Sports journalism

Sports journalism


Sports journalism is a form of writing
that reports on sporting topics and games. While the sports department
within some newspapers has been mockingly called the toy department,
because sports journalists do not concern themselves with the ‘serious’
topics covered by the news desk, sports coverage has grown in importance as
sport has grown in wealth, power and influence.
Sports journalism is an essential element of any news media organization.
Sports journalism includes organizations devoted entirely to sports reporting —
newspapers such as L’Equipe in France, La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy, Marca
in Spain, and the defunct Sporting Life in Britain, American magazines such as
Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News, all-sports talk radio stations,
and television networks such as Eurosport, Fox Sports 1, ESPN and The
Sports Network and Web Sports News such as Cypriot Action in Sports.
Access In professional and some collegiate
sports in the United States, it is common practice to allow properly
accredited sports reporters into locker rooms for interviews with players and
coaching staff after games, while the sports teams provide extensive
information support. Sports including American football, ice
hockey, basketball and baseball understand the essential commercial
relationship between media coverage and increased ticket, merchandise and
advertising sales. In the coverage of association football,
the journalist’s role often seems to be barely tolerated by the clubs and
players. For example, despite contractual media requirements in the
English Premier League, prominent managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry
Redknapp, refused to conduct post-match interviews on occasions with the
rights-holder BBC because of perceived unfavorable coverage.
As with reporters on other news beats, sports journalism should involve
investigating the story, rather than simply relying on press releases and
prepared statements from the sports team, coaching staff, or players. Sports
journalists are expected to verify facts given to them by the athletes, teams,
leagues, or organizations they are covering.
Socio-political significance Major League Baseball gave print
journalists a special role in its games. They were named official scorers and
kept statistics that were considered part of the official record of the
league. Active sportswriters were removed from this role in 1980. Although
their statistical judgment calls could not affect the outcome of a game in
progress, the awarding of errors and wins/saves were seen as powerful
influences on pitching staff selections and play lists when coach decisions
seemed unusual. The removal of writers, who could benefit fiscally from
sensational sports stories, was done to remove this perception of a conflict of
interest, and to increase statistics volume, consistency, and accuracy.
Sports stories occasionally transcend the games themselves and take on
socio-political significance: Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in
baseball is an example of this. Modern controversies regarding the
hyper-compensation of top athletes, the use of anabolic steroids and other,
banned performance-enhancing drugs, and the cost to local and national
governments to build sports venues and related infrastructure, especially for
Olympic Games, also demonstrates how sports can intrude on to the news pages.
Sportswriters regularly face more deadline pressure than other reporters
because sporting events tend to occur late in the day and closer to the
deadlines many organizations must observe. Yet they are expected to use
the same tools as news journalists, and to uphold the same professional and
ethical standards. They must take care not to show bias for any team.
Many of the most talented and respected print journalists have been
sportswriters. In Europe
The tradition of sports reporting attracting some of the finest writers in
journalism can be traced to the coverage of sport in Victorian England, where
several modern sports – such as association football, athletics and
rugby – were first organized and codified into something resembling what
we would recognize today. Andrew Warwick has suggested that The
Boat Race provided the first mass spectator event for journalistic
coverage. The Race was an annual rowing event in college athletics from 1856.
Cricket, possibly because of its esteemed place in society, has regularly
attracted the most elegant of writers. The Manchester Guardian, in the first
half of the 20th century, employed Neville Cardus as its cricket
correspondent as well as its music critic. Cardus was later knighted for
his services to journalism. One of his successors, John Arlott, who became a
worldwide favorite because of his radio commentaries on the BBC, was also known
for his poetry. The first London Olympic Games in 1908
attracted such widespread public interest that many newspapers assigned
their very best-known writers to the event. The Daily Mail even had Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle at the White City Stadium to cover the finish of the
Marathon. Such was the drama of that race, in
which Dorando Pietri collapsed within sight of the finishing line when
leading, that Conan Doyle led a public subscription campaign to see the gallant
Italian, having been denied the gold medal through his disqualification,
awarded a special silver cup, which was presented by Queen Alexandra. And the
public imagination was so well caught by the event that annual races in Boston,
Massachusetts, and London, and at future Olympics, were henceforward staged over
exactly the same, 26-mile, 385-yard distance used for the 1908 Olympic
Marathon, and the official length of the event worldwide to this day.
