> Sports Editor of The Times speaks exlusively to Westerneye

The seductive smile of a star columnist, the draw of a dramatic headline or the idea of a comforting read on your route to work; the newspaper, even amid the 24-hour media madness, remains relevant, offering reflection and inspection on the good, the bad and the ugly strife of every-day life.

Turn to The Times and peer to the rear, where you’ll indulge in arguably the most erudite and entertaining sports section on the national press. A parish headed by Tim Hallissey.

“I’ve never been a sports reporter,” he concedes. “It was only when I got a job here at The Times as a sub editor that I had ever worked on sport. I worked my way through and ended up as the sports editor six years ago,” adds Hallissey, who conducts an orchestra of award-winning writers.

The section boasts a host of renowned correspondents like Oliver Kay, Patrick Barclay and Matt Dickinson, columnists such as Matthew Syed, that eloquent investigative observer of sport, while Simon Barnes, Neil Harman and Mike Atherton, the former England captain and foremost cricket correspondent, also hail and regale at The Times.

“We certainly pride ourselves on having a very good writing team,” Hallissey says of the section’s scribers. “[But] even they would admit that there’s the odd ego or two that needs to be soothed, because they’re all very competitive people and everyone wants to be on the back page or have the big spread. It usually works itself out in the end.”

The back page is the end product in every sense, a consequence of meetings and a maelstrom of plans and ideas discussed back at the News International headquarters in London. Indeed each day of Hallissey’s is dynamic. “The editor [James Harding] has a general conference at 11 o’clock, which all the departments attend [and it] explains what they’re hoping to do that day. So that’s home news, foreign news, business, sport, opinion, pictures. And at 12:30 we begin planning the sports section.

 “The editor has another conference at four o’clock where all decisions are made. From there, our first edition goes [to print] at 10:15pm. As news happens they [the pages] get chopped and changed. Things that you thought were really good at the start of the day turn out to be not quite so good. You shuffle it all around and hopefully produce some sort of coherent newspaper at the end of it.

“[While we’re also] running an up-to-the-minute website that is not just dealing with breaking news and interpreting and analysing that, but providing the other bells and whistles and extra added value that we can’t put in the paper but can work so well online – graphics, video and audio.”

It’s a wonder what the old writers think of the make-up of the online set-up, esteemed erstwhile scribers such as Geoffrey Green and the perennially penning Brian Glanville and Hugh Mcllvanney. The days when you’d bark your copy over the phone are vanquished. Now reporters often file their first article for a blog or for breaking news not long after mid-day, after some have had their say on a weekly podcast like The Game.“It’s going to be an internet-driven business,” observes Hallissey. “Newspapers are a mature business, a hugely valuable and much-loved industry. [But] the internet, the iPad, the Android – those possibilities are limitless. That’s where a huge amount of thought and resources are going to be ploughed in to.”

With the ever-developing output in place, what qualities does Hallissey look for when employing a sports reporter? “What you want with sport is someone who is very knowledgeable, very passionate.” What else is important? Ideas and enthusiasm? “Yes,” Hallissey says. “And not wanting to be paid very much.”

You may begin poor in money but should you be rich in hard work and earn lavish luck, landing a position on a title like The Times is far from unattainable, as Tim and every other top journalist will tell you – probably via twitter.

Giles Lucas