Sports news is important and popular because the subject unites and interests millions of people across the globe. It doesn’t matter if these stories are online or offline. From the vast number of people scrolling through social media to those at newspaper stands scouting for fresh news, the public can’t get enough!
The development of a sports culture and industry depends, in part, upon the qualifications and expertise of the sports journalists there. These experts don’t just report information – they act as witnesses to sporting events and create a narrative that fans anywhere in the world can follow and become invested in. Sports journalists bring sporting stories to life.
Sport is a global business involving huge competitions such as the World Cup, the Olympic Games, the Indian Premier League and many more. An aspiration to become an outstanding sports journalist requires dedication and commitment to the job and to the sports that you follow. It is important that you hone your journalistic skills.
What skills and qualities do you need?
If you’re considering becoming a sports journalist, it is important to develop the following skills and qualities.
Passion for sports
One quality that we cannot take for granted in sports journalism is a passion for sports. Journalists must enjoy and appreciate sports in order to create good content. If you’re covering a story about cricket but you have never played it or are not interested in it, then the result is not going to be lively, entertaining or knowledgeable journalism. So, before you embark on a career in this field, ask yourself, what are your passions?
Working as a sports journalist means constantly being at events, especially as a reporter. Therefore, your interpersonal skills must be top-notch. You must work with other journalists, news directors and editors, not to mention the sportsmen and women themselves. You will meet people from every imaginable background and culture, and your ability to put people at ease and create a rapport is vital in order to get a good story.
Your team are also important as you will often work to tight deadlines and in high-pressure environments with them. You need to make sure that you are a good communicator and able to build those professional relationships.
These skills will also carry through to the content you create, which needs to be understood by a wide range of people. Your tone, layout, language and style will need to appeal to your audience and be understood.
Being persistent influences our life’s direction and aligns us with our values. Sports journalists (and any journalists) do not take no for an answer. They understand that rejections are part of the job and do not give up even if they get one. Instead, they continue to insist until they get the full details of the story, or they find alternate sources or angles. Part of this persistence is not just repeatedly knocking at the same door, however. Ingenuity and creativity are required to consider all options and find solutions on the job.
Sports journalists must convey facts without bias. You might support one club, but you cannot let your personal interests and loyalties influence your reporting. Allowing your personal preferences to affect your work is against the ethics of journalism and will be noticed by readers. If you are a reporter, you must ensure equal and fair coverage to allow your audience to enjoy the event.
The tone of sporting coverage can have a profound impact not only on the sports and the fans, but also on wider culture. For example, the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in the UK received impartial reportage, which had a huge impact on public opinion and the delivery of justice for its victims. One newspaper later apologized for its coverage, but its reputation was permanently tarnished. So, allow your audience to make the deductions, and don’t preempt them.
It is no secret that our world is driven by digital technology. In fact, the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) has dramatically changed the journalism industry. Sports journalists must have a firm grip on the latest AI technology, websites, apps, social media, and all other technologies that aid broadcast. Digital literacy is indispensable today and will become a greater part of the industry soon. The advent of AI means that the job is seamless and faster. However, journalists must evolve with the tide in the area of videos, graphics, broadcast, print and all aspects of the job.
Sports journalists are often in the field to report stories live. However, news editors and writers work from an office or a studio. The job is fast-paced, and they could spend hours watching and analyzing the game simultaneously. In most cases, they are on their feet as they need to follow up with the trends and report accordingly. Working these extended hours requires physical and mental stamina.
If you’ve acquired these skills and qualities or are on your way to doing that, then it’s a good step. What follows next is the actual pursuit of your sports journalism career.
How to become a sports journalist
Do you aspire to become a journalist? If so, here’s how you can turn your dream into reality.
Get a sports journalism degree
Sports journalism is a blend of passion for sports and the professional reporting of sport news and events. One way to be ahead of the game is to cement your skills with a degree from a reputable institution.
The SBU online sports journalism degree offers you the perfect opportunity to become a modern-day sports journalist. This specialized course gives you hands-on experience and academic learning opportunities to develop your skills. The curriculum covers various aspects of sports journalism, such as reporting, journalism ethics, sports interviews, the business of sports media and more. Students who enroll in this course get the rare opportunity to learn from successful journalists working for the New York Post, ESPN, USA Today and other major media sources. Even more exciting is that it is 100% online, meaning that you can do it alongside your regular job.
Choose an area of specialization
Choosing the perfect area of specialization in sports journalism helps you become a better journalist. You can now focus on building your niche and becoming an authority there. Your choice should be based on your area of interest. For instance, if you’re a natural writer, you may prefer writing sports stories and articles rather than attending sporting events to report live. Sports journalism careers are intertwined. However, you can choose from one or more of the following:
- Digital media – Digital journalists report for online platforms such as websites and social media channels. They create audio, visual and written content for these channels. While this medium is similar to conventional reporting, it is shorter, more captivating, and focuses on reader retention. Online readers are often impatient and may scroll away quickly if they don’t get value for their time. Digital journalists understand user behavior and produce appropriate content.
