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Media Minds: Leigh Diffey

With the excitement in Austin of the Formula 1 US Grand Prix race around the corner, Red Fan's Kristen O'Brien chatted with Leigh Diffey, NBC Sports Formula One and IndyCar Play-by-Play Announcer to talk about his impressive career as a motor sports (and most recently Olympics) announcer.

Diffey is an international TV sports broadcaster with one of the most recognizable voices in the industry. In January 2013, he joined NBC Sports and the NBC Sports Network. In this role he covers Formula 1, the Verizon Indycar Series, NASCAR, and both Summer and Winter Olympics and Rugby.

What makes a compelling story?

What makes a story compelling is it’s got to grab you and make you remember the story so that you feel compelled to then tell someone else about that story. It’s so interesting, unique and special that you cannot forget it.

What story, in your career, are you most proud of?

When Danish sports car driver Tom Kristensen became the most successful driver as far as wins at the 24 hours of Le Mans. Reason it is special is because Le Mans is the greatest endurance race of the world. The history of the event, plus its panache and gravitas, and everyone wants to compete at Le Mans or win it. And Jacky Ickx had the record at the time and was the man at Le Mans and lo and behold here comes Kristensen and he won and I called him winning a 7th 24 hours of Le Mans.

How did you get your start?

I was about 20 and in my younger days I raced motor cycles and at the time Ipswich motorcycle club needed an announcer. I got the job at this dirt track outside of Brisbane and that is where I started. I later moved to Sydney to work in TV announcing with Network Ten. After a few projects overseas, I moved to England and got a job with the BBC and then after two years, in 2002, I got the job in the states as the voice of the CART World Series. Then I worked for SPEED for 10 years and in 2013 I signed with NBC Sports.

What's your biggest pet peeve as a broadcast journalist?

Biggest pet peeve is the way we operate now with social media being such a force that it is. I love interacting with people with intelligent things to say but dislike keyboard heroes who hide behind their computers and smartphones.

What story do you wish you would have been able to cover or do you hope to be able to cover?

I would love to be a part of an Olympic games either in Australia or the United states, my two home lands. Now having covered Olympics in Russia and Brazil, and having experienced the monster of the Olympic games and NBC’s impact and footprint on the games, I am so proud to be a part of that.

Why is broadcast journalism rewarding to you?

I love telling stories around the dinner table with friends or with my colleagues, doing what I do, enables me to tell people stories and they are pretty good stories. Sometimes they are tough stories of injury or accidents, but I love being in the position to tell a good story. I love informing people. I enjoy commentating things. It’s a real river of positivity. Makes you feel good when you tell a good story.

What journalism experience stands out in your mind and why?

I got to work with renowned golfer Greg Norman. He comes from the same state as me in Queensland. He is a sporting hero to many Australians and in 2009 I got to meet him and work with him. I was host and he was one of the analysts for the Australian Open. When you get to be in the presence of someone of that stature, it is pretty amazing. It was the most challenging broadcast of my life because I was working with Greg Norman, but also the night before the broadcast my father died. My dad would have been proud of that. Working with Greg was the motivation to get through this day.

What famous historical figure do you wish you could have interviewed and why?

I never got to interview either Michael Schumacher or Ayrton Senna. I would have loved to interview them. Just because of how they were made up. Their makeup, the kind of F1 champions they were, I would have relished the opportunity to have sat opposite them and fired some questions at them. It’s a challenge to come up with decent questions and I would have relished that opportunity.

How has social media changed the way you work?

It has changed the job in a colossal way because prior to the internet and then social media you would get press releases on a fax machine or you would get a call. And you would rely on that or you would call people. And now with social media everything happens instantaneously and people have so much info at their fingertips. It is 24/7. We have to work harder now to dig deeper to find more info that is not available on the internet. Our viewers know just as much as we do and so we have to build more relationships. I tell future broadcasters that you have to acquire relationships, build relationships ,and hold on to them and cherish them.

How much time do you spend on social media?

Depends on if I am traveling, then I spend a lot of time. Let’s say too much.

What’s your news source?

Nightly News. Wall St Journal, Financial Times when traveling. Or I go to social media.

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