Graham Little worked for the Impartial Reporter and UTV before going freelance in 2006. The Sky Sports presenter who runs his own production company (Century TV Northern Ireland) shares some high points from his career so far.
Briefly outline how your media career started.
I worked hard at university in Loughborough to grab as many experiences as I could and eventually settled on wanting a career in the media. I helped make this happen by presenting a radio show on the student station and being the sports editor of the union magazine.
From there I blagged a pass for the media centre at the Sydney Olympics, volunteered some articles for papers back home, and then got a job with my local paper, the Impartial Reporter in Enniskillen.
What’s unique about sports journalism?
It’s fun. And it shouldn’t be taken too seriously!
In your view, how do the print and broadcast media differ in style?
When working as a reporter for UTV at Ireland rugby matches away from home I was quite envious of the print guys because they basically just had themselves to worry about. They could write the story, press send, and the work was done. There are many more elements to television reporting, including filming, editing and sending packages back via satellite. You have to work more as a team and there are more variables. I do a fair amount of travel writing and really enjoy the extra freedom you have in print. With broadcasting, you are always led by the pictures.
What makes for a good match commentator?
A quick mind followed by a quick mouth. My Sky Sports colleague Mark Robson is one of the best in the business in my opinion, and very versatile. A good commentator can make his carefully prepared ad-libs sound natural and his research come across as informative rather than showing off.
Which three interviewees stand out from your career so far?
I am hugely impressed with Rory McIlroy and always enjoy interviewing him. He is a wonderful ambassador for Northern Ireland and we should all be extremely proud of him.
I wasn’t quite so impressed with John McEnroe. We had a big row in front of a crowd in The Odyssey Arena when he lost that famous temper after losing a match against Henri Leconte.
I have interviewed my brother Andy quite a few times; he is a professional footballer with Rangers and a Northern Ireland international. I always find it strange, but rewarding too, as I’m very proud of him and being 11 years older feel quite protective of him.
I am obviously very proud of winning a world title for Ireland in elephant polo a few years ago but the sporting achievement I am most proud of is captaining the winning team in the first ever Race Around Ireland cycle challenge.
This took months and months of training and planning and was the most exhilarating three days and nights ever, with no sleep, intense competition, exhaustion and dozens of really tough hill climbs. My team of four beat the favourites by over an hour, and we had so many hurdles to overcome along the way, including losing our bikes two hours before the start. Character building!
How does elephant polo work?
We call elephant polo the biggest sport in the world (in terms of the weight of the teams, that is). It is basically the same as conventional polo but much, much slower, and with a few unique rules such as ‘no forcing your elephant to lie down in front of your goals’ and the fact that teams must swap elephants at half-time. It’s fantastic craic and one of my all-time favourite experiences.
What’s the next step?
We won the contract to produce the BBC’s Moto GP coverage for the next three seasons and so far it is going really well. It’s great to be producing major network television from Belfast and the fact that so many local people get a chance to be involved is very gratifying.
I enjoy balancing the management and business demands of this role with my presenting gigs, and get as much of a kick out of seeing our company develop and succeed as I do out of fronting live television. I think it’s really important to have a lot of variety in work and life in general, it’s just much more interesting that way. I am always up for fresh challenges and have a deep ‘think tank’ of ideas, though the tank is to remain closed for a few years under order of the wife.
Free time interests
I’ve two boys under two years old and I work in several different roles with a lot of travelling, so I don’t have much free time. I train a lot: I swam the length of Lough Erne in a relay this summer and am then running 150 miles across the Sahara next April. I also love gardening when the weather is decent, and I read when it isn’t.