Date: 15th May 2012 at 9:20am
Written by:

Welcome to the second part of the Kate Walker Project.

Welcome to the second part of the Kate Walker Project.

In this chapter, we will dive into Kate’s story of how she ended up with a career in Formula One and the steps she took to get there which you will not believe.

Kate takes us though an interesting and winding road that despite her best efforts to avoid a career in journalism, ended up landing her a dream job she now, simply cannot imagine not doing.

If you’re reading this and your interested in one day being an F1 journalist, keep reading. Kate will now open the door to that keyhole you were looking through earlier into the world of Formula Journalism. Chances are, if you have a question about a career in F1 journalism, about the money, advice etc…she answers it here:

Why did you decide to be a (sports/F1) journalist?

‘I never decided to be a journalist. In fact, I spent as much of my life as possible trying to avoid it! It?s a career that runs in the family, and I was desperate to avoid following in my parents? footsteps. Now look at me?’

What steps did you take to achieve your goal?

‘As much as I say I tried to avoid journalism, there were always signs. After uni, I started out working as a sub-editor for a wire service, and then got roped in to writing pieces when staff were on leave or off sick. That turned into regular writing duties. But before I became a real journalist I ran off to the internet, where I started managing a blog network. I started writing pieces to cover leave and absences, and it just snowballed from there. In terms of achieving my F1 goal, I decided I wanted to work in the sport, got rejected by all the teams when I applied for PR work, so figured that journalism was my only way in. So I started writing daily pieces for girlracer while still at my day job, we applied for (and eventually got) F1 accreditation, and I handed in my notice at work the day I got back from my first grand prix.

What are your most and least favourite things about your job?

‘For this question I?m going to have to copy and paste a reply I gave to @IlariaF1 when she interviewed me last year, as I don?t think I could put it any better than I did then.

‘There are so many amazing things about this job that it’s hard to know what to pick.

‘I love the feeling I get every time I approach a circuit and see a sign saying ‘F1 media and personnel’ and realise that it applies to me!

‘I love the fact that I can go to a team motorhome for breakfast or a cup of coffee and chat to senior personnel about their strategy for the weekend, or their fears about their car at ‘x’ circuit.

‘I love working with F1 journalists whose writing I have long admired and having them treat me as an equal. Sometimes they even ask me for advice, which is an amazing feeling.

‘I love waking up in a foreign country and not remembering where I am this week.

‘I love sitting in an empty media centre early in the morning and feeling the floor start to rumble as the cars are fired up below me.

‘I love walking into the paddock and smelling the combination of bacon, fresh rubber, and motor oil that means it’s a race weekend.

‘I love the energy of the paddock, and how inspiring it is to be surrounded by hundreds of people who are the best in the world at what they do and love it with a passion.

‘Basically, I guess what it all boils down to is that I love the combination of adventure, hard work, intelligence, and passion that makes up a life in Formula 1, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

‘When it comes to what I like least, well… These things are as much a part of the job as the good bits, so I can’t hate them too much, but if I could get rid of long-haul flights in economy, 5am wake-up calls (especially when you’ve gone to bed at 3am), and the terrifyingly expensive cost of travelling to all the races, my life would be perfect.

For many F1 fans, you are living a dream.

From the outside looking in, it would seem you have a pretty cool gig. Would you recommend this career to someone else, why or why not?

‘Absolutely. It?s the best job there is, no question. It?s not something everyone?s cut out to do ? the travel takes it out of you, and you need to be able to rock up to the track after a night on the red-eye and settle straight down to a 12-hour day of work, so if sleep deprivation is an issue then stay away. Same if you want to have a work-life balance, or hobbies, or a social life. But if you?re willing to sacrifice a ?normal? life with things like weekends and lie-ins, then the benefits of F1 outweigh the negatives a million times over.

‘If you think that normal is boring, and you?re willing to work your socks off for huge personal reward with little financial gain, then this is the job for you. But forget about marriage and kids. They?re incompatible with a life that sees you on the road for a minimum of 100 nights a year.

What advice can you offer young (or old) wannabe Kate Walkers out there, looking to follow in your footsteps?

‘Write, write, write, then write some more. You need to get into the habit of writing whether or not you?re feeling inspired, and you need to develop the ability to write quick and accurate copy to deadline. After Shanghai I wrote sixteen pieces in four hours, as I needed to hit the airport for my flight, and they all ran unedited from their submitted form. You need to be able to deliver without crafting every phrase, and that?s something that comes from practice.

‘The other piece of advice is to save as much money as you can. If you want to break in like I did, you?ll need to be prepared to pay your own way at first, as the outlets that can afford to pay for your travel aren?t going to take a chance on an untested writer without any contacts. So you?ll need to find someone who can get you accreditation in exchange for you covering the travel costs, which means you need to have a whole lot of money saved up for flights, hotels, and food.

With so much competition in the journalism and media fields, it seems like it is an employer?s market. How’s the money? Without numbers, would you say F1 journalists make a substantial income or would you say one might struggle to raise a family on one income?

‘Hahahahahaha! Money. Ha. In order to attend all the races, you?re looking at a travel budget of at least £20,000 a year. So you need to earn that to do the job, then earn money for things like rent and bills, before you can think about any sort of ?profit? to spend on things like food, clothes, and having a social life. This is not a life that will make you rich, unless you win the lottery. But I?d rather have empty pockets and a head full of memories than the other way round.

Do you think you’ll ever get tired of doing what you do?

‘Apparently there?s a five-year threshold. If you make it past five years, odds are you?re in the sport for life. I?ve not hit the five-year mark yet, so I can?t tell you whether or not I?ll stumble at that particular hurdle, but I can?t imagine doing anything else with my life. I?d rather be a high-class hooker than go back to my old life of 9-5 behind a desk. At least there?s the chance of some travel?

Are all your expenses covered and how does one go about getting paid if working independently?

‘I?m a freelancer, so I cover all my expenses and hope that I sell enough stories to break even by the end of the season. I probably spend as much time coming up with ideas and trying to sell them to newspapers and magazines as I do actually writing. You just have to hustle for work, and hope that you?re providing your outlets with a good enough service that eventually they start coming to you with commissions. But it takes a long time to build up a reputation ? I?ve been doing this for three years now, and I?m nowhere near that point.

Author: Ernie Black



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