Richard Cashman, Editor & Author, Walla Walla
25th September 2003
explore the world of sports journalism.
Cashman has enjoyed a successful career in Australian
media for 25 years.
this insightful and rare interview, Richard discusses
his background, the bigger picture of Australian sports
and some of his upcoming projects.
your background, and that of Walla Walla Press?
been a sports historian for about 25 years. Most of
the 25 books I've either written or edited have been
on sports history - on cricket, the Olympic Games
and sport generally, including sport in Australia
and in other countries. I even wrote a book on Indian
cricket. Some of my books have been written for the
university market but many are for the more general
sports fan. I have been involved in projects such
as the Random House book on Australian Sport through
Time and the Oxford Companion to Australian Sport
and the Oxford Companion to Australian Cricket. I
write occasional articles for newspapers and cricket
magazines. I teach sports history at the University
of New South Wales.
Walla Press began in 1997 as a division of the Australian
Sports Consultancy (ASC), which dated from 1989. ASC
was begun by six university colleagues around Australia.
We completed various projects for individual sports
(such as rugby league, golf, netball) and produced
a number of reports and publications for clients.
While we are all sports lovers to a greater or lesser
degree, we are also interested in sports analysis
and criticism. Walla Walla Press is run by three Directors
but we rely on many valuable links with the Australian
sports history fraternity.
are your aims and objectives?
primary purpose is to publish scholarly and well-researched
titles in sports history. I believe that there is
a niche market that we are tapping into for quality
sports books that may not sell trillions of copies.
The major publishing houses are becoming increasingly
cautious and often won't touch a title unless they
can see big profits after publication. We are happy
to publish good books that may have a small market
and print-runs, as little as 500 copies.
unstated objective is to provide an author-friendly
press. Since we are author/publishers and because
we only publish three to six titles a year, we have
close liaison with authors throughout the publication
process. Our aim is to produce a book that looks good
and one that fulfills the author's expectations. We
consult the author closely on the look of a book,
including the cover. Authors have the opportunity
to comment on cover designs.
operate a vanity press so we have to avoid taking
too many risks. Because our margins are small, we
usually rely on an author contribution or a sponsor
to provide a book subsidy. However, after copies of
a book have been sold, we can pay back this subsidy,
at least part of it.
and how did you get your break in the business?
1997, when we published our first book, Sporting Immigrants:
Sport and Ethnicity in Australia. ASC won a tender
from the former Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural
and Population Research, which included a publication
subsidy. Previously we had relied on other publishers
to publish our research. We thought that we could
do a better job ourselves producing the kind of book
we wanted. Publishing ourselves gave us control of
the whole process from research manuscript to book
have you made a positive difference in the sports
media and publishing business?
I believe that Walla Walla Press is making a big difference.
We are publishing a number of worthwhile titles that
otherwise would not see the light of day. We are taking
a punt on new areas of research, such as our titles
on Indigenous sport; gender, sport and sexuality;
the representation of Australian sport, its symbols,
colours and emblems and sporting immigrants to name
are also producing and distributing good quality texts
on sports history, Paradise of Sport and Sport in
the National Imagination that have been set at a number
of universities and colleges. Although none of our
books have become best sellers, they are being read
by students is sports history courses. These students
will become future sports journalists, commentators
and administrators - leaders in the sports field.
do you judge a good book?
is relatively easy. It has to be both original and
interesting, have a good research base and be well
written. An important factor in judging a book is
assessing its market potential.
that we take on are reviewed by an independent referee
who may make suggestions to an author about how a
book might be improved.
percentage of the proposals coming to you make it?
one quarter to one half but it's hard to be too precise.
It depends whether one counts informal versus more
formal proposals, book outlines versus completed manuscripts.
We don't proceed with a book unless all parties are
pleased with the proposed arrangement.
any of the books you published been made into movies
or TV series?
as yet but our very first project as consultants was
to devise a script for a 13-part television series,
'Blood, Sweat and Tears'. This was show on television,
released on video and as a book. We are open to any
are a few of your personal books and why?
got a good sports history library with cricket and
the Olympics as the strongest components. However,
I particularly like reference works (even non sports
ones). They are invaluable for research. My library
includes a complete set of the Australian Dictionary
of Biography, the Australian Encyclopedia and Australian
Sport through Time. I've contributed to all of them.
makes a good sports person?
who is passionate, professional and committed to his
or her craft, respects the best traditions of the
sport in question and is a good winner and loser.
