How can I become a great sports journalist

Sports journalism

Sports journalism is one of the most important departments for most of the popular media. While the political and cultural section serves as editorial flagships for many media, with which journalistic competence can be shown, the sports section primarily serves to bind media users to the medium.

A resort with deep roots

The coverage of important sporting events has been going on since they have existed, even if the coverage has not been referred to as sports journalism for centuries. For example, lists of winners from Olympic Games and other sporting events are known from ancient Greece. Gladiator fights in ancient Rome and medieval tournaments were also reported for those interested who could not watch in person.

Sports journalism in the strict sense of the word developed in the early 18th century. However, in the early newspapers of these decades it did not have a particularly high status - these were primarily used to make official announcements public.

A department for privileged citizens

Towards the end of the 19th century, sports journalism was finally able to establish itself as an independent department; the sporting events were mainly observed by privileged classes of the bourgeoisie. In 1895, with "Sport im Bild", the first specialist magazine was finally founded that was exclusively devoted to sporting topics.

Football is becoming a popular sport

The two world wars caused a turning point in sports journalism, and coverage of sporting events was reduced to an absolute minimum during the war years. However, these interruptions also allowed the department to develop further. Football acquired a worldwide fan base during the First World War and became a dominant sport in media coverage.

Technical development as a driving force for journalists

Technical developments, innovations and new media are more popular fields of experimentation for sports journalists than for colleagues from other departments. It did not take too long, after the widespread use of radio and television, until the first live reports of sporting events were broadcast. The year 1954, when the soccer World Cup was broadcast live for the first time in Switzerland, is considered a special milestone for sports journalism.

Sports journalism in a win-win situation?

Both the media and sport benefit from the great interest shown by media users in sporting events. The media can keep a loyal base of regular users through reporting and - if attractive events are broadcast - even attract new media users. That is also the reason why numerous prominent athletes are many doors open in the media after their active sporting careers. You can either jump straight into sports journalism or, as a columnist, comment on current trends with background knowledge from your active time.

Sport benefits from the great interest of the media in two ways. Fringe sports in particular reach a larger audience through reporting, so that more active athletes may also be interested in the respective sport.

Above all, for mass sports with a large fan base such as football, Formula 1 or the Olympic Games, the sale of broadcasting rights to the media is an important pillar of financing. This comfortable situation developed from the beginning of the 1990s when numerous private television companies and radio stations were launched. For the clubs, this financial blessing means that they can also sign international top stars and thus significantly increase their own attractiveness.

The field of reporting is expanded

In particular, television and the Internet are considered great fields of experimentation in sports journalism. While the print media primarily concentrate on those sports in which a large number of media users are interested, online media and special interest channels are increasingly reporting on fringe sports such as billiards tournaments or extreme sports events on television. Because this gives them a greater reach, they have also become interesting for various sponsors, so that the financial situation of the athletes has also improved considerably here.

Fascination sports journalist

Basically, I don't really distinguish the work in sports journalism from the processes in other departments. However, a sports journalist's schedule is more externally determined than is the case in other departments. In addition, a sports journalist cannot afford to do his job exclusively from his desk. So he has to be on site to be able to report on an event and background.

A job with many facets

Depending on which medium the sports journalist works for, he has to assume different roles. Media users of print and online media expect reporting of an event to be as neutral as possible. On the other hand, neutrality is only required on television and radio when it comes to the news.

Where the journalist can be emotional

For sports journalists on television and especially on radio, commenting on events is one of the essential tasks. He must depict what is happening on the field in such a way that the audience and listener can get a vivid picture. During the transmission, the tonality of the contribution can therefore be emotional. However, the neutrality should be preserved to the extent that the media user does not recognize any preference of the sports journalist.

The sports journalist can also adopt a basic emotional tenor when there is cause for criticism. The sports journalist can slip into the role of the critic either as a commentator or as an interviewer if he asks the actors critical questions.

Regardless of whether the sports journalist reports or comments, he should in any case be able to sprinkle background information into his contribution. This makes the role of the informant all the more important at the beginning and at the end of a season when a forecast is made or a balance is drawn.

Sport as a show event

In view of the great competition in the media market, the presentation of the reporting is becoming more and more important. The sports journalist who acts as a presenter on radio or television, for example, very often appears as an entertainer who turns the subject of the reporting into a show. A similar tendency can also be seen in online media, where experiments are being carried out with various journalistic forms of representation.

Sports journalism and ethics

Ethical aspects play an almost omnipresent role in sports journalism. The use of performance-enhancing agents is not uncommon in numerous sports. Here the sports journalist plays an important role in educating fans of the sport and uncovering the background. In Formula 1, for example, the designers of the racing teams are constantly pushing the limits of what is allowed in order to get the best possible performance out of the vehicles. The topic of doping in cycling caused a stir and headlines in the 1990s after numerous riders were convicted of the world's top doping.