E-mail interview I had with Gerard Whateley
When did you realise you wanted to be a sports broadcaster?
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved sport. And while I played cricket enthusiastically, junior football to very limited ability and like the idea of one day being a proficient golfer, I always wanted to broadcast sport rather than play it.
You made your first big break writing for the Herald Sun about films and, as part of your cadetship, covered state politics amongst other things. How important is it to be versatile for a prospective journalist?
Everything comes back to journalism regardless of what you specialize in. I value the broad experiences I had before zeroing in on sport. I feel it gives perspective to the myopic world of sport. Practically the disciplines of political, police and finance reporting are increasingly applicable and valuable in sport reporting. Versatility in an industry such as this is essential.
Is there a mundane side to what, on the surface, seems to be a dream job?
Every job wears people down and has its moments of frustrations. It can be tiresome, exhausting and frustrating. But when you boil it down I get paid to talk about sport all day, every day. If you can’t be happy doing that then you can’t be happy.
Most sport journalists seem to specialise in one sport, but you are somewhat of an all-rounder. Is there more to sport in Melbourne than just AFL?
Those who love Melbourne regard it as the sports capital of the world so why would you limit yourself to AFL in such a landscape. The footy off-season allows you to open your mind to the great sports we are privileged to have staged in this town. From the Spring Carnival to the Australian Open Tennis, the Presidents Cup to the A-League. One of the most alarming trends in sports media is the dependence on AFL to generate the agenda in the off-season. That’s unimaginative nonsense. No matter how much you talk about it, obsess over it and crave it, they won’t start playing until March.
What is it about sport that you love and do you have a favourite sport event?
I love sport for its capacity to showcase man’s triumphs rather than its failures. I love the story sport can tell – sometimes a story no fiction writer would dare concoct. I love it for its capacity to inspire and shock. I love the passion it inspires and the universal language it is to bind people with nothing else in common. I love walking into Flemington on Melbourne Cup day and breathing in the certainty that something memorable will transpire while I’m there. I love walking into the MCG on Grand Final day knowing the events we witness will live with us for as long as AFL is played.
You recently played a minor role in the Australian-produced film ‘The Cup’. What did you make of it?
One of my early jobs at the Herald Sun was as the movie writer and editor of HIT magazine. I’m a terribly unpretentious film buff. So it was a great thrill to be invited to be part of the movie. It was a story I’d covered as a reporter at Channel Ten. We filmed for one afternoon. It was repetitive and monotonous and absolutely great fun. I recorded a race call for the film also. Greg Kinnear started life as a journo before becoming a movie star. So you never know…
You have a Twitter account which you use regularly. Is social media becoming more important to the media industry?
Social media is just another branch in the modern media. I think there’s a notion that it’s become the most critical part. I don’t see it that way. It’s a wonderful accompaniment to what we would regard as the mainstream media platforms. It’s immediate and it gets to a lot of people but not nearly as many as getting behind the microphone of a radio or in front of the camera in a television studio.
You’ve had a distinguished career so far. Is there something still on the to-do list?
My broadcasting ambitions were to call an AFL Grand Final, the Melbourne Cup and the Boxing Day Test. Two out of three ain’t bad. I’ve got a thousand things I’d still like to do. I want to write a book. I want to write a movie. I want to call swimming at the Olympics. I imagine there’ll always be something new to ensure I’m never satisfied.
On a more personal note, you’ve gotten married and started a family now. With the demanding nature of your job, do you find that you spend as much time with them as you would like?
I’m married with two daughters. The drawback to the job is working weekends. Outside of holidays I’ve worked nearly every weekend since I was 18. That’s sometimes hard on the family and it is a slightly selfish endeavour. If there was an eighth day in the week I’d be working that too. But if you’re not prepared to work weekends this isn’t a job for you.
What would be the one piece of advice you would give to students who want to become a sports broadcaster one day?
Commit yourself to making it. Find the job you want and work tirelessly, diligently and passionately to make it happen. Don’t be cynical. Become a good journalist before you settle into sports broadcasting. Never lose your love of sport and share it selflessly with your audience. Build a reputation and protect it jealously.