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Article

Peter English

Sports journalism is a popular area of contemporary media that has a long history of delivering results, analysis, and opinion to both broad and specialized audiences. Like other media, it has had to adapt consistently with technological developments and demands but continues to gain widespread coverage across print, broadcast, and digital platforms. Sports journalism has often been viewed as “the toy department,” a place of trivial pursuits instead of the chasing of hard news. As a result, its journalists are viewed as having low professionalism and status and are often accused of being controlled by sources. What these criticisms overlook is the value of this significant subfield in relation to the amount of sports content produced across media, the large numbers of journalists involved in producing the news, and its power in attracting readers and viewers. These elements combine to make sports journalism a rich area for academic scholarship. However, in comparison with its place in newsrooms, this topic has also been criticized in research and has not been treated as seriously as a space for scholarship. While there have been recent increases in scholarly work, sport has been described as an underresearched area of the journalistic field. The field’s literature has streams dedicated to practical, instructional texts and scholarly analysis of contemporary and historical issues. Key areas of investigation involve content within the sports pages, which can involve as much as 30% of editorial material in a media publication, and work exploring the perceptions, routines, and practices of sports journalists. The role of the sports journalist has also been examined, with descriptions often focusing on a tendency to operate as cheerleaders with a home-team bias. However, the position of sports journalist also involves aspects of critical, watchdog-style coverage, including through investigative reporting. Much of the academic work involving sports journalism has been descriptive in scope, which leaves space for greater analysis through a theoretical lens. An important future topic of research is the increasing commercialization of sport, which has implications for journalists, publications, and audiences.

Article

Lynette Steenveld

“Ethnicity,” “race” and “journalism” are each problematized in this article on the relationship among them. They operate in diverse discourses relating to particularity and difference, and are used as both “analytical and folk concepts.” As race and ethnicity have different trajectories, racism has taken different forms: “scientific,” “institutional,” and “cultural” or “new racism.” While Northern/Western scholarship acknowledges the foundations of race and ethnicity with modernity, arising with 15th-century European colonization, they are nevertheless understood as “aberrations” in Western journalism—itself a practice of modernity. But critical Southern scholarship has challenged the hegemonic narrative of modernity, pointing to its “darker side,” and thus its production of the coloniality of knowledge, power, and being worldwide. It explains European colonization as the source of “modernity,” nascent capitalism, and the control of labor—including its gendered racialization. This accounts for the dominance of both the content and the perspective of European research. Sports and crime journalism are the most popular news forms which sustain the mythic concepts of racial superiority and inferiority, expressed through scientific racism. But journalism on transnationalism has led critical theorists to question its underpinning of institutional, cultural, and new racism, and increasingly, marginalized subaltern groups are producing their own media to challenge the hegemonic media framings of them. The “Southern” theoretical approach poses a fundamental challenge to contemporary, hegemonic, and gendered understandings of journalism, race, and ethnicity.

Article

Merryn Sherwood, Timothy Marjoribanks, and Matthew Nicholson

The relationship between journalism and public relations in the 21st century has been mostly marked by tension, at least publicly. Many journalists’ accounts of public relations portray it as “the dark side” and characterize public relations practitioners as purveyors of “spin.” However, extensive research examining the input of public relations practitioners into the news has found that the products of their work—such as media releases or media conferences—are crucial in facilitating the news cycle. As one of the classic studies of news production identified, “News is, after all, not what journalists think, but what their sources say.” Decades of research have established that news sources are often likely to be public relations practitioners, with anywhere between 40% and 75% of news originating from public relations practitioners or the products of their work. Public relations is, therefore, critical to the work of journalism; however, journalists often deny this as part of publicly upholding the standards of their profession and building and maintaining boundaries of control over their work. However, the symbiotic relationship that formed the basis of news production in the 20th century is being upended in the 21st century as organizations become their own media producers. This means the lines continue to blur between journalism and public relations, both for individuals working across once clear occupational and professional boundary lines and for organizations adopting the functions of both.