Ink-Stained Scribe Reflects On 40 Years Of Sports Journalism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com/LondonOntarioGolf.com

When I decided to dedicate this column to reflecting on my 39-year career in sports journalism, I did so with some trepidation. After all, when you are about to embark on your 40th year as a sports reporter, it does come with some scar tissue.

Cartoon from Business London Magazine in-depth piece on 2001 Canada Summer Games.

But after you’ve been through the wars which can accompany this career, your skin quickly becomes as thick as a rhino’s. And after all, when you are fortunate enough to work in an industry as rewarding as mine, then you really don’t feel like you’ve worked a day in your life.

That’s not entirely true, of course. As a full-time freelance communications professional since 1989, and having worked in radio, television, print and new media journalism since 1980, 9-to-5 isn’t part of my vocabulary. Add to the equation the fact that I have a home-based business as an entrepreneur and you’ll realize that only one as passionate about journalism as I am would ever embark on such a tempestuous and demanding career.

Sports journalism is often referred to as the toy department of the newsroom, but hang around long enough in this industry of unpredictability and you’ll discover it’s not all fun and games. As a print, broadcast and new media journalist, I’ve had my camera smashed to bits on a tennis court, and I’ve been pushed around batting cages from Labatt Park to Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Barry Bonds has cursed at me – I’m in good company there. Yet I’ve had calls from Open Championship winner Padraig Harrington at Christmas from Dublin, Ireland.

Without a doubt, my career as a staff and since 1989 a freelance journalist has been an overwhelming source of satisfaction, as it allows me to exercise my greatest passion: reporting on local sports. I’ve interviewed thousands of sports personalities on air, and for print and web publications, taken thousands of photographs and thus have an endless number of treasured memories.

Wayne Gretzky was my first feature interview – what a way to start a career. The Great One would go on to score 50 goals in 39 games that season. I’ve sipped some of the finest whiskeys in swank hotel suites with Fergie Jenkins and Phil Esposito. I was the last reporter to conduct a feature interview with Montreal Canadiens great Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion. But covering local sports has given me the most satisfaction.

Thumbs up with Don Cherry.

A lot has changed in sports journalism and in local sports since I took my first industry job in 1980 with the now-silent CKSL 1410 newsroom in London. My first role was voicing the popular CKSL Sportsline. Listeners would call the radio station long after the last evening sportscast aired to hear a recorded report of the day’s scores and highlights. Of course, today we have the whole world at our fingertips via the Internet.

I’ve been a freelance writer since 1980 when I wrote for my high school newspaper, The Montcalm Tribune. Soon afterwards, I started writing letters to the editor of The London Free Press, which led to the occasional op-ed, and I was accepted as a student in the School of Broadcast Journalism at Fanshawe College. But it was at Montcalm Secondary School where I was really bitten by the journalism bug.

The Tribune published my column on why high school baseball should be added to local high school sports, and how teachers should get behind the move. Imagine the horror I faced when a Phys Ed teacher pulled me aside and lectured me on how I had “embarrassed” him, and on how adding baseball would add an “enormous” cost to school operating budgets. Right then and there I realized that I could offer readers fodder for discussion. Today, I am thrilled that high school baseball is flourishing.

Jeffrey on the set of CTV’s ‘What’s Your Point?’ debate show in the mid-1990s.

I remember that story because, as former Fanshawe Falcons men’s basketball coach Glenn Johnston once quipped, I have “a memory like an elephant.” It was Johnston who gave me the nickname “Scoop” when I called play-by-play of the Falcons men’s and women’s basketball games for campus radio stations 6X-FM and CFRL. The Falcons, led on the court by London Lightning owner Vito Frijia, were just coming off back-to-back Canadian college championships.

For my money, Johnston served up the best quotes of any local sports figure over the past four decades. London City Soccer co-founder Harry Gauss was a close second. When I managed the Fanshawe College student union publications department in the late-1980s, Gauss, who coached the Falcons, stormed into my office one day, demanding more soccer coverage in the student newspaper, The Interrobang. After an hour-long chat, he got his wish, and we became quick friends. I still miss those hour-long discussions.

Two journalists were instrumental in my decision to pursue sports journalism, and freelance writing. Gary Allan Price, who was the most respected voice of local sports while at CFPL Radio from the late-1970s to mid-1980s, planted a seed with me when calling play-by-play of high school hockey and while hosting enormously-popular call-in show, Sports Call.

Reed talking baseball with former London Majors teammate now co-owner/GM/manager Roop Chanderdat. Photo: Brown’s Photos.

And London freelance writer Herman Gooden, whom I had the good fortune to work closely with for a decade at the now-defunct Scene Magazine, offered hope that a young writer could follow his passion and write as an independent author – and do it professionally. It was Goodden’s success that saw me forever abandon a string of part-time jobs – retail, bartending and turf maintenance – held over a four-year period and become a full-time freelance communications professional in 1989 when I established, Jeffrey Reed Reporting.

