- Peter EnglishPeter EnglishDepartment of Communication, University of the Sunshine Coast
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.