Examining Identity in Sports Media

By Greer, Jennifer D. | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Examining Identity in Sports Media


Greer, Jennifer D., Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


* Hundley, Heather L. and Andrew C. Billings (eds.) (2010). Examining Identity in Sports Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 279.

In an era of news media cutbacks, layoffs, and closures, the sports mass media segment of the industry is booming. Ratings for programming on sports cable channels are on the rise, and sports-oriented social media sites are expanding. Experts tout increased sports coverage and team-centered, subscriber-based Web sites as ways for newspapers to "rejuvenate themselves," as veteran journalist Tim McGuire put it recently.

At colleges and universities, professors are putting sports communication front and center in research programs, and students are clamoring to get into sports writing and sports promotions classes. Here at the University of Alabama, the single largest specialty interest among journalism and broadcast news students - men and women alike - is sports reporting. My colleagues across the country report that we're not alone in this trend.

Into this environment comes Examining Identity in Sports Media, edited by Heather L. Hundley and Andrew C. Billings. Although many books on the market cover sports reporting, writing, broadcasting, and public relations, few look at the intersection of sport, media, and society. This book does just that. The focus on identity, which is often just a chapter or a small section in other texts, makes the book ideal for students in sports communication and sports media courses. The overlapping dimensions examined in the book also make it appropriate for a broader range of classes, including those in diversity, gender, identity politics, sociology, American studies, and media criticism.

Hundley and Billings, two scholars widely published in this area, have assembled twelve chapters from some of the leading researchers in a variety of disciplines. From mass communication, contributors include Kim Bissell, Bryan Denham, and Marie Hardin. Other contributors include communication studies scholar Kelby Halone, management professors Benjamin Goss and Andrew Tyler, and kinesiology and health professor Mary McDonald. The interdisciplinary nature of the contributors is one of the book's strengths.

All chapters blend a broad overview of the literature, a great resource for undergraduate students, with original empirical research, which will pique the interest of budding researchers in graduate programs. Many books of this type simply include a series of case studies, which can be interesting to read but may present only one approach for investigating issues. Examining Identity in Sports Media, in contrast, includes studies from a variety of methods - content analysis, survey research, rhetorical analysis, and critical/cultural approaches.

"We contend that identity is an extensive negotiation that is always changing, always being interpreted and reinterpreted, and always contested by various entities," Billings and Hundley write in the introductory chapter (p. …

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