Sam Duncan on how to make it in the sports media industry
From a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) and post-grad studies at Swinburne, Sam Duncan has gone on to live his childhood fantasy, broadcasting with his Australian Football League (AFL) heroes on radio.
“I really enjoyed my bachelor degree, masters and PhD at Swinburne. All great education environments have a fantastic community. You can come to university, go to lectures and tutes and get through your degree – or you can immerse yourself. Playing football for the Swinburne Amateurs football team and participating in the University Games were some of the greatest times of my student life.
After my honours, I got a job with a public relations organisation. To get a full-time job that was practical was good for me. It added a great skill set and provided an insight into the media industry from different perspectives - from that of an academic, a journalist and a PR professional. For anyone who’s working in academia, it’s important to get your hands dirty in the industry.
"Make sure your skill set is as wide and varied as possible. Above all, don't lose sight of what you actually want to do and what you want to be."
At Crocmedia, I've been able to work with Rex Hunt, Peter Donergan, Billy Brownless, Terry Wallace, Sandy Roberts, Liam Pickering and Robert Walls as a Boundary Rider on their AFL Live Broadcast. Crocmedia creates content for media organisations.
Rex was my favourite commentator as a kid. I would listen to him in the backyard while kicking the footy religiously – from 12pm to 6pm. They say you should never meet your heroes but Rex has been absolutely terrific.
I’ve found the sports media industry rewards those who persevere. Even 200 game legend Rex Hunt would sit in the grandstands during matches and commentate into his recorder for practice when he was first starting out. When you hear what a broadcasting legend has had to do – you become aware of what’s required. I did this for years before finally Croc Media offered me my role.
My article in the Journal of National and Social Philosophy, PhD thesis and new book Footy Grounds to Grandstands, discusses our fascination with sport and how the commercialisation of AFL clubs impacts the communities around it. In Melbourne, sport is part of our culture and the AFL still averages the fourth highest crowds of all sports in the world.
I also explore how today’s competition has become commodified. As a result, both players and clubs have become more removed from the fans. Many fans now consume the game as entertainment - as opposed to feeling part of a community. This commercialisation hasn’t ruined the relationship fans have with their club, but it has changed it.
Of course, this has implications for the roles available to sports media professionals. You might have your heart set on being a journalist, but now you have more options. The AFL and clubs are media organisations - if you’re going to pigeonhole yourself as a writer, there will be less opportunities for you.
Learn how to create audio, video, blogs and websites. Make sure your skill set is as wide and varied as possible. Above all, don’t lose sight of what you actually want to do and what you want to be. But in the meantime don’t sit and wait. Get busy."