5 Minutes with the Media – Tommy Rooney, Producer Off The Ball AM

5 minutes with the media, MediaHQ.com, Radio, Sport
December 20, 2017
by Glen Murphy

Every week we chat with a member of the media landscape to get an insight into what’s it’s like to work in the Irish industry. We also get the best tips and tricks for those thinking of pursuing a media career. 

This week we chat with Tommy Rooney, Producer with Off The Ball AM.

What is your current role in the media and what does it involve?

I’m the producer of Off The Ball’s new TV sports breakfast show, OTB AM, streaming on our social channels (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) every morning from 7.45am

How long have you been working in the industry?

I had been doing freelance work and building a portfolio in print and digital media throughout my time in college, from 2011. I began working in Off The Ball during 2013 and became a full-time researcher in 2014 after I completed my B.A in Journalism in DCU.

Did you always want to be a journalist? What made you want to become one?

I was lucky (stubborn) enough to know from a young age that I wanted to work in sports journalism, I convinced myself it was what I wanted to after realising it was the closest I’d get to getting paid to play sport!

How do your experiences so far compare to the expectations you had while studying/learning the trade? 

You learn plenty in school and college – you’ve got to use that information to earn an opportunity somewhere – but it really doesn’t compare to actual experience, and learning on the job – once you’re in the door, quickly figure out what needs to be done to maximise the chance you have!

Has sports journalism always been your goal? Do you ever see yourself changing beats? 

It was always my goal to work in sports, I had notions of branching out once upon a time, but I fear my brain is too stringently wired into the sports cycle of news nowadays. I’d be afraid to answer any questions on current affairs at this particular moment in time.

What are the main differences in changing from an evening time programme to a morning time show? How have you adapted to the programme to suit the different times of broadcast?

Sleep. Getting to bed early enough is the challenge, as I’ve been *pretty good at waking up (*most mornings). Technically I should probably be asleep at HT of the Champions League games, but that’s never going to happen.

What was the biggest challenge adapting to the show? 

The switch from producing and working in radio to TV (essentially overnight) has been an interesting challenge. Thinking of ideas in a more visual than audible way, directing cameras, vision mixing, using and cutting video are all new things the OTB AM team are making use of now for the first time. The digital jargon for what we’re doing is a ‘social broadcast’ – but it’s pretty much TV. We’ve built a new OTB studio, fully kitted with HD cameras and quality lighting – so all our broadcasts are coming from there now.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date? Which piece of work are you most proud of? 

Producing OTB AM, on both counts – it’s a really exciting opportunity and I expect I’ll learn plenty along the way.

When you were starting out were there any figures in the industry that you looked up to? Is there anyone like that for you at the moment? 

All my heroes were sports people, so not really any in the industry – I grew up listening to Off The Ball religiously as a teenager, but had absolutely no interest in working in radio until Joe Molloy (a colleague now) gave me a break during college – I wanted to be a sports writer, but I doubt I could have named many while I was in school (apart from Donnchadh Boyle).

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing journalism and the media industry today?

It’s always an exciting time to be in media – but I think the industry is still in the midst of a transitional period where it’s identifying what really works, and they’re trying to adapt accordingly – the core of a good story will always remain the same, it’s just how and where we deliver it too, and how to make enough money from it – the abilities to become your own mobile journalist, or build your own personal brand as a journalist are endless at the moment so if you’re ambitious and creative enough, you’ll make it.

What are your top tips for journalists when pitching stories? 

It sounds simple because it is – know your story better than anyone else, know who it is you’re pitching it too and know who you’re pitching it for.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in journalism or who are studying it at the moment?

Just make sure you really, really want to go this way, and if it is something you really want to do, work really bloody hard at it – hopefully then you’ll get the breaks everyone needs and it pays off for you – also, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan!