Ben Jacobs | Sports Journalist for CBS Sports
Hi Ben, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Let’s roll back to the early days, when did you know you wanted to work in football?
I knew I wanted to work in football as soon as I realised I was too rubbish to actually play football. I was an overly flamboyant and highly frustrating left winger for Oadby Owls until I was 14. The coach there told me I was a far better talker than player, so I thought why not try my hand at broadcasting. I used to do this over games of Subbuteo, much to the frustration of my dad. And we would always listen to Leicester games on the radio as kids and I just loved how passionate and vivid the commentators were. I still think it really cool that listeners hang on every single word a radio commentator says because they are your sole guide. It’s one of my favourite things to do.
What does a ‘typical’ week look like for you?
There is no typical week, that’s part of the appeal of the job. But at CBS we have rights to Champions League, Serie A, NWSL and WSL. I focus on original multi-platform storytelling and breaking news. The latter keeps me busy during the transfer window. My week entails a lot of calls and emails, a worrying amount of coffee and often being locked away in a voiceover booth or edit suite.
What are the most enjoyable and difficult parts of your role?
I love going on site and getting face time with players, especially in a more controlled environment when you can really get to know them. I was lucky enough to do this at the Champions League Final with CBS. I even got to go on an open-top bus through Paris with Ronaldinho. I am also very passionate about socially-conscious led storytelling. During the pandemic I did a big investigative piece on the Afghan Women’s National Team and their fight for justice against sexual abuse. These type of stories are so important because they can help lead to change and give a platform to someone who really needs it. The hardest part of the job is finding enough hours in the day and evolving with the ever-changing landscape.
The transfer window has just shut, how do you find this period? I’m sure it keeps you very busy?
The transfer window is exciting and exhausting in equal measure. There are parts of it I really enjoy but keeping a healthy work-life balance during it is tough. Success during a window as a journalist is to some extent forged long before it opens. I always tell aspiring transfer reporters, you won’t get told much if you don’t build up the trust first, and the best time to do that is when owners, sporting directors or agents aren’t in a mad dash to get deals done. The challenge is always standing information up with multiple sources since buyers and sellers often have different narratives and fees are hotly disputed, too.
Who are your favourite sports journalists at the moment and what do you think it is that makes them so brilliant?
I have huge respect for David Ornstein and many of his Athletic colleagues, too. David is brilliant because he puts in the effort to make personal as well as professional contacts and has tremendous written and broadcast skills. That’s rare and it allows him to get across his story in a highly engaging and creative manner. I am also a big fan of Alex Stewart, who I went to University with. Alex has a knack of making complicated football analytics seem simple and entertaining, which is no easy task.
What general advice would you give to individuals looking to pursue a similar career path as yours?
Those looking to break into the industry often have new skillsets us older journalists don’t and that can be of huge value. So many outlets want digital-led story telling and recent graduates tend to be very familiar with newer social platforms and capable of presenting, voicing, writing and editing. I would encourage anyone looking for an opportunity to use your own platforms to make as much content as possible. Stay passionate and persistent, too, since opportunities often come in the most unexpected ways. And don’t be afraid to reach out for advice. Most of us are very willing to help in any way we can and I am always open to coming on shows by young journalists to support their growth.
Where do you see your career in the future? Are there any specific objectives you hope to achieve?
My main aim is to continue to tell stories that really matter. These tend to require more time and investment but they are always worth it in the end. I would also like to make another sports-themed documentary one day. I have already produced one, from my time at beIN Sports, called Equal Playing Field. It tells the story of the highest-ever football match on top of Kilimanjaro and was in aid of promoting gender equality in sport. I still can’t believe I made it to the top!
What do you do to switch off outside of work?
I studied English at University and I still love reading, especially post-modern literature. I am a closet TS Eliot and James Joyce fan. I also have a five-year-old goldendoodle, who keeps me busy and amused and barks every time she sees Cristiano Ronaldo on TV.
And finally Ben, where can people find you on social media to connect?
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