An Educated Look at the Future of Sports Journalism

Thanks to SMJ’s good friend Neil Best of Newsday for linking to the discussion of the day.

The Columbia Journalism Review has published an article by Gary Andrew Poole on the evolution of sports journalism.  It takes a look at how, according to Poole, sports reporting is not what it used to be.

Poole points out that expansion of sports coverage on cable television, combined with the explosion of information on the Internet, has “diminished classic sports writing”.

When it comes to the web, Poole says reporters now spend too much time “chase(ing) blog-based rumors—and blog themselves. It’s an untenable situation, and most reporters simply react to the daily torrent of news bites while the bigger stories and issues go wanting.”

Poole goes on to say that it’s convenient for newspaper reporters and editors to blame bloggers for their ills but “it’s the newspapers that have given up on it, feeling as though they have to chase rumors and deliver a ceaseless stream of chicken-nugget news. In marketing parlance, sports sections have degraded their brand.”

Poole also writes that reporters get too hung up on trying to be the first to report a story, when the information is available to readers through multiple sources;

Beat writers coveringa baseball game see a player strain a hamstring. Immediately they are all on their BlackBerries postingan item about the injury and how the battingorder was just changed. Something must be posted! Any writer who misses the tidbit will be called on it by his or her editor. But everyone has the same information; no one “scoops” anyone. So why not wait and weave that tidbit into the game story? The reporter would have the chance to go to the locker room and ask questions, talk to the manager about the change in strategy after the injury—to add context and nuance and narrative.

Poole contends that professional journalists need to go back to what they do best;

…but it’s time for narrative storytelling and vividly written game stories to make a comeback—because journalists know how to weave tales, put events in context, and act as intermediaries to the firehose of information on the Web. Most bloggers don’t have that skill or, more important, that mission.

if you have even one cell of interest in sports media, please read the entire article.  I agree with Poole’s premise, but really doubt the classic style of sports writing will return in any meaningful way.  That’s too bad.

I’ll also be interested to see how many other sports blogs reference the piece.  I think I’ll keep count.  I fear not too many will.  That’s too bad too.  It’s a conversation worth having.

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