YJA’s Kobe in the Spotlight
Now in his final year at Priory LSST, Kobe Tong has proved a remarkable ambassador for The Young Journalist Academy.
I first met him some five years ago when he was a Year 8 applying for admission into the school’s first-ever YJA team. During that first interview, whilst he came across a shade on the shy side, it was quickly apparent that he had a rare passion for writing about sport, especially football. Including him in the YJA team was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
For over half a decade, our website has been graced with his regular sport-themed contributions, which are invariably compelling and full of insight. Over the years, it has been wonderful to work with the many youngsters who have been inspired by Kobe and to witness his magic still radiating.
Heighington Millfield is a YJA primary school that is only a few miles from where Kobe is studying. This successful academy has always had its share of good sports writers, many of them inspired by Kobe. It’s very fitting therefore that Kobe’s 300th article should be a Q&A from Heighington!
Co-editor, Young Journalist Academy
Q1. From Keane
What inspired you to join YJA?
The opportunity to write about the topics I love and to have my work published online – at the access of all of YJA’s readers. I was sold from the start really because I’ve always had a love for writing and sport. Therefore, YJA gave me the perfect chance to marry these two passions and – in a way – to show off what I can do with a laptop, football knowledge and an hour of my time.
Journalism is a brutal industry and one that’s very hard to break into, especially for young people. As a consequence, I’ve always been grateful for the branch that YJA offered me and one that I couldn’t turn down. I am so glad that my year 8 self decided to give it a crack and stick with it because it’s proven a gateway for so many incredible experiences for me.
Q2. From Charlie F
Was Bill impressed with your first article?
Well, I can’t speak for Bill but I like to think so, yes. I remember being told that the article had been published on the YJA site, which led me to believe that it had gone down well. I often forget that there was something of an ‘application’ process and I maybe didn’t take it seriously enough, but I think my writing ability shone through.
It was about Fernando Torres and his struggles at Chelsea at the time – you can read it here. It’s the first time I’ve looked over it in a good few years and I know a lot of YJA’s primary school writers can produce articles of equal if not better quality today. Naturally, that fills me with great confidence as regards the next generation of YJA writers.
Q3. From Will N
Did you believe that you were a good writer before you joined YJA? Why did you believe that?
Yes and no. Before joining YJA I had always written short stories and been reasonably successful in my English classes, but had never really dipped my toe in the world of journalism. So I had the confidence that I could write well, just not necessarily whether that would be transferrable to article writing.
You have to have that belief though as it owes a lot to confidence. If you back yourself in your writing then your arguments and articles will be penned with far more conviction. Go hard or go home.
Q4. From Charlie F
When you started in year 8, did you ever think that you would become a professional sports writer?
I’m an ambitious guy and as hard as it is to remember myself five years ago, I would imagine the answer to the question is yes. Nevertheless, when I discussed my career ambitions with people I was always reminded just how difficult it is to break into journalism. So I had a lot of faith in myself but was oh-so-aware of just how hard it would be.
As to whether you’d class me as professional right now is up for debate! I’m certainly flattered, however. To receive economic reward for my writing is great, but it’s not the reason I write and I would happily continue for free. I’m over the moon with what I’ve achieved so far, but I have a long way to go and a lot to learn still.
Q5. From Will D
What has been your favourite article to write? Why?
To provide a little context here, I’m coming up towards 800 articles written for YJA and GiveMeSport so this is a difficult question to answer. Honestly though, it would probably be this article I’m writing now or my first Q&A piece. I find it so humbling to be a role model for you lot and I love to pass on my advice and experiences.
I feel like these articles are my little way of giving back to YJA and the next generation of sports writers. Also, it’s always brilliant to reminisce and look back on my journey from a selfish point of view. Aside from these however, my live articles for GMS during the England-Iceland game were very rewarding or some of my more angry articles like: ‘Andy Murray victory is a farce.’