The London race, called the Polytechnic Marathon and originally staged over the
1908 Olympic route from outside the royal residence at Windsor Castle to
White City, was first sponsored by the Sporting Life, which in those Edwardian
times was a daily newspaper which sought to cover all sporting events, rather
than just a betting paper for horse racing and greyhounds that it became in
the years after the Second World War. The rise of the radio made sports
journalism more focused on the live coverage of the sporting events. The
first sports reporter in Great Britain, and one of the first sports reporters in
the World, was an English writer Edgar Wallace, who made a report on the Epsom
Derby on June 6, 1923 for the British Broadcasting Company.
In France, L’Auto, the predecessor of L’Equipe, had already played an equally
influential part in the sporting fabric of society when it announced in 1903
that it would stage an annual bicycle race around the country. The Tour de
France was born, and sports journalism’s role in its foundation is still
reflected today in the leading rider wearing a yellow jersey – the color of
the paper on which L’Auto was published. Sports stars in the press box
After the Second World War, the sports sections of British national daily and
Sunday newspapers continued to expand, to the point where many papers now have
separate standalone sports sections; some Sunday tabloids even have sections,
additional to the sports pages, devoted solely to the previous day’s football
reports. In some respects, this has replaced the earlier practice of many
regional newspapers which – until overtaken by the pace of modern
electronic media – would produce special results editions rushed out on Saturday
evenings. Some newspapers, such as The Sunday
Times, with 1924 Olympic 100 metres champion Harold Abrahams, or the London
Evening News using former England cricket captain Sir Leonard Hutton,
began to adopt the policy of hiring former sports stars to pen columns,
which were often ghost written. Some such ghosted columns, however, did
little to further the reputation of sports journalism, which is increasingly
becoming the subject of academic scrutiny of its standards.
Many “ghosted” columns were often run by independent sports agencies, based in
Fleet Street or in the provinces, who had signed up the sports star to a
contract and then syndicated their material among various titles. These
agencies included Pardons, or the Cricket Reporting Agency, which
routinely provided the editors of the Wisden cricket almanac, and Hayters.
Sportswriting in Britain has attracted some of the finest journalistic talents.
The Daily Mirror’s Peter Wilson, Hugh McIlvanney, first at The Observer and
lately at the Sunday Times, Ian Wooldridge of the Daily Mail and soccer
writer Brian Glanville, best known at the Sunday Times, and columnist Patrick
Collins, of the Mail on Sunday, five times the winner of the Sports Writer of
the Year Award. Many became household names in the late
20th century through their trenchant reporting of often earth-shattering
events that have transcended the back pages and been reported on the front
pages: the Massacre at the Munich Olympics in 1972; Muhammad Ali’s fight
career, including his 1974 title bout against George Foreman; the Heysel
Stadium disaster; and the career highs and lows of the likes of Tiger Woods,
George Best, David Beckham, Lester Piggott and other high profile stars.
McIlvanney and Wooldridge, who died in March 2007, aged 75, both enjoyed
careers that saw them frequently work in television. During his career,
Wooldridge became so famous that, like the sports stars he reported upon, he
hired the services of IMG, the agency founded by the American businessman,
Mark McCormack, to manage his affairs. Glanville wrote several books, including
novels, as well as scripting the memorable official film to the 1966
World Cup staged in England. Investigative journalism and sport
Since the 1990s, the growing importance of sport, its impact as a global
business and the huge amounts of money involved in the staging of events such
as the Olympic Games and football World Cups, has also attracted the attention
of investigative journalists. The sensitive nature of the relationships
between sports journalists and the subjects of their reporting, as well as
declining budgets experienced by most Fleet Street newspapers, has meant that
such long-term projects have often emanated from television documentary
makers. Tom Bower, with his 2003 sports book of
the year Broken Dreams, which analyzed British football, followed in the
tradition established a decade earlier by Andrew Jennings and Vyv Simson with
their controversial investigation of corruption within the International
Olympic Committee. Jennings and Simson’s The Lords of the Rings in many ways
predicted the scandals that were to emerge around the staging of the 2002
Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City; Jennings would follow-up with two
further books on the Olympics and one on FIFA, the world football body.
