If you have a love for sports and also a love for bringing the latest news around them to people in an engaging way, then following a career in sports journalism could be for you. Undoubtedly, this is an exciting path to take and certainly one that anybody with a passion for sports, in general, will get a lot of satisfaction from.
The great thing about this career is that you could choose to simply cover your favorite sport – or work somewhere that sees you covering a wider range. However you go about it, working as a sports journalist is something that any sports lover with a knack for delivering fresh stories will get a kick from.
Although this is a career that has stood the test of time, it is also one that has needed to move with the changing face of society. This means that sports journalism now is much different from even a decade ago. It is key to understand this if you plan to become a sports journalist to keep up with what is required and have the skills that employers demand.
But how can you learn the skills you need to keep up, and just how is sports journalism changing?
World-class learning is key for starters
Education is crucial in terms of learning the skills you need to thrive as a modern sports journalist. As the online sports journalism master’s program from St. Bonaventure University shows, there are some awesome courses out there that can help those who are looking to work in this role. St. Bonaventure’s online course is not only a convenient way to pick up the knowledge you need from home, but it also contains everything you should know about the dynamic world of sports journalism.
But how has sports journalism changed lately, and how can courses like this prepare you to work in it?
Sports journalism is impacted by the digital world
In the older days of reporting on sports matches or stories, there was not that much technology involved compared to today. This meant that working in this field did not require too much tech expertise or required the latest digital tools.
This has all altered in recent years and a huge digital transformation is the most signfianct change to working in sports journalism now. Look at how pundits on modern sports TV shows regularly use the latest touchscreen technology to analyze games. Current tech allows journalists to instantly rewind footage as viewers watch or highlight players on screen. Journalists will often use smartphones such as the Huawei P50 to stay in touch with the office or keep in touch with editors.
Being competent in a range of digital tech not only helps you remain competitive with other sports journalists but also means that you can deliver news in a way that fans value. This move to more familiarity and use of tech has been a fundamental change and is crucial to get on board with to survive in the 24/7, frenetic environment of modern sports journalism.
Fan interaction goes hand in hand with new tech
The increasing prominence of digital technology is not just vital for finding the latest stories and reporting them in a contemporary, dynamic way – digital transformation within sports journalism has also seen greater levels of fan interaction come into this type of role.
Working as a sports reporter now is far more of a two-way process than in the past. Rather than just reporting news for people to digest, it is now often more of a conversation with the public. It is key to understand this if you plan to move into this field and something that you must enjoy.
This greater engagement from fans, of course, has really been seen since the latest tech has become critical in how sports are covered by journalists. Mobile phones, tablets, Wi-Fi and the internet itself are all major drivers here.
But just how are fans encouraged to become part of the story now?
While making podcast predictions for 2022 might be tough yet, we do know that these shows remain popular. In 2021, for example, it is estimated that there were 116 million monthly podcast listeners! These online shows (which can be in audio or video format) are very popular with sports fans and there are a lot of awesome podcasts that cover most sports out there now.
This way of reporting on sports has not only become a way for people to share their sports opinions/stories with the world in an independent way, but has also ramped up fan engagement. This is because many podcasts will encourage fans to get in touch with their own views on what is being talked about or for suggestions on future topics.
Social media platforms
When it comes to digital tech that has encouraged greater levels of fan engagement, social media is a major driver. Twitter is perhaps the major platform on which sports journalists will engage with fans around various stories.
This can sometimes be fans flagging up breaking news to a sports journalist for coverage on social media or fans replying to a story that has been posted. This greater level of interaction not only sees direct conversations between fans/sports journalists but also provides a new way of sourcing breaking news to cover. As a result, picking up social media skills is critical for moving into this career now.
As the name suggests, live stream sports reporting is a digital way of covering sports. It often uses smartphones or tablets to live stream events that journalists are reporting on. In addition, live stream coverage can be in the form of live player interviews or a live discussion on a certain sport/subject. These live streams are often delivered via platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
They are emerging as a popular choice for fans to watch and sportspeople to be interviewed on. They also drive up fan engagement by enabling people to comment on the live action and get a response in real time. Many live streams will also encourage fans to get in touch with their views on the event/discussion as they unfold.
Texting journalists with stories
Although the changing face of sports journalism is seeing the reliance on TV and newspaper coverage being redefined, digital technology still plays its role here. If you work on a newspaper as a sports reporter, for example, it is common to let fans contact you directly with breaking news or their thoughts on your piece.
Fans may also send photographs into the newspaper that they have taken on their mobile device of famous sportspeople, if they think that it forms the basis of a great story to run. This shows that digital changes can be seen across all of sports journalism and why it is so key to keep up with this.
