Simon Patterson joined Bauer Media's Motorcycle News in October 2012 as a Junior Web Producer and has served as one of the publication's Sports Reporters since August 2013.
You graduated from the University of Abertay in 2011 with a BSc in Forensic Science. How did you make the jump from this and into motorsports journalism?
Simon: I got hooked by both photography and motorbike racing while I was still at secondary school, and even when I went to uni and wasn't really sure of what I wanted to do with my life, I kept up a love of both. Falling in with one of the greats of the art, a man called Stephen Davison, I managed to pick up some freelance work all through my time at uni, covering things like the Isle of Man TT. I realised about halfway through my degree that I didn't want to be a forensic scientist, and I did my best to make sure that I branched out, and got quite heavily involved in extracurricular sports and the student association.
Then, when I left uni I did a year as the elected Vice-President of the student association, and ended up running a highly publicised and successful campaign to convince the Scottish government not to shut down the University of Abertay, which may have been the most career-enhancing thing I managed to do in my time there!
And while it might seem like I wasted five years at uni, I'm so glad I did it. It gave me a chance to figure out where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life, as well as building up some skills that have proven useful.
You joined Bauer Media in October 2012 as a Junior Web Producer for Motorcycle News. Do you remember much about the application process for that role? What do you think you did well in order to stand out from other applicants and get the job?
Simon: I actually applied for the role twice, a few months apart, after not getting an interview the first time around! Motorcycle News was in the middle of a massive shake-up at the time and I managed to apply basically the same week that the old editor left, so it took from May until October to eventually get an interview.
I think the biggest things that helped me stand out were that I already had a pretty intimate knowledge of motorsport, and the skills I had picked up at the student association. I had already been around motorbike racing for the best part of a decade, and I think my knowledge of it came across, while thanks to 'Hands Off Abertay' (the campaign to prevent the closure of Abertay uni), I was able to demonstrate all the actual skills I needed – everything from writing to basic coding.
What does a typical day's work involve as a Sports Reporter for Motorcycle News and what was the learning curve initially like?
Simon: It depends on where I am. Coming into winter now, I'll be in the office more and more, normally pulling together coverage for the following week's paper or trying to keep the website up to date. I'll go out and meet race teams and riders too, doing things that could in reality be done over the phone but it helps to build up that personal relationship.
In race season, though, I'll be in a press office or pit lane somewhere – this year I've been to New York, Japan, spent a month in Spain for pre-season testing, still have a Hong Kong trip to go on, and have been all over the UK! This entails talking to people, getting an understanding of what's going on, and to be in a position on Sunday night to pull together 5000 words of copy in six hours! It's a funny way to work – I tend to do very little writing from when I arrive on a Thursday until about 5pm on the Sunday, then have to go flat out for a few hours!
When I moved over form web producer to sports reporter, I was wet behind the ears and didn't have a ton of writing experience. The biggest step for me was learning what was needed from my writing – thanks to the internet and our Wednesday selling day, we're not reporting on what happened but always trying to move the story forwards. After I got that in my head, it was a case of building the relationships I needed to get the information gathered.
It was only later, once I'd been in the job for a fair bit, that I started to concentrate on actually improving my writing. I like to think that I've come on leaps and bounds since I started, but also aware that there's still a long way to go!
Thinking back to your University days from 2006 until 2011, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else who is looking to work in a role similar to yours?
Simon: Get involved in your student media, get involved in your Student Association or Union, and branch yourself out as much as possible! I could very easily have walked away with a good degree in a subject that I hated, but instead managed to swing it around by taking in as much of the uni experience as possible.
The other thing I was able to do was use my student loan to fund myself doing freelance work, shooting events where I was getting paid but was only ever really going to break even. That meant that when it came to looking for a real job at the end of it, I was fortunate to have a network of contacts who were able to look out for me and help get me to where I ended up!
Follow Simon on Twitter: @denkmit