Published on 10 March 2018
His university experience forged friendships for life, but Michael Weightman’s final year was tinged with sadness after the loss of his dad.
Now, the 31-year-old journalism graduate reveals how the ‘Sunderland University spirit’ kept him working to achieve the job of his dreams
Here we speak to the Sky Sports News worker about football, friendship, family and North East grit.
Hi Michael, tell us what first attracted you to the University of Sunderland and why you picked to study here.
Well, firstly I knew I wanted to be a sports journalist and the university had a reputation for being really passionate about journalism in general.
The North East is amazing for sport- even when our teams aren’t doing well – there is always a story.
I wanted to be part of that and so Sunderland was where I wanted to go.
So, did you get any practical work experience which has helped you?
Yes, I had been doing some work for Radio Sunderland for Hospitals, commentating on all the SAFC games.
I also did some work for Sun FM too. Getting to report on the matches was always something I’d wanted to do, so it was great.
Did you enjoy your time at university?
I’ll be honest with you, being at the University of Sunderland was one of the happiest times of my life. I made amazing friends who remain my best friends to this day.
We all lived together and we were all best mates, and then we all moved to London together. In fact, this Sunday I’m going to meet two of them for a pint. That was the highlight, meeting people who became my best friends for life.
Did you find yourself facing any particular problems of obstacles during university life?
By my second year, I was really getting into the course then, in my third year, my dad died. That was a really tough time for me.
The university was so good, they obviously knew that was an important year for me and they could see I was not really with it because of everything that was going on.
I think it’s fair to say that without the university, I probably would never have finished my degree. At a time I was undoubtedly facing the biggest challenge, they were so nice.
In the end I got a 2:2, which was not what I wanted but I was probably not in the right frame of mind that final year.
Tell us a little bit about where you are working now and what responsibilities you have.
So, I work at Sky Sports News as a senior planner. What that means is that I look at what football stories we should be covering.
Each day, we come in and talk about what is happening and how we need to cover the stories.
It’s obviously great for me, someone who has been a football fan their whole life.
I’ve had the chance to work the past two transfer deadline days which has been amazing. To think that when I was a 16-year-old doing my first commentary on hospital radio that one day I’d be on Sky Sports News is amazing for me.
I know I’m really lucky but I also know that the North East work ethic is one of never giving up. The University of Sunderland teaches you to keep going and to keep working hard, after all shy bairns get nowt.
That’s true! So, what is the best part of your job?
Well, I get to talk about something that I love every day. Basically, what I do now is what I did before I was employed – I talk to people about football; it’s the DNA of England.
So what about life in London – is the commuting getting you down and do you miss the North East?
I’m really lucky, I live just down the road from my job but I do miss home. It’s just really hard for me to think about what type of job I could get back home.
I miss Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham – and, of course, Consett where I’m from and where my friends are.
Ok, so where do you see yourself in five years time?
I really hope I’m still involved with sports journalism of some kind and I would like to stay working with Sky Sports News.
I’ve also always wanted to learn Spanish, so maybe a bit of travel might be in there too.
I need to make sure that I’m moving with the times, in a few years time I’ll be heading towards 40 then I’m sure there’ll be plenty of young whipper-snappers from the University of Sunderland trying to get a foot on the ladder.
And, finally Michael. What’s the dream day?
It’s always been the same – I’m reporting on the day Newcastle United win the Premier League. That would be the happiest day of them all.
*Michael Weightman, from Consett, studied journalism at the University of Sunderland. Find out more about the course here.