From The Eyes of a Professional Journalist

By: Kobe Lambeth

When I first launched Daily NASCAR Scoop and More, I thought my website would be just something that I would do for like a couple of weeks and stop after I grow bored when nobody reads my articles. However, writing articles has become my number one hobby as I have built connections with a few people in the racing community. It does not matter if I receive “zero views” on an article because my hard work is satisfying enough. I love motorsports and my goal is to share that “love” with race fans worldwide.

Sportscar365 was one of the leading factors in my decision to start my website. Lead journalist, John Dagys has done an amazing job by making Sportscar365 one of the best motorsports websites in the world. Going to many races and reporting news to the public appears to be a possible career choice for me, but I am currently weighing all of my options. I had the honor of interviewing a role model for young adults who want to pursue a career in journalism. John Dagys was kind enough to share how he made it to the top of the ladder.

“My passion for journalism and motorsports are closely linked with each other. In fact, it was motorsports that turned me on to journalism. I started a sports car racing Web site, The-Paddock.net, during my senior year of High School with a friend from Germany. I don’t know the exact reason we did it. At the time, it looked like something different and a bit of fun.”

“But I quickly realized that I enjoyed reporting and that I could potentially make a career out of it. We ran the site for 2.5 years, going to races out of our own pockets and not really having any advertising. At the same time, I started taking journalism classes in college and began to learn the ropes of the industry.”

“I decided to stop operating the site in order to pursue higher-profile opportunities, such as working for Motorsport.com, and then by my senior year of college, I was picked up by SPEED Channel to be their sports car racing reporter for SPEED.com. That’s something that lasted a fabulous and memorable 5.5 years before the network’s transformation to FOX Sports 1.”

Dagys came a long way from a high school senior flirting with the idea of becoming a journalist to a well-known figure in the sportscar racing community. For anyone out there considering making motorsports journalism your career, I bet you all are wondering “What does it take to be a well-respected professional journalist?”

Dagys explained, “It takes an extreme amount of dedication and a lot of personal sacrifices. I can’t count the number of holidays or family events I’ve missed over the years in order to be covering races around the world. For me, I put my job as one of my top priorities and that obviously has positives and negatives. But I think one of the keys is being available at all hours and always digging for news.”

“It’s also about building respect and trust with your contacts. Half of the key of being a successful journalist is having a diverse and wide-ranging set of sources that you become close to. Once you build that trust, they can sometimes help you with off-record information, and when you’re able to collaborate that info from other, separate sources, you’re often able to uncover some big stories.”

“That’s how I was fortunate enough to have helped break the ALMS-GRAND-AM merger news in 2012, prior to the official announcement. It was about building up trust with specific industry contacts and knowing you will never give up your sources. Trust is a two-way street and I think is absolutely pivotal in this industry.”

I had no idea that you had to make many sacrifices as a journalist. However, if it is something that you love to do, then follow your dreams and go for it! According to Dagys, there are unfortunately some ups and downs to journalism.

“While I was fortunate to have had a big break in joining SPEED.com at the height of network and website, once that all went away, I was forced to re-invent myself. It was a real tough time for me, but looking back, it was a major turning point as well. While I had offers from other publications, none of them fit the criteria I was chasing. So I decided to go on my own.”

“I started Sportscar365.com less than one month after the network changeover in 2013, as a shot-in-the-dark. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have any investors or advertisers lined up before the launch. I was out there willing to take a risk and see if there was a market for a dedicated sports car racing website.”

“I quickly found out there was and within two weeks of the launch, had a verbal commitment from our first major partner. At that point, I knew there was some serious potential. Sitting here, two-and-a-half years later, Sportscar365 has surpassed my wildest expectations.”

For every risk, there is a reward. Dagys was truly rewarded with the fantastic, well-known Sportscar 365 website, which is popular among the sportscar racing community. With a successful website, comes tons of fun even with the serious nature of running a business.

Dagys stated, “My favorite part of the job is digging up scoops in the industry — items that are not yet officially announced by teams, drivers, series, etc. It’s a huge rush when you can be the first to break news, whether it be a driver moving to a new team, or a change in the regulations.”

“Believe it or not, I very much enjoy the industry-related news over actual reporting of the races, because following and writing about a race is something almost everyone can do. To be among the first to discover a groundbreaking new car, team or series in the works, is something unique and requires much more of your reporting skills.”

It takes talent and skill to be able to do some of the things that John Dagys is able to accomplish. Working hard behind the scenes to bring the latest breaking stories to the public is definitely a talent that makes John Dagys very successful. Being a journalist might be fun and games to the naked eye, but there are a few difficulties, according to Dagys.

“Things such as advertising proposals, contracts, website maintenance, booking travel, taxes, managing staff on multiple continents, etc, can take so much time out of your day and actually detract from the time you could be reporting.”

Also, one problem that I have experienced with my opinionated articles is “lack of views.” Sometimes, it is disappointing when you spend days on an article and nobody pays attention to it. Dagys could relate to this problem.

“There’s been so many articles I’ve written — that I’ve spent a lot of time on — that weren’t hugely popular. But that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

“Strangely, it’s often a lot of the stories that you don’t think would be popular that end up being hits. That’s why it’s important to have a nice mix and balance in reporting.”

As we all know that John Dagys is a great journalist. I began to wonder if the well-respected writer receives some criticism often.

“Sure, I think especially in the Internet age, everyone does. The most public level of criticism is always in the comments section. Not everyone agrees with things, especially when you share your own opinion in articles, which at Sportscar365, we are extremely selective of doing. The goal of the Web site is to provide news and analysis and not tell people what we think is good or bad.”

“But sometimes it doesn’t matter. The biggest thing I’ve learned is not to take it personal. As long as you have the confidence in yourself in your reporting, it will shine through in the long-run and you will become more respected in the industry for stating the facts, or in select cases your opinion, and not change it based on popular belief.”

Professional journalism definitely appears more difficult than it seems but looks like an interesting career choice if you earn the respect that you deserve.

As we end this piece, I want you to see what life is like “From The Eyes of a Professional Journalist,” thanks to Sportscar365’s John Dagys.

“It’s a lot of work. I’m usually up by 5 or 6 a.m., or sometimes earlier, everyday to catch some of the news from the morning in Europe and I often work through 5 or 6 p.m. on weekdays, usually at the computer or in very close reach during that entire time. You never know when news breaks. I also end up having to spend a lot of that time on the business side of things, things I mentioned above.”

“Travel can get pretty intense. I’m usually at tracks between 30-35 weekends a year, totaling more than 200 days on the road annually. It ends up being a lot, but one thing I’ve learned is that in order do the best at your job, you need to be on-site, talking to people and building those relationships. Covering the sport from afar, or watching it on TV doesn’t give you the same results, and I think my dedication to at-track reporting has really helped my career.”

 

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