Q6. From Charlie F
How many words were in your longest article?
Now, answering this question took me quite a long time Charlie! However, having sifted through the archives of YJA I think I’ve established that ‘2014 FIFA World Cup: German Glory in Rio’ is the longest article I’ve ever written. It came in at a monstrous 2,029 words overall.
In general though, my articles for GiveMeSport average around 450 words and I tend to extend that to 700 words for YJA. It all depends on your audience and how long your editor gives you to write a piece. For example, a lot of my GMS pieces will be on live sporting events and there’s only so much I can write in a time span of 15 minutes.
Q7. From Will D
If you weren’t a sports writer, what would you aspire to be?
Oh crikey, good question. I can see myself going into teaching one day as I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to teach year 6 classes as part of LSST’s ‘Masterclass’ programme. I would definitely teach history if that was the case as that’s what I will study at university, but who knows?
Q8. From Keane
Do you have any tips for young and upcoming writers?
Well, you can all be satisfied by the fact you’re getting far more journalism experience than the vast majority of people your age. Furthermore, practice makes perfect so the most you can make out of this opportunity the better. You don’t have to write tens and tens of articles, but the more you write, the more natural it will feel and you’ll begin to master your trade.
Taking the initiative is also crucial too. Opportunities for interviews, exclusives or story ideas won’t always fall on your lap and you might want to carve out the chance yourself. Be persistent, build bridges and make contacts because sometimes it’s not what you know, but whom you know.
Also, brand yourself and make sure you stand out from all the others. To beat the competition it’s important to get your name out there and do everything in your power to be doing more than your rivals. It’s a competitive business and – as tough as it may be – you might have to get your hands dirty to be successful.
As I’ve said though, the work you do for the Young Journalist Academy now will stand you in great stead. The articles you produce at your age are certainly admirable and you should all be proud.
Q9. From Will Day
How many articles do you have to produce a month for your magazine?
So it used to be a case of writing 20 articles a month but now I work shifts as a way of ensuring a steady flow of articles go on to the site. This way we can ensure that there is always content from very early in the morning to very late at night. Therefore, it’s completely dependent on how many shifts I’m able to do.
On average, for a six-hour shift, I’m able to produce either six, seven or eight articles. Consequently, a busy month can see me produce in excess of 50 stories for GiveMeSport and then of course any extras I write for YJA. It sounds a lot but they’re never usually over 500 words so it’s certainly manageable.
Q10. From Will N
Do you want or think you will work for YJA when you are older? Why?
Well, it depends whether YJA come calling Will! I’d certainly like to continue passing on my advice and helping out the next generation of YJA writers, but who knows? Maybe, maybe not.
Q11. From Will N
In the autumn, you will be going to university, how will you find time to keep up all of the amazing articles you do?
This is probably the most common question I’m asked and I like to think going to university won’t greatly change my situation. When you’ve accumulated a rich knowledge for sport and have written so many articles, it becomes second nature and you’re able to produce them quickly while still maintaining the same quality. It can be like spinning plates sometimes but if you love it and want to better yourself, it’s worth the trouble and effort.
Obviously I will have seminars, lectures and essays to contend with, yet the joy of my work is that the hour and location is often irrelevant. Whenever I have my laptop there is the potential to produce an article and if we’re all honest with ourselves, there’s always time we could spend better. As a result, I’ve tried to shift my procrastination, whenever it rises, to penning articles instead.
Q12. From Keane
Do you want to work for the BBC soon or in the near future? Why?
The BBC is one of the most respected and frequented sources of news and sports material, so I’d love to be involved with the corporation. Equally, I don’t discriminate and the chance to work for any national newspaper or website would be an incredible opportunity.
GiveMeSport continues to garner additional support, gain a larger readership and spread its wings however, so I consider my current situation to be one of great privilege. Consequently, I’m feeling far from impatient and in no great rush to seek trade anywhere else.