Sports Journalism

Sports Journalism is a sub-division of journalism that covers sports events, figures and related issues. Its importance steadily grew in the 20th and 21st centuries, partly due to the commercialization of sports and the accessibility to sports television channels, Internet websites, and newspaper and magazine online editions.

By the end of the 20th century, most newspapers would devote several pages, or an entire section, to the coverage of sports news. There were also several daily newspapers devoted entirely to sport. These include La Gazzetta Dello Sport in Italy, Marca in Spain and L'Equipe in France. In the United States, magazines such as Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News engage a variety of readers. Television channels such as ESPN, Sky Sports and Eurosport also specialize in this field. Numerous websites provide news, live scores, videos and commentaries on a wide range of sports events.

This is a position far removed from the status of sports journalism in the early to mid-20th century, when it was regarded as trivial and not worthy of "serious" journalism. Yet sports journalism has a history as long as other forms of the craft: in England, the Sporting Chronicle newspaper was first published in 1822, its focus being horse racing. In 1893, Joseph Pulitzer created the first sports page in the New York World.

Like journalists in news, business or celebrity coverage, sports journalists spend their time previewing and reporting on events, writing longer features, conducting interviews and writing regular opinion columns. Many sports journalists specialise in one aspect of their craft, as a reporter, sports feature writer or columnist, with leading proponents securing staff positions or contracts worth millions of dollars each year, and regularly being hired as a guest expert to appear on sports radio or television programs.

There are two main objectives of interviews, which should be informative and present the public with as much detail as possible. The purpose of the interview may be entertaining, light-hearted or it may be confrontational and investigative. The latter is not only more difficult to conduct but can also influence the willingness of other sports figures to be interviewed by the same journalists. There are journalists that rely on that method of approach exclusively such as Jim Gray, whose aggressive questions have become a trademark. In 2010, Gray had an argument with American Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, who accused the journalist of misquoting him. Gray said he stood 100 percent by his story.

Sports journalists should take certain issues of ethics into consideration. The most important one is the conflict of interests, which is defined as compromising sports coverage because the media outlet is either involved or has some sort of interest. If a media outlet and a team have the same owner, this may be referred to as a conflict of interest. Another aspect of journalism ethics is rendering truth. Sports journalist should not exaggerate, diminish or distort facts in order to make their coverage more appealing to the public. They should try to avoid subjectivity or bias, unless it is explicitly stated that they are expressing personal opinion.

Most countries have their own associations of sports journalists, which deal with issues of facilities within sports stadia, accreditation requirements for their members, and ethics. The International Sports Press Association, known as AIPS, was formed in 1924 during the Olympic Games in Paris. AIPS claims more than 160 national sports journalism associations are affiliated to it. In Britain, the Sports Journalists' Association was formed in 1948 in London's Fleet Street. The organization says it has "endeavored to adapt and grow" to reflect the fast rate of change across its business and uses its website as a key communications tool for its members.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Sports Writing Handbook
Thomas Fensch.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995 (2nd edition)
Journalism: Critical Issues
Stuart Allan.
Open University Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Fourth Estate or Fan Club? Sports Journalism Engages the Popular"
Sport, Media and Society
Eileen Kennedy; Laura Hills.
Berg, 2009
Critical Readings: Sport, Culture and the Media
David Rowe.
Open University Press, 2004
Mediasport
Lawrence A. Wenner.
Routledge, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Women, Sport, and Media Institutions: Issues in Sports Journalism and Marketing" and Chap. 7 "Sports Journalism, Ethics, and Olympic Athletes' Rights"
Self-Exposure: Human-Interest Journalism and the Emergence of Celebrity in America, 1890-1940
Charles L. Ponce De Leon.
University of North Carolina Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Heroes and Pretenders: Athletic Celebrity and the Commercialization of Sports"
Baseball and the Media: How Fans Lose in Today's Coverage of the Game
George Castle.
University of Nebraska Press, 2006
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Three "The Baseball Beat Writer" and Chap. Nine "The Red and Blue States of Baseball Journalism"
Baseball Box Scores: Helpful Statistics or Sports Hieroglyphics?
Tuggle, G. A.
Newspaper Research Journal, Vol. 21, No. 3, Summer 2000
Offensive Interference: For Decades Women Sportswriters Faced Intimidation and Harassment from Male Athletes, Coaches and Even Colleagues. Thanks to the Perseverance of Pioneers, the Blatant Sexism Has Subsided, and Locker-Room Doors Are Open to Both Genders. but the Battle for Equality Isn't Over
Ricchiardi, Sherry.
American Journalism Review, Vol. 26, No. 6, December 2004
Crashing the Old Boys' Network: The Tragedies and Triumphs of Girls and Women in Sports
David F. Salter.
Praeger, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "The Last Male Bastion"
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