Both Price and Goodden were great mentors and I am forever in their debt. Today, it is enormously satisfying when I can mentor young writers, broadcasters and media relations professionals. My four years as a professor with Fanshawe College’s Corporate Communication and Public Relations post-graduate program saw me forge many friendships while helping shape the lives of enormously-talented young writers.

In fact, when I look back at my career, I relish the fact I have had an almost life-long relationship with Fanshawe College.

Jeffrey with 2017 Jeffrey Reed Courage Award winner Ali Vlasman of the Fanshawe Falcons.

I’ve had many other mentors throughout my career – a string of editors at SCORE Golf including John Gordon, Bob Weeks and Ian Hutchinson (now an entrepreneur himself as editor and publisher of Golf News Now), editors at The London Free Press including Bob Ferguson (as he updated his book, Who’s Who in Canadian Sport), and former Business London editor Gord Delamont, now editor of London Inc., all come to mind. There are many others, too.

Of course, it goes without saying that I wouldn’t be here today without the support from my wife, Beth. Thank you for putting up with 11 p.m. phone calls from angry parents of athletes old enough to fend for themselves, and for all of the cancelled family events when deadlines are shortened.

What am I most proud of today? Not the handful of writing awards I’ve captured, nor my three published books (I have three more ongoing). It’s all about giving back to your community.

I’m proud to say that LondonOntarioGolf.com (est. 2003) and LondonOntarioSports.com (est. 2015) are making a difference in how sports and golf are reported in London and area. After call, competition is good for the soul. I’m sure most of my colleagues would agree that we’re ultra-competitive, but at the end of the day we respect one another.

Jeffrey and Ian Hutchinson of Golf News Now covering the 2012 RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton G&CC.

LondonOntarioGolf.com is now a leading-Canadian source of golf industry news and information. It was born from the fact the publishing industry was beginning to struggle, and there were fewer traditional media sources able to publish my work. Now, LondonOntarioGolf.com is recognized across North America for its contributions to the game.

Jeffrey editing The Interrobang at Fanshawe College in 1988.

In late-2015, LondonOntarioSports.com launched for one reason only: London and area was crying out for additional sports coverage. Not only does the website fulfill that promise, but it has also seen other local media pick up their game. Mission accomplished. And I am proud of them for doing so.

And with the London Ontario Golf Heart Award, and Jeffrey Reed Courage Award now presented annually by the companion websites, I’m able to share my success with others who deserve to be recognized for their achievements.

LondonOntarioGolf.com presents Fred Kern with the 2012 Heart Award.

I’m often asked what the common denominator is amongst champions. That’s easy. Look into their eyes. They’re all focused like no others – it’s an extension of incredible mental fortitude. And they live for one thing: winning. Stare into the eyes of Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, and you’ll see what I mean. Western Mustangs football head coach Greg Marshall had that look as a bruising fullback and now he has that look on the sidelines, too.

I’m privileged to be handed the responsibility of telling their stories of, as the old ABC Sports intro once quipped, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” I’ve seen the old London Gardens packed with 5,400 high school hockey fans and nothing has ever come close to the energy I had felt during those London Conference finals. And I’ve sat in the press box at Labatt Park and watched the owners of the Class AA Eastern League London Tigers ballclub weep uncontrollably knowing it was the last game before the five-year club would move to Trenton, New Jersey.

As I begin my 40th year reporting on local sports, I wonder how this industry will continue to evolve, and what my role will be in providing sports news and information to a changing demographic. And in this era of fake news, the demand for and demands put upon credible, reliable, responsible professional journalists are increasing. Then there’s the whole Internet troll issue for discussion another day.

Media conference with Mike Weir at 2014 Heart Award ceremony.

One thing is for sure though: I wouldn’t want any other career. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the past 39 years – the good, the bad and the ugly – then perhaps our paths will cross soon so I can tell you more stories about how a shy boy from London’s Huron Heights neighbourhood morphed into an award-winning sports reporter.

In the meantime, I can’t thank you enough for supporting LondonOntarioSports.com and LondonOntarioGolf.com.

Drop me a line at news@londonontariosports.com. I’ll be glad to hear from you.

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Jeffrey Reed, 56, is the author of the recently-published Canadian Seniors’ Golf Association, Celebrating 100 Years of Seniors Golf 1918-2018. He’s currently researching for a biography of Sandy Somerville, Canada’s golfer of the half century 1900-1950. Reed is a member of Highland Country Club and, as a disabled golfer, carries a low single-digit handicap index while acting as a brand ambassador for numerous golf industry members.

 

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office http://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com.

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