UCLan journalism students go virtual during lockdown to interview sports professionals and broadcasters

18 May 2020

UCLan sports journalism student Nathan Ridley reveals how the Coronavirus lockdown has enabled students like himself to get invaluable online interviewing experience with a range of sports professionals and broadcast presenters

Although it was disappointing to have to leave university prematurely this spring because of the Coronavirus lockdown, the pandemic has brought one silver lining - guests from the media, politics and sport have had plenty of time for online chats with UCLan journalism industry students.

On the sporting front, from former Preston North End manager Simon Grayson to BBC TV presenter Gabby Logan, along with her husband former rugby union international Kenny Logan, we were lucky enough to gain valuable knowledge from those who know the media world the best. Stepping into the world of politics we also had the chance to glean important wisdom from figures such as the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lancashire MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Every guest inspired us in different ways, and we all got a chance to ask questions, whether they on serious topics or a little more trivial. For example, “Owain Wyn Evans, can you please play the drums again?”

BBC Test Match Special commentator Jonathan Agnew (or ‘Aggers’ as you might know him) and England football reporter Ian Dennis were two that particularly stood out for me. Lockdown has been a leveller – they might be well known voices on the radio but they were confined to their homes like the rest of us. Hence, they had all the time in the world to talk to us.

Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman spoke from his conservatory having just been shopping – and Mr Speaker squeezed us in between a Commons session with the Chancellor and the first ever virtual vote in Parliament.

I would give two straightforward tips for any students involved in online guest web chats: listen and ask questions.

Firstly, listen carefully to what the guest has to say. As much as our course prepares us for the industry, the guests ultimately know more - they’ve been through it day-to-day and can reveal so much.

Secondly, always try to ask a question. I can’t remember any questions that were dismissed or avoided, regardless of topic. We learned things that we wouldn’t have had any idea about if we hadn’t asked.

It might be tempting to get distracted while sitting at home, but if you keep engaged you can take lots from a web chat. I just thought of it  in the same way as I did when we had visits from industry guests who come into our Greenbank newsrooms most weeks. All give us real practical tips and advice.

I’m not saying lockdown has been any fun but our virtual guests have really enhanced our learning. We are all massively appreciative for these opportunities given to us by tutors in the journalism department at UCLan.

Nathan Ridley is a Year 2, BA (Hons) Sports Journalism student at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)

*Photo caption: One of the virtual interviews featuring (clockwise from top left): Lecturer in Journalism Kevin Duffy; Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons; UCLan student Liam Grimley and Lecturer in Broadcast Journalism Gerrie Byrne.

See below for photo caption*
See below for photo caption*