Soft soaps in the press box

Academic Raymond Boyle argues that too much sports punditry fails to give an honest account of the action
Sports journalism often receives a bad press. It has been characterised as the quintessential “toy department” of journalism, a bastion of sloppy and lazy practice that is divorced from the rigorous constraints applied to other areas of the trade. Often this critique has been well merited.

Yet what constitutes sports journalism or, more accurately, journalism about sports, is changing. In the past decade there has been a substantial expansion across print, broadcasting and online media.

There is now more journalism about sports available than ever, driven by a more market-oriented media culture and enabled by technological innovation. As television has become the financial underwriter of elite sport, the print media have expanded their coverage as they seek to attract and retain readers.

But despite the growth in its range, there remains at its core a tension surrounding the complicit nature of much sports journalism. For some correspondents have too frequently been the cheerleaders for sport, often travelling, as Tom Humphries of the Irish Times suggests, “too close to the circus”.

The full article appears in the latest issue of the British Journalism Review, available from Sage Publications, 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road, London EC1Y 1SP. Subscriptions hotline: 020 7324 8701. e-mail:

Raymond Boyle is a professor at the Media Research Institute at Stirling University and the author of Sports Journalism: Context and Issues, published by Sage.

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