Someone who avoids becoming big-headed.
the credibility of Australian sports suffered in recent
according to some people but I doubt whether Australian
sport ever had a golden era when things were close
to perfect. It varies from sport to sport anyway.
While some sports have enhanced their credibility
others have suffered.
are Australia's greatest sports ambassadors?
who are willing to make the time and the effort to
represent the country as well as to achieve success
in their sport. Those who respect the best traditions
of their respective sport. Those who are honest and
frank in their assessment of their individual and
team achievements. Cathy Freeman, Ian Thorpe and Steve
Waugh come to mind
Australian sports journalists do you respect the most,
whose material is well researched and crafted, who
respect the efforts of athletes and those who paint
a broad picture of a sport and its context. Some of
the ones I enjoy reading are Mike Coward, Martin Flanagan,
Greg Growden and Spiro Zavos. They have all written
informative books. I enjoy the commentary of Jim Maxwell
and Karen Tighe.
sports media websites do you visit?
sports sites, such as cricket, rugby and AFL, Olympic
sites, the Australian
Society for Sports History, the Walla
Walla site (to update and refine) and sports sites
with a good research base, such as the website of
the Amateur Athletic
Foundation of Los Angeles.
much comment should Australian athletes make about
individuals they are as entitled to comment as much
as anyone (no more, no less) as long as they remember
that politics is a different arena to sport and expertise
in sport does not necessarily mean political expertise.
If they have something worthwhile to say I can't see
why they shouldn't say it. However, there is always
the risk that if an athlete who buys into political
debate may antagonise some of their fans.
effect did Cathy Freeman waving the Aboriginal flag
have on her cause, and the plight of the Aboriginal
think that Cathy Freeman is an ideal role model for
Aboriginal people. While her stance in 1994 and 2000
(draping herself in the Australian and Aboriginal
flags) boosted the morale of the Indigenous community,
I don't think it did much to alter the plight of Aborigines
or to change the attitudes of many Australians to
are Australia's greatest ever indigenous athletes?
is a tough question because one is comparing athletes,
such as Jack Marsh and Eddie Gilbert, who were not
properly recognised with others who have achieved
wide acclaim, such a Cathy Freeman. There have been
so many. I admire Nicky Winmar and Michael Long who
have taken a strong stand against racism in sport.
books of yours touch on this?
Walla Press has published three books on Indigenous
subjects: a biography of Jack Marsh; a book on Aborigines
and cricket; and a book on the 1997 'Festival of the
Dreaming', which was part of the Cultural Olympiad.
I have a chapter on Aborigines in Australian sport
in Paradise of Sport.
cover of my book Paradise of Sport features Cathy
Freeman at Vancouver in 1994 when she first draped
herself with the Australian and Aboriginal flags.
are your current projects?
hope to start a major project on the objectives and
outcomes of Sydney Olympic Park working with the Sydney
Olympic Park Authority. The title of the project is
'From Aboriginal to post-industrial landscape: a history
of Homebush Bay'. The future of this precinct is a
big issue both for sports fans, as well as the NSW
Government and taxpayers. Since Sydney Olympic Park
was the home for the biggest sports event in Australia,
it is important that its legacy be properly nurtured.
other media attention have you received?
a lot both local and international in radio and television.
As Director of the Centre for Olympic Studies at the
University of New South Wales I was inundated with
media requests at the time of the Games. I enjoy any
opportunity to talk about current issues in sport
and sports history, including my current projects.
other important information should we know about you
and your operation?
we primarily publish quality sports books, Walla Walla
Press has diversified its operations and will introduce
a general list later this year. Our first title, Dead
Parrot, is a bird-watcher thriller by John Huxley,
associate editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. It
will be published in December. It's probably appropriate
that we publish such a book. I've learnt that bird-watching
is quite a competitive 'sport' in its own way. Bird-watchers
can be quite competitive and passionate about this
note: A educational, insightful and entertaining interview.
We will be hearing a great deal more from Richard.
Walla Press official website