Likewise, award-winning writers Duncan Mackay, of The Guardian, and Steven
Downes unravelled many scandals involving doping, fixed races and
bribery in international athletics in their 1996 book, Running Scared, which
offered an account of the threats by a senior track official that led to the
suicide of their sports journalist colleague, Cliff Temple.
But the writing of such exposes – referred to as “spitting in the soup” by
Paul Kimmage, the former Tour de France professional cyclist, now an
award-winning writer for the Sunday Times – often requires the view of an
outsider who is not compromised by the need of day-to-day dealings with
sportsmen and officials, as required by “beat” correspondents.
The stakes can be high when upsetting sport’s powers: in 2007, England’s FA
opted to switch its multi-million-pound contract for UK coverage rights of the
FA Cup and England international matches from the BBC to rival broadcasters ITV.
One of the reasons cited was that the BBC had been too critical of the
performances of the England football team.
Sports books Increasingly, sports journalists have
turned to long-form writing, producing popular books on a range of sporting
topics, including biographies, history and investigations. Dan Topolski was the
first recipient of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award in 1989,
which has continued to reward authors for their excellence in sports
literature. Organizations
Most countries have their own national association of sports journalists. Many
sports also have their own clubs and associations for specified journalists.
These organizations attempt to maintain the standard of press provision at
sports venues, to oversee fair accreditation procedures and to
celebrate high standards of sports journalism.
The International Sports Press Association, AIPS, was founded in 1924
during the Olympic Games in Paris, at the headquarters of the Sporting Club de
France, by Frantz Reichel, the press chief of the Paris Games, and the
Belgian Victor Boin. AIPS operates through a system of continental
sub-associations and national associations, and liaises closely with
some of the world’s biggest sports federations, including the International
Olympic Committee, football’s world governing body FIFA, and the IAAF, the
international track and field body. The first statutes of AIPS mentioned these
objectives: to enhance the cooperation between its
member associations in defending sport and the professional interest of their
members. to strengthen the friendship, solidarity
and common interests between sports journalists of all countries.
to assure the best possible working conditions for the members.
For horse racing the Horserace Writers and Photographers’ Association was
founded in 1927, was revived in 1967, and represents the interests of racing
journalists in every branch of the media.
In Britain, the Sports Journalists’ Association was founded in 1948. It
stages two awards events, an annual Sports Awards ceremony which recognizes
outstanding performances by British sportsmen and women during the previous
year, and the British Sports Journalism Awards, the industry’s “Oscars”,
sponsored by UK Sport and presented each March. Originally founded as the Sports
Writers’ Association, following a merger with the Professional Sports
Photographers’ Association in 2002, the organization changed its title to the
more inclusive SJA. Its president is the veteran broadcaster and columnist Sir
Michael Parkinson. The SJA represents the British sports media on the British
Olympic Association’s press advisory committee and acts as a consultant to
organizers of major events who need guidance on media requirements as well
as seeking to represent its members’ interests in a range of activities. In
March 2008, Martin Samuel, then the chief football correspondent of The
Times, was named British Sportswriter of the Year, the first time any journalist
had managed to win the award three years in succession. At the same awards, Jeff
Stelling, of Sky Sports, was named Sports Broadcaster of the Year for the
third time, a prize determined by a ballot of SJA members. Stelling won the
vote again the following year, when the Sunday Times’s Paul Kimmage won the
interviewer of the year prize for a fifth time.
In the United States, the Indianapolis-based National Sports
Journalism Center monitors trends and strategy within the sports media
industry. The center is also home to the Associated Press Sports Editors, the
largest group of sports media professionals in the country.
