Crossroads – Journalism in Sports and its Future Direction

Garth Burley - part time NRL referee, full time journalism student, scans a newspaper.

Garth Burley – part time NRL referee, full time journalism student, scans a newspaper.

“I think sports journalism has to be one of the safest aspects of journalism… but I do believe it faces similar problems to all journalism.”

This is what one of four students from the University of Wollongong, Jake Bond, responded when asked what he thought was the biggest threat to sports journalism in 2015. Sports journalism is an industry with blurred lines – and this is now present more than ever. Major attitude shifts have distorted societies view on EXACTLY what sports journalism is.

Garth Burley, studying journalism at UOW, a rugby league referee and an aspiring sports writer, feels as if “a lot of attention is being placed on the personal life of sports people, and less concentrated on the sport itself.” While this is problematic, the relentless rise of social medias involvement into sports journalism has certainly added another layer of confusion onto the industry. Dimitri Lignos, also studying journalism, had an interesting, balanced view on whether social media is a positive or negative thing in sports journalism nowadays: “There is some positivity as it allows those who cannot watch events or matches to get live coverage, and can even spawn career opportunities for social media users with large followings.”

Sports media, much like tabloid media, is starting to latch on to the personal lives of sports stars. Recently, NBA’s Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry brought his daughter Riley to a post-game press conference, and this was surprisingly met with criticism from high-profile sports analysts, and begs the question; is sports media changing for the worst?

I’m not trying to raise the point of whether sports journalism is pointless and/or out of control, rather that it should be re-evaluated, because when analysts are criticising 2-year old children, something needs to be done. Garth Burley agrees; “they have a life outside sport and that we need to lay off scrutinising every move they make.”

Social media plays a big part on the varying attitudes towards major sports stars, and Dimitri Lignos thinks that for social media to have benefits in the future of sports journalism, it needs to be used correctly – to cover the sport and the players performance, nothing more, nothing less. “There is the negative aspect of social media, as it can spawn unpopular opinions that turn into debates, which eventually could lead to negative remarks and comments about a particular player.”

Jake Bond however offers a different consequence of the social media surge: “For journalists it creates a lot more competition as anyone can start doing live feeds obviously they need a lot of followers … but traditional sports media jobs definitely might become more scarce or harder to come by.” Simon D’Ouch, also a student at UOW, presented another perspective; “Twitter feuds and all those types of things seem to add unnecessary drama to sport and personally I think it has the potential to be harmful to sports journalism.”

The future direction for sports journalism is up in the air, there’s no telling how social media will affect the industry, and there’s no way of knowing if websites like ESPN and Fox Sports will evolve into a TMZ-type platform.

But as long as sports are still being played, there will always be at least one viewer who doesn’t care about the personal life of these remarkable athletes.

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