martin Samuel and Patrick Barclay are all switching newspapers, much like how the footballers they report on are currently changing clubs.

Alan is not the only sports journalist on the move.

Indeed a number of the biggest names on (what used to be) Fleet Street are moving to different papers.

Sports journalism’s answer to the fabled “managerial merry-go-round” actually began in August, when it was announced that the Daily Mail’s Paul Hayward would be returning to The Guardian on their move to Kings Cross at the beginning of 2009.

Hayward, having been Chief Sports Writer at the Independent, Telegraph and the Mail, will now become Senior Sports Writer across the Guardian, Observer and their online presence.

Succeeding him at the Mail is Martin Samuel, a heavyweight columnist who was named Sports Journalist of the Year at the 2008 British Press Awards.

The former Daily Express, News of the World and Times Chief Football Correspondent is another writer who has detailed his departure, mentioning it in his final column in The Times’ Monday football supplement ‘The Game’.

A number of journalists will be filling his shoes at the Times, the biggest hitter being the highly-respected Patrick Barclay, the cerebral Sunday Telegraph football columnist of 12 years until last month.

Barclay takes up the newly-created role of Chief Football Commentator, whilst the Times have promoted from within to give Oliver Kay a new reporting brief as Football Correspondent, inheriting Samuel’s Monday Game discussions amongst other duties.

So it’s all change as many of the marquee sports columnists have traded places with their contemporaries.

It’s a transfer window all of its own.

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