In our rapidly changing industry, what learnings can we all take about the modern sports media? A new text book assesses ‘The State of Play’
If it’s true that every day’s a school day, a career in sports journalism is hard to beat for lifelong further education.
The digital revolution, the surge in social media, the globalisation of sport, celebrity culture, diversity and inclusion… every editor, broadcaster and reporter must knuckle down and study these subjects in order to keep making the grade.
Lessons learned from our industry’s history have now been coupled with fresh insight and observations in ‘Sports Journalism: The State of Play’, a new academic text written by Tom Bradshaw and Daragh Minogue, and published by Routledge Books.
Bradshaw is the course leader and senior lecturer in Sports Journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, and an award-winning journalist in his own right. Minogue holds the same titles as Bradshaw at St Mary’s Twickenham, where he launched the UK’s first NCTJ-accredited sports journalism course almost a decade ago; he also holds a PhD in contemporary Irish politics.
Their new book, which is aimed at both aspiring sports journalists and those with varying levels of industry experience, was launched last week at St Mary’s. Minogue’s current intake of students met with leading sports journalists, many of whom had been invited to contribute to chapters with intriguing titles such as ‘Sport and the tabloid nation’, ‘Infotainment and sportainment’, and ‘Crashing the party of “idiot reporters”‘. Three chapters of the book are dedicated to diversity, with racism and representation; coverage of women’s sport and female sports journalism; and LGBT, disability sport and inclusive sports journalism afforded analysis.
The SJA spoke to Minogue to learn more…
For SJA members and for readers of the website, what does the book offer?
They’ll be interested in reading about the industry changes that we’ve documented, written about, and thought about. Most importantly, I think SJA member journalists will find the book useful, because the digital world continues to change so much. Certainly, if they work in the print tradition, some of the ideas and interviews that we present will be familiar to them – but the new developments will also make them think about the shifts we’re seeing.
What are the most radical industry changes, which a sports journalism student must get to grips with?
The digital revolution is a minefield. It’s really hard to navigate – and it makes those new to the industry nervous. Also, what these journalists don’t have when compared to more experienced journalists is that sense of what the profession is really about now. We almost have to teach them about storytelling, and about getting out there and not being desk-bound. A lot of our activities on the course are centred on our journalists interviewing people in order to build their individual confidence. When they start to do that, they quickly come back with really good stories.
What role can the SJA play in terms of putting the book’s theory into practice?
For the SJA and its members, it’s that tenacity and know-how that needs to be handed down to the next generation, who are often really good with digital, but not very good at using those tools professionally. We help them with that, and what we’re seeing now with sports journalism training is an investment in young people. The SJA is really engaging and that’s absolutely fantastic to see. So is the FWA, and also newer groups like BCOMS and Sports Media LGBT+ – they’re really making a difference and helping to give confidence to the journalists of tomorrow.
Those digital tools you mention provide so many different ways to tell stories. Is the industry’s focus moving away from the written word?
Writing is still so important. It’s always at the heart of what sports journalists do – even if they’re producing social media content, at its core it’s writing. They’ve still got to think about producing the right text for their social posts, putting words to pictures, and the tone of language they use. Even though we think of ourselves as a very modern industry, good writing will remain integral to good journalism.
So what’s the USP for the book?
The fact that it’s up to date. For those readers with more experience, it will make them think about some of the modern-day challenges that they face as well, because every journalist is confronting a new landscape. They’ll find something interesting for sure.