- Magazines/newspapers – Despite the advent and rise of social media, print media is still very much around and has, in many quarters, actually seen a resurgence of popularity. However, many news outlets now offer digital versions of their printed papers anyway. The frequency with which these editions are brought out can vary, with some papers being monthly, weekly or even daily. Sports news tends to have a fast turnover, however, as they report on events in real time. Sports journalists with a special interest in writing for magazines produce interesting topics and topical news in the sporting industry, frequently offering insights and opinions. This means that they must follow the trends and deliver on their promise of timely information.
- Broadcast – Broadcast journalists work in television or radio stations where they cover live sporting events. They either report from the field or the station. In most cases, the reporters work in collaboration with other journalists at the station. They provide the update while others analyze it in the studio. These professionals also generate ideas for stories based on sporting events, interview players before and after a game, and produce and edit sports telecasts.
Obtain work experience
Only when you have worked in the industry can you call yourself a sports journalist. It is essential to search for opportunities in your field and start applying for them even before graduating. This gives you a firmer grip on the industry and a glimpse into the future. You also get the privilege of networking with prominent broadcasters. Most of the opportunities in this phase are voluntary as you don’t have any experience. However, they are worth it in the long run.
Exposure to various aspects of sports journalism helps you choose the perfect one. Alternatively, you can explore freelance journalism as it is a learning opportunity and can be lucrative. You can also apply to print, digital media and broadcast stations – if they find your skills valuable, then you’ll undoubtedly get a call from them.
Find an entry-level role
After your degree and possible voluntary experience, it is time to enter mainstream sports journalism. It starts with applying for an entry-level role. This is the first contact you have in the industry. It is another opportunity to upscale your experience from previous years as a volunteer. You are assigned actual tasks but on a small scale. In most cases, you are exposed to several niches. Media houses make it a duty to rotate entry-level journalists so that they get a firmer grasp of the entire process. An entry-level position is also another avenue to network with other senior colleagues who could have opportunities for you in the future.
Reasons to become a sports journalist
Monetize your passion
There are many reasons to become a sports journalist, but the number one reason is that it monetizes your passion. Remember when you spent hours watching your favorite teams play and analyzing the games with friends? Why not take this passion to TV, radio, print or digital media? This remains one of the most creative ways to monetize your passion. It is also an escape from the boring nine-to-five job. You can access numerous opportunities if you’re good at what you do. What’s even more exciting is that this field is flexible. You’re often busier during a major tournament and can rest afterwards. You could be working to tight deadlines, but the pay is attractive, especially if you work for a renowned organization.
A rare networking opportunity
Spectators always wish for an opportunity to speak to their favorite sports stars. Even if it doesn’t happen, they crave a selfie. Some fans get so desperate to do this that they escape the auditorium to catch a glimpse of their idol. However, you will have opportunities for unparalleled access! As a sports journalist, you can meet players, coaches and top names in the sports industry. Not only are you allowed to ask questions, but you can also learn from them. These interviews build an audience base and therefore your career, as well as giving you name-drop-worthy connections.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar provided a glimpse into the world of football fandom. Thousands of fans worldwide were there to watch the match and cheer for their team. Of course, in attendance were also many sports journalists, hoping to get in on the action and provide excellent coverage.
In order to do this, it was necessary to meet sports fans and colleagues and talk to them, while also being alert to the possibility of capturing events or noteworthy occurrences. This entails a certain amount of detachment: if you allow yourself to be swept along by the spectacle, you won’t be able to capture the moment for others! Journalists who went to this event were tasked with capturing the joy of the event, connecting with the fans, and crafting a story for followers at home, while remaining professional and working to tight deadlines.
If opportunities such as these excite you, then there’s no better time to be a sports journalist than now. Most sporting events feature additional activities such as concerts and parties that attract large crowds, and these events are also important to keep abreast of, as they pertain to the sporting world. These events are also important for networking and making useful contacts, though networking is now increasingly occurring online. The world is a global village, and there’s no limit to the number of friends we can have or where they live. Imagine being a sports journalist in America but having renowned friends across Asia, Europe and Africa. It would be good to consult them whenever you have a story about their location. They can provide you with an insider view of the subject.
Some sports journalists are paid to travel the world. During these trips, reporters cover sporting events and interview athletes. The best part about these trips is that they allow you to explore the world. For example, Jeff Darlington is one of the most prominent sports journalists in the US. The ESPN sports reporter is a household name among sports fans and is famous for his trips around the country to some of the world’s biggest events. He covers stories relating to soccer, football and basketball. His traveling experience has also earned him a huge following on social media. You can explore international sports news if you enjoy a blend of work and travel.
One of the most significant reasons to become a sports journalist is the flexibility it offers. These days, journalists work from home and deliver their best while at it. At the end of a football season, reporters often have a rest window before resumption. If you’re looking for a remote job with reasonable pay, you can try this out. Consider a part-time, full-time or even freelance career in sports journalism. It is up to you to make good use of the spare time you have.
Sports journalism is an exciting profession that rewards passionate sport lovers. This career keeps you updated with current trends and offers room for growth and advancement. You can enjoy a high salary from this career if you work for a reputable firm. If you are looking to enter this field, then get a degree, volunteer, self-develop, and do everything that fulfills you.