Lead, Keep Up, or Get Out of the Way

Print media and sports journalism in general have spurred strongly debated conversations between many journalism students and professors. It is considered that the students will either make or break the field. Much of the concern is because the current generation has become used to things coming so easily, and that sitting down and reading a lengthy article on even their favorite sports team has become a chore. Print media is not yet a dying field, but it’s certainly not a growing field either. Print media outlets are becoming a dime-a-dozen. Students ask, why read something in depth when one can just go to a 140-character paragraph and basically get all they need or want for that matter? Sports journalism has become less about the art or skill of writing, but more of a competition for who can get the information out— first AND accurately. It’s worse to be first and inaccurate than second and accurate. These days, the information doesn’t need to be in-depth; it just needs to get out there for immediate consumption.

“We are seeing a trend in which people are more concerned about getting it first than getting it right. There will likely be more of this in the future, but I also believe the more credible and qualified journalists will also mange the Twitter world, or whatever future breaking news sources evolves even better,” says KYW Sports Reporter, Ed Benkin.

What does this mean for current journalists?
Adjustment and adaptation. The future of sports journalism is requiring current journalists to adjust to the new technology and fast-pace news. It can’t be just about writing anymore. Getting on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other online media sources will get journalists a larger following. It’s a technology-driven world, and a journalist must keep up. Effectively communicating their messages on different types of mediums is essential for success. Even if a journalist has been in the field for a long time, they can become obsolete due to the fact that they aren’t capable of keeping up to date with the technology.

As a journalist, one must learn how to make things simple. /that’s not to say make things simpler for themselves, but simpler for their audience. Most of this generation doesn’t want a play-by-play of an entire game, rather, just the highlights of what made the game significant. Video is especially important for sports journalism. Lengthy articles and play-by-plays can paint a picture in a person’s mind, but watching what actually happened in real time is what attracts today’s audience.

What does this mean for students?
Preparation and assertion. Students will need to prepare for this aggressive new style. They will need to know the mediums well and which will best suit their audiences. Students coming in to the field need to be on top of their sports information. They need to be able to set themselves apart from other students who are competing for the same jobs. New journalists (and old) need to do compel their audiences to read their material instead of going to a single media outlet that just gives them basic highlights of a game.

Stories can be found in all types of mediums and will come from many types of sources. “When you have athletes that bypass their own media/PR groups, it becomes a burden for those groups to field questions and confirm/deny rumors that they likely haven’t even been notified of… The ‘proper channels’ for reporters to get info and check facts aren’t so clear as they were just a few years ago, especially when speed of reporting is a huge factor for getting and keeping an audience,” says Christopher Winkler, Associate Director for Production sat NFL Films / NFL Network and the Philadelphia Phillies.

“The latest, greatest example is that of Marshawn Lynch tweeting out the picture of his cleats hanging up to announce his retirement,” comments Benkin. “In short, I think the athletes will break the story faster than the journalists in the future.”

Connecting with an audience is becoming more and more crucial for a journalist. Originally, when stories were featured in newspapers, it was rare to get feedback until editorials were published. Now, journalists get feedback within seconds or minutes. Journalists who interact with their audiences can develop a fan base; therefore, they become more relevant and impactful journalists. The instant feedback can make a journalist respond quicker and potentially improve because there is virtually no filter in social media to buffer them.

Sports journalism is data-driven which coincides with the technology. An effective journalist needs to know how to present the statistics in a way that your Average Joe can understand. Keeping it simple with statistics is imperative. Taking the data and developing it into something that can help create rankings is crucial. Here are the numbers, but what does this mean for the player? A successful sports journalist can easily convey this message through effective translation.

Live Sports
Trying to chronicle real time for people experiencing real time is difficult. There are no editors in real time. Once the material is out there, it can’t be taken back and this could mean instantaneous discussion and/or backlash. An audience has more control over what comes out of a journalist’s writing. If someone disagrees with what was said, they can create uproar by talking about a journalist’s material. The public demands that everything be immediate despite when the organization wants the material to be released.

Negativity and the Media
Longtime sports enthusiast, Mark Lacy, believes that over the last ten years the change in sports journalism has had a negative impact on teams and organizations. The amount of negative publicity the media has brought into the lives of athletes over recent years has Lacy thinking, “We are just a negative society.” Negative stories that are coming from unreliable sources are what is selling fastest and most often. The negativity adds to the entertainment factor. “Will shock jocks like Josh Innes be the wave of the future, or a bump in the road of that balance?  Either way, the balance of entertainment and sports talk will be there,” says Benkin.

Still want to be a sports journalist?
Adapt and adjust. Be on-the-ball. Keep informed and updated with all sports news through multiple different mediums. Stand out and interact.