Module JD140

Sports Journalism

Module author

Kevin D. Robbins

The University of Texas at Austin

Learning objectives After you have completed this module, you will be able to:
  • Discuss the historical, societal and cultural elements of sports journalism;
  • Differentiate the many faces of its audience;
  • Understand the range of platforms, their differences, and their similarities;
  • Explain the essential elements of effective professional reporting, execution, and finding a home for sports journalism.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Sports and Sports journalism
2.1 A Brief history of sports journalism
2.2 What qualifies as sports?
2.3 How is sports journalism different from other journalism?

Chapter 3: Reporting styles in sports journalism
3.1 Sports as news
3.2 Sports as entertainment
3.3 Rreporting sports as culture
3.4 Reporting sports in context and perspective

Chapter 4: Forms of sports journalism
4.1 Sports journalism in print media
4.2 Sports journalism in TV
4.3 Sports journalism in radio
4.4 Online Sports journalism

Chapter 5: Sports journalism as craft: Doing the work
5.1 The start: Finding, reporting, interviewing, researching stories.
5.2 The execution: Writing and producing stories.
5.3 The edit: Polishing the draft.
5.4 The finish: Marketing and pitching stories to platforms.

Bonus points 2
Preview Sports Journalism


Why Open School of Journalism believes that Sports Journalism is important

In short, sports journalism refers to the reporting, photographing, writing, editing, or broadcasting of sports topics and events. Sports journalism was traditionally considered more a form of entertainment than a form of news, but in recent years sports coverage has become an important focus of the news due to monumental growth, widespread mainstream interest, and the increase in wealth, power, and influence of sports news.

Considering the scope of news coverage today, sports journalism is an essential and very popular segment for any news media outlet. Sports journalism covers such things as sports games and events, the various professional and semi-professional leagues, sport players and their coaches, sports staff, a team's impact on their community and its economy, and a multitude of similar topics and angles. The present course unit provides an introduction to the history of sports journalism as well as different styles and ways of reporting sports news, forms of sports journalism, and sportscasting from the initial research phase to the point of marketing sports news stories.


The evolution of sports journalism

Writers have covered sports news ever since the humans have competed against one another. As a craft, sports journalism can be traced back to the time of Homer in ancient Greece and his writing of the first known wrestling draw between Odysseus and Ajax in the year 850 BCE. The ancient Greeks wrote extensively about their sporting events; in addition to wrestling, the Greeks wrote about boxing, throwing, and racing events. Sporting events were widely attended and documented, culminating with the start of the Olympic Games in 776 BCE and continuing to this day.

However, despite the fact that covering sports news has existed in one form or another for thousands of years, sports journalism didn't gain momentum and exponential popularity until somewhat recently. With the introduction of American baseball in the nineteenth century, writers and journalists began to write exclusively on sports news, though only in small numbers initially; sports writing existed as a specialty, but it was not widely accepted as such due to limited mainstream demand and relative sparseness in sports events that could be covered. As interest in sports coverage began to slowly grow, publications like the Spirit of the Times and the New York Herald began publishing sports news more regularly.

In the 1870s, newspapers started to designate separate departments for the coverage of sports news. Although the first sports editor was reportedly hired in 1883 by Joseph Pulitzer, it wasn't until 1914 that sports editors' jobs were publicly recognized and sports news experienced a surge in circulation and popularity; this was the same year that Walter Williams wrote "The Journalist's Creed" and several American universities opened journalism schools to educate the new generation of journalists, which included sports reporters.

Beginning in the 1930s, newspapers began to employ executive sports editors for the purpose of overseeing all sports content. With the creation of the Associated Press sports wire in 1945, sports news could even be worthy of being published on a newspaper's front page. Perhaps the biggest influence on sports journalism and the cause of sports news having such a national scope was the introduction of television in the 1950s, which meant that you didn't have to be in attendance to watch a sporting events; instead of merely reading about their favorite sports teams or listening to coverage on the radio, fans could watch games, especially baseball and football, in the comfort of their own home. This exponentially increased the audience of sports coverage and, consequently, the demand. Since then, sports journalism has become an integral part of both entertainment and broadcast news coverage among news media networks, journalists, and audiences alike.


Overview of the module

The present module on sports journalism is intended to teach students about the sports journalism industry and to teach the techniques, styles, and processes involved in finding, producing, and marketing sports news successfully. Upon completion of this module, students will have an understanding of the origins of sports reporting and the events that led to its widespread and international popularity. Additionally, students will learn to differentiate the many faces and demographics of the sports news audience. Discussion about the variety of sports platforms as well as their key differences and similarities will teach students about the forms that sports journalism can take and the different techniques that each form entails. Students will also learn the essential components and processes involved in professional sports reporting, conducting research and executing sports stories, and ways to find a home and audience for sports journalism.

The module is intends to provide students with an introduction and understanding of the fundamentals of sports journalism by breaking the field down into its basic components. The module begins by looking back on the origins of sports journalism and following its evolution by noting the most influential events that contributed to increases in coverage, scope, and interest in sports news. As such, it is also important to define sports and the types of events that sports journalists have covered both in the past and today. Additionally, the qualities and characteristics of sports journalism will be identified, particularly as they serve to set sports journalism apart from other types of contemporary news coverage.

Next will be discussions of different styles and changes in the scope of sports reporting. In particular, this will involve students learning to differentiate and compare sports reporting as news versus sports reporting as entertainment. There will be further discussion about sports coverage and its importance in popular culture as well as the ways that context and perspective can influence the format, composition, and mode of delivery of sports reports.

Forms of sports journalism will be another important focus of the module. There are differences in the way that journalists tell or convey stories through the use of both traditional and new media, which are formats that will be used by the contemporary sports journalist as well. Students will learn about sports journalism in print media such as newspapers and magazines, sports coverage on television and radio, and the variety of sports journalism found on the internet. A goal of the module is identifying benefits and characteristics of each form of sports journalism including differences in style, approach, and content.

As the module winds down to a close, the focus will be on sports journalism as a craft. Students will learn how to compose sports stories, which includes finding relevant sports happenings, conducting interviews and research, and reporting the pertinent information. The module will also teach students about execution and how to effectively write and product a successful sports story. Editing will also be reviewed, during which time the sports journalist polishes the draft until its read for publication. Finally, students will learn ways to pitch and market sports stories to a variety of platforms and outlets.