Media Tribune #6, José David López and the art of football storytelling across all platforms
José David López is the founder of El Enganche, chosen as Europe's Best Football Podcast this year.
by Martin Mazur
To become a synonym of football storytelling is not easy, but José David López has made it. He is the creator of El Enganche, a platform that has evolved from digital to TV and is now a successful podcast on SpainMediaRadio. El Enganche has been recently chosen Europe’s Best Football Podcast, in an event organised by Radio Days in Vienna, thanks to its social and cultural values using football as conductor.
But López is far more than that.
“I’m lucky to be able to say that I’ve worked for different media outlets and in different platforms. Covering Spain in the Euro 2008 or 2012 for goal.com, interviewing the likes of Johan Cruyff and Ronaldinho for elenganche.es, travelling to many places in the world searching for stories (for ESPN and Movistar Mexico), commenting football games for Carrusel Deportivo, Spain’s number one radio show, and in television for TVE1,” he says to AIPS.
What do you like the most about sports journalism?
What I like the most about journalism in general, and sports journalism in particular, is that allows you to broadcast extreme feelings and sublime moments, broaden your cultural knowledge and at the same time make the viewers, listeners or readers be a part of what you’re seeing and feeling, enlightening them. Even if every event has the potential of showcasing all those feelings, I believe that sport in particular is an excuse to show inspirational stories, stories about overcoming adversity, recognition, dreams and nightmares, obstacles and goals, life stories in general. Nothing is as powerful as sport for getting closer and broadcasting those inner feelings.
-What are the biggest challenges of the profession now?
-From the main problems that sports journalism is facing, there is one that has a deep journalistic root, and another one that is entirely oblivious to journalism, but the combination of both creates a big question mark: where is this profession heading to? On the one hand, there is more technology, skills and potential than ever; however, empowering those journalists with the updated needs in order to maximise their potential usually finds the barrier of financial woes. Worse, clubs are creating more and more obstacles when it comes to granting access for a type of journalism that they are not keen on. This has produced the proliferation of entertaining contents that have nothing to do with sports. That’s why we keep finding features that are trying to captivate those that see sports journalism as a yellowish or commercial activity, something that does not belong to our profession. Fortunately, it is very easy to prove how to make things right, thanks to journalists and media outlets that still look for sport media excellence, trying to explore the sporting bit to the maximum detail.
The digital era has wreaked havoc in many newsrooms, leaving some of them severely wounded. And that, I repeat, happened when there is more potential than ever. To find the real path must be the goal of the media companies, keeping in mind their primary goal: respect for the information.
-What’s the coverage that you’ve enjoyed the most and why?
-I believe that El Enganche has a seal that represents my style directly. As I see football as an excuse to tell life stories, one that particularly marked me was in Colombia, for ESPN. I was a script writer and producer. I managed to put together three former hostages of the FARC guerrilla, people that had lived in captivity for many years, whose only connection to the world was a radio in which they could listen to the games of Millonarios de Bogotá, the team that the three of them supported. So the story went from telling us the horrors of the forest, the proximity of death, to witnessing the Bogotá derby between Millonarios and Santa Fe. And as if it was part of the script, Millonarios won. It was a mentally challenging reportage, extremely hard, but brilliant in terms of quality.
López (right) in the famous TV show Estudio Estadio.
-What lessons have you learned and from whom?
-Overcoming difficulties is part of the DNA of a journalist, sometimes as a direct result of personal factors and sometimes thanks to the help of others. But if I had to choose a moment, I think that the two years that I spent working with Martin Ainstein doing reportages around the world were the most enriching. I’ve learned from the highest exigency in order to become the best football show that has ever existed. I had to bring out the best inside me, and develop all those stories for a TV product. I got better in production, I learned some filming secrets that I never thought I would, I travelled the world with a group of professionals and Martin taught me so much that in the end I decided to walk that road on my own to try to pursue those stories in video. And what he taught me the most was how to deal with all the pressure of being the number one, that ESPN certainly is, and to exploit all my qualities in the best possible context. Those two years were key in my career and even if he knows, I’ll be always grateful.
-The profession is constantly changing. What’s the current situation in Spain?