Is greater fan engagement a good thing for sports journalism?
The above shows the most common ways now that more technology in sports journalism has driven up levels of fan interaction. But is this a good thing for sports journalists and sports reporting in general?
In general terms, it would seem to be a positive move and something that will only benefit sports as a whole. Greater fan engagement should only serve to make the public feel more involved and more connected with sports, with social media an excellent tool to bridge the gap between fans and journalists.
As a sports reporter, greater fan engagement is also key to help you get to the latest big stories before anyone else and find news that no-one else is covering. It also makes reporting on sports more exciting because you are able to interact with real fans instantly.
How can sports journalists keep up with the range of new tech in the sector?
Courses such as a Masters in Sports Journalism are the ideal way to keep up with the changing face of sports journalism and the digital tech it now includes.
The modern, fresh modules included are the ideal preparation for gathering news and learning how to keep up with the fast-paced world of sports reporting. By not only being shown what technology there is to use but also getting hands-on experience of how to use it when studying, you are able to keep up with the exciting nature of modern-day sports reporting.
But what sort of thing will you learn on a program like this exactly? Common modules to get a handle on include:
- Podcast production/digital interview skills
- Researching, planning and executing a project in sports journalism
- Covering events live from the press box or in person at the sidelines
- Best practices in sports journalism and ethics in journalism
- Planning of future business models for sports media
- Reporting of digital sports news
As the above shows, the range of units included in a modern sports journalism course are ideal for adapting to the digital nature of contemporary reporting.
Changing careers in sports journalism is also a factor
Although the major change within sports journalism to keep up with lately has been the impact of technology and the greater level of fan involvement as a result, it has also seen a shift in the roles you could move into. While traditional jobs such as newspaper sports reporter or staff writer are still there, the emergence of tech in sports journalism has thrown up some exciting new areas to think about.
A master’s provides you with the in-depth and essential knowledge on journalistic ethics and gives hands-on experience as you learn. Research, writing and interviewing skills are all critical to success in this sector.
What other jobs have been created by changes to sports journalism?
Some typical job prospects following a sports journalism course include opportunities in tv and radio, online or print journalism. However, it also provides skills that are transferable across other fields such as PR, marketing and media.
There are also interesting roles such as a sports information director which requires the latest knowledge of digital media to succeed in. This job sees you designing, writing, producing and distributing information to the sports media. As you can imagine, this role has changed a lot lately due to using the latest tech tools/platforms on a daily basis.
Getting the right kind of education in sports journalism can also open up the role of producer to you. This is essentially someone who uses their knowledge of the latest digital tech to produce podcasts, radio shows or live streams for other people. An enjoyable and in-demand role, working as a producer also enables you to put all you have learned to good use.
What changes could we see in sports journalism moving ahead?
The above has highlighted that sports journalism is changing right now due to technology and the influence it has on how sports are covered and what jobs there are within it for journalists. But what could be the next big step forward to keep an eye on?
Ethics, social justice and cultural diversity are all other key parts of the sporting world. As a result, the need to report on them and understand how they impact the sports we love is also a major part of being a sports journalist. Being able to cover sporting news with one eye on this will not only enable journalists to connect to the wider world but also show fans that they understand the current issues at hand. It also enabled sports in general to connect with the world around it and not be seen as isolated from it, as has been the case before at times.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) could be major news
Both of these technologies have generated something of a buzz in normal life recently. Many are also predicting that AR and VR technologies could be the next evolution of sports reporting. If this is the case, it will be another set of technologies for sports journalists to learn about! But how could AR and VR be used for sports news coverage?
AR is perhaps the one that might be seen soonest and the one that anyone working in sports journalism might be using first. As with standard AR tech, it would see virtual elements in a sports story transposed into the real world as people view the story. This would be a positive step because it would make any story more interactive and exciting for fans to absorb.
VR would do broadly the same thing but take fans inside the story via a totally online, digital experience. This again would bring greater excitement to sports stories and allow fans to experience them in a totally immersive way. For sports journalists, learning how to produce and craft VR/AR stories could become a major skill to have in their locker in the coming years.
Sports journalism is changing rapidly
As with many other sectors globally, sports journalism is changing at a rapid pace. If you compare working in this field now to a few decades ago, for example, this transformation is clear. As we have noted, the major driver behind this has been the impact of technology within sports reporting.
The increasing prevalence of tech in sports journalism has not only seen greater levels of fan interaction for reporters, but also changed the types of roles they can move into. It has also meant that learning how to use the latest tech tools/platforms has become even more important than ever now for sports journalists.
If you need to find a way to do this and get ready for working in this exciting industry, then picking up the skills you need through education makes sense.