In more recent years, sports journalism has turned its attention to online news
and press release media and provided services to Associated Press and other
major news syndication services. This has become even more apparent with the
increase in online social engagement. This has led to an increasing number of
freelance journalism in the sports industry and an explosion of sports
related news and industry websites. Fanzines and blogs
Through the 1970s and ’80s, a rise in “citizen journalism” in Europe was
witnessed in the rapid growth in popularity of soccer “fanzines” –
cheaply printed magazines written by fans for fans that bypassed often
stilted official club match programs and traditional media. Many continue today
and thrive. Some authors have been adopted by their
clubs – Jim Munro, once editor of the West Ham United fanzine Fortune’s Always
Dreaming, was hired by the club to write for its matchday magazine and is now
sports editor of The Sun Online. Other titles, such as the irreverent monthly
soccer magazine When Saturday Comes, have effectively gone mainstream.
The advent of the internet has seen much of this fan-generated energy directed
into sports blogs. Ranging from team-centric blogs to those that cover
the sports media itself, Bleacher Report, Deadspin.com,
ProFootballTalk.com, Tireball Sports, AOL Fanhouse, Masshole Sports, the blogs
in the Yardbarker Network, and others have garnered massive followings.
Blogging has also been taken up by sportspeople such as Curt Schilling,
Paula Radcliffe, Greg Oden, Donovan McNabb, and Chris Cooley.
Smartphones Since the beginning of smartphones and
the use of applications, sports media has taken off and has become accessible
from almost anywhere at any time. Not only can fans check the scores on
different apps such as ESPN and Global Sports Media, but people can use social
media apps as well to find out different scores. These apps give score updates,
rosters, game schedules, injury updates, and much more right when it happens.
People can get real time results right from their phone. They do not need to be
at the game, or right by their television, to see how their favorite
team is doing. Now people can stream games right from their phone.
This type of fast, easy information is very important to sports fans. As stated
in a Time magazine, “Enthusiastic fans are eager for updates on their favorite
teams and the opportunity to rant about what went wrong in the playoffs or why
their coach should be fired”. Many people want to discuss matters about
sports, teams and games, and this article shows that with the sports apps,
the news can be found at a moment’s notice.
Thanks to the smartphone, a fan no longer has to wait for scores or search
the web for information on players. All the information is available at the palm
of their hand. Sports apps do not always have to be about giving scores, as some
applications include workout helpers, rule books, and even games. The workout
apps can show how the professionals’ workout and can give inspiration to do
the same workout. The rule books are important, because it spreads the
knowledge about the game, and it can get people interested in new games. The
games apps are a good way of teaching people how the game is played, and can
give players a bigger interest in a specific sport. All of these different
apps are a part of sports media in the form of using smartphones and apps. This
helps spread information about sports to anyone who wants it.
Smartphones can not only be used just for scores, they can also help athletes
become known and recruited. These days most everything is caught on camera, and
that includes great plays made by athletes. Once a video is taken it will
be spread through the social media sites in no time.
Gender The number of females in the sports
journalism industry is rapidly growing, and this has caused a lot of controversy
in recent years. Many traditionalists believe that the sporting industry
should be predominately for men, and female journalists have endured a lot of
criticism for breaking the mold. There has been an ongoing debate as to
whether or not female reporters should be allowed in the locker rooms after
games. If they are denied access, this gives male reporters a competitive
advantage in the field, as they can interview players in the locker room
after games. If locker room access is denied to all reporters – male and
female – because of this controversy, male journalists would likely resent
female reporters for having their access taken away.
Some breakthrough female reporters include Adeline Daley, Tracy Dodds, Mary
Garber, Lesley Visser and Sally Jenkins. See also
Journalism Sports commentator
Broadcasting of sports events National Sports Journalism Center
Baseball Writers’ Association of America National Collegiate Baseball Writers
Association Pro Basketball Writers Association
United States Basketball Writers Association
Football Writers Association of America Pro Football Writers Association
Ice Hockey Journalists UK Professional Hockey Writers’ Association
Football Writers’ Association Scottish Football Writers’ Association
National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association
Further reading Steen, R, Sports Journalism: A
Multimedia Primer, Routledge, 2007, ISBN 978-0-415-39424-6
Wilstein, Steve, AP Sports Writing Handbook, McGraw-Hill, 2001, ISBN
978-0-07-137218-3, ISBN 0-07-137218-0 References
External links Course Module Overview on Sports
Journalism at Open School of Journalism

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