Mick Malthouse has delivered some frosty responses in some recent media conferences, yet working with aspiring sports journalists, one of his main pieces of advice is "report the news, don't become the news".
The Carlton coach outlined the intricacies of his other job at La Trobe university to Fairfax Media this week. He is in the final year of a three-year contract working as a vice-chancellor’s fellow.
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Mick Malthouse the journalism lecturer
Known for his moody interactions with the media, Carlton coach Mick Malthouse puts aspiring sports journalists through their paces as a guest lecturer at La Trobe University.
While part of Malthouse’s role is ambassadorial, he frequently speaks with students undertaking various sports-related degrees, and offers real-life insights shaped by more than 40 years in professional football.
First-hand accounts of dealing with assistant coaches, engaging in contract negotiations, and informing players they had been delisted are points of difference which La Trobe identified as major benefits in employing Malthouse. The goal was to make La Trobe the preferred school for people who want to get into the sports industry.
“Some of these people who teach or lecture really have been students and gone on and become teachers,” Malthouse said.
“As good as they are, they’re looking at the outside world.
“It was interesting for me, because I didn’t go to uni. I had a perception of what uni life was like, and uni life was totally different.
“I can create real-life situations and then ‘play act’ it if you like, I can assess it.”
Malthouse is first and foremost a senior AFL coach, meaning that his involvement at La Trobe can be sporadic. There is no average month, his engagements with students can range from between one to six a month, depending on the stage of the AFL season and university semester.
The 60-year-old most enjoys working with postgraduate business students who have a base level of understanding, and are seeking to refine their knowledge and enhance their skills.
But he also deals with students enrolled in the school’s sports journalism course.
Part of this responsibility includes conducting mock press conferences with students, and inviting them into watch Malthouse confront the real-life media at the club's VISY Park headquarters.
“Talking to the journos who are in their second- and third-year courses, trying to keep them on the straight and narrow of what it’s really about. You’re going to report the news, don’t become the news,” he said.
“We do that, we have them here, they come to our press conferences, so it’s quite expansive.''
Having watched Malthouse speak with the media, it is then the turn of students to analyse the exchanges, and attempt to identify what is newsworthy.
“They see real-life pre-game interviews. They’re able to judge, for a 10-, 15-minute interview, maybe a 20-minute interview, the likelihood is they will record that, and you might see eight to 10 seconds on TV, four or five seconds on radio, and what’s written, you’ve got no control over it, because they’ll take what they want to take,” Malthouse said.
Dave Lowden coordinates and lectures in the sports journalism degree. While not condoning all of Malthouse’s at-times abrasive dealings with the media, he believes that the triple premiership coach’s role allows students an invaluable experience.
“[The students] get an insight into what rankles him as a coach, so they at least are aware of some of his motivations, so if he is ticking off a journalist they at least understand what his position is,” Lowden says.
“That doesn’t mean he’s always right but they understand the motivation for ticking a journalist off, so they’re getting some exposure I guess from the horse’s mouth as to what they might need to be doing in terms of preparation or in terms of how they ask their questions.
“You’ve got to walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes to know how he’s feeling and I think that’s what Mick Malthouse brings to La Trobe, it gives the opportunity for students to ... at least be walking side by side with him to see things from his perspective.”
Malthouse is hopeful of continuing in his dual positions at the Blues and La Trobe next season.
Carlton is supportive of its coach and his moonlighting. The Blues employ 85 administrative staff in addition to the 44 players on their senior list, and feel education from the likes of Malthouse only benefits the industry.
“Thirty years experience gives the students real-life experience, and real-life scenarios that have happened,” says Blues head of communications Jay Allen.