There’s a massive transformation towards digital, which is killing the printed press, but the evolution inside the newsrooms is still starting, and it starts from replacing the SIM card from the people that have decision power. In most cases they belong to another era that is not compatible with today’s reality. So that provokes this slow and frictional shift that conspires with the real potential that Spain has, with groups of journalists that are to the level of the world’s best. I doubt that there is a country with the number of qualified young journalists that understand sport as a cultural and a social value, and despite this, the lack of movement in the industry is endangering them.
-What do you think about the creation of the AIPS Sport Media Awards?
-I find it as an attractive impulse for global journalism and an iconic support movement to those that keep betting for a quality sport journalism in times where the simplest thing is to stay away from it. These Awards will be useful for getting to know other projects, other styles, other concepts… and to allow all of us that love quality journalism to improve globally. It’s a pleasure that AIPS support the journalism with such an award.
-How can a prize like this help to the future generations of sports journalists?
-The current state of the sport journalism is, without a doubt, a daily exercise of willpower and a battle against obstacles. And only survive, from a big majority, those that have the vocation to do it, which is that feeling that goes through all barriers, that has no boundaries, no lamentations, until they feel fulfilled. And in times like these, it’s very important that associations like AIPS exist and through these Awards, provide a backup and an impulse so that vocation never disappears. Thanks to this prize, there will be many people that will become globally known, that will be helped and that will be able to progress in their projects, rising as examples for the future generations that are coming.
Travelling around the world, López has met several football personalities. Here, in Manchester with David De Gea.
-Production, writing, radio, TV… You have done it all. What would like the most and why?
My dream was to comment international football matches on television and I succeeded, and nowadays that’s an important part of my job for a national TV channel. From that, everything else was going to be a bonus, and it came. Commenting for Spain’s number one radio (Cadena Ser), having sections in radio, creating my own media outlet with a common seal that was carried from radio to web to video, making TV productions with my scripts for international channels… Everything exceeded my expectations, but there’s no time to enjoy, because we have to keep improving. I speak about yesterday only to be better tomorrow. If you go to bed without dreams, you wake up without emotions. I’m the opposite. And in all this learning process I’ve discovered that storytelling was what I liked the most, and that it would be unfair just to choose one platform, because in the end, it’s the story that counts.
-Were you ever a victim of fake news in your career?
-No, never. It’s one of the most difficult issues of sport journalism, because the system awards you for speed and not that much for safety. That one second takes away the reputation that you’ve earned, that is some big mistake that I don’t want to experience. Better stick to accuracy as relentless rule.
-What is the advice you would give to a younger self that is just starting in the profession?
-I always listen to people regretting something, and I look back in a different way, always grateful and without regrets. I’ve made key decisions in my life and all of them were based on my principles. So the only thing that I could say to my younger self, because I know that values and were never compromised, is to enjoy the ride and never stop looking around, all those elements that surround sport and journalism.
-What is a good podcast and why has El Enganche successfully lasted for so many years?
-In just two years, El Enganche, with its quality seal of storytelling, has been widely embraced, despite the poor exploitation capacity that podcasts have in Spain. To be the best football podcast of Europe is incredible. In my opinion, podcasts must give absolute vicinity to the listeners. Make them feel special, because they are embracing your content as theirs, The group of listeners might be small compared to the millions of people that listen to radio, but for that reason they feel closer, special. That relation needs to mature naturally, but without forgetting that the number one rule is that your product needs to be different, and only your personal touch will fulfil the expectations of the listeners. At the end of each podcasts, you must have provided all the answers on the how, when, why, where. Finally, we have to adapt to the lives of the listeners: they are going to school, commuting in metro to work, working out in the gym, running… the length needs to be respected, sometimes it’s too long, and we have to be practical. My colleague Francisco Izuzquiza is more attentive to the radio secrets, and I’m more into the content. Together we blend in order to reach and be liked by different groups of listeners. The industry now needs to listen, in order podcasts be a success and no longer a niche.
-Do you think that being more connected to the readers and listeners through social media has made the profession better or more difficult?
-Social media is one of the best inventions in the last decades, but as it happens with many other aspects of our life, sometimes the use is deficient from the two ends, the ones that consume them and the ones that need to be read. But the proximity with the community that you create, and handling so many opinions and points of view, should never be considered something negative.
Media tribune is presented by AIPS Sport Media Awards, a bridge to the future of sport journalism. Divided in 6 main categories, the Awards are a celebration of the best sport storytellers from around the world. Submissions for professionals are free and open until September 17, 2018. Find more and submit your work in www.aipsawards.com