Whether you are fresh out of college or university and have, for as long as you can possibly remember, been focused on working within the academic side of the sporting industry or conversely have finally had enough of your current job role and want to pursue something entirely different and related to your passion for sports, then the following article is for you.
Here, for your reading pleasure and of course detailed information, is a comprehensive guide to becoming a sports journalist and the myriad of associated benefits.
What Is Sports Journalism?
Sports journalism is the area of journalism that exclusively focuses on reporting on and writing about both amateur and professional sports, sporting events and discussing and reviewing individual players and teams’ progress in their specific sport.
Sports journalists can either work freelance (and essentially be self-employed) or undertake full-time employment for a website, television station, magazine or newspaper. Usually, sports journalists have a background in journalism, but it is pertinent to know that this is not always absolutely the case for everyone.
How To Become A Sports Journalist
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, every single reporter and journalist working in the United States has to at least be academically trained to an undergraduate, bachelor’s degree standard. However, for considerably more advanced learning and a way to substantially increase your wealth of skillsets and professional connections, it is advisable to undertake one of the renowned and reputable online degree and certificate programs from a professional and established online provider.
With the proverbial boom in the internet and innovative technologies, many news organizations and sports reporting companies use numerous different media platforms to publish and promote their sporting-related content, such as:
- Visualizations and data analysis
- Interactive web experiences
- Blogs and websites
- Videos and photographs
- Augmented reality
- Mobile applications
- Social media
There is a myriad of different specific skillsets and required personality attributes for a person who wants to become a sports journalist, due to the demanding, stressful and intensive nature of the career.
Here are the top three most relevant personal attributes to the pursuit of a career as a sports journalist in 2022, aside from the obvious supreme dedication, passion and even obsession for all things sports related.
1. Journalistic Ethics
With everything that has been happening in the United States (and for that matter around the world) over the last few years, there has been a decrease in the amount of trust members of the public have in the media in general. Furthermore, and frankly worryingly, a study conducted in early 2000 found that just under half of American adults reported to have a ‘fair amount’ of respect and trust in published content and in just two years, this figure has already dropped to just over forty percent.
It is for this reason that for someone interested in pursuing a career as a sports journalist, it is absolutely imperative that they both hold and demonstrate a strong ethical and moral fiber and approach their reporting work with as little bias as humanly possible. You must commit to reporting the truth in as accurate and as fair manner in every aspect of your sporting journalistic career and always resist the temptation to go against this basic working principle.
Essentially, as a potential sports journalist, you must always apply the fundamental principles associated with freedom of press and freedom of speech to any media you work with and this must also always apply to social and other forms of new media.
2. Proficiency In Mobile Journalism
Mobile journalism is, in 2022, perhaps the leading aspect of the field that one must be entirely versed in and more than proficient in.
Essentially, mobile journalism means using a smartphone or a portable tablet to create, capture and edit audio, video and images and is the primary form of digital storytelling. Mobile journalism is especially pertinent in sports journalism, when action is in real-time and not only that, but sporting matches and events are at a designated time and location so you can be as prepared as you possibly can be.
There is a wide plethora of reasons why mobile journalism is so incredibly effective and relatively easy to produce, two of the fundamental ones being the fact that a sports journalist is able to carry out a variety of distribution activities and production modes with a single, small hand-held device. Equally as revolutionary, the development of mobile journalism has resulted in providing a way for the viewer and readership to access the actual means of producing the content, making sports journalism considerably more inclusive.
3. Traditional Reporting Skills
Quite naturally, to become a successful sports journalist with a long career ahead of you within the ‘field’, you are required to possess sharp, innovative and impressive reporting skills, basically those skills that journalists have always held since the beginning of modern reporting.
One of the most important reporting skills is that of communication; you must be able to not only accurately and efficiently communicate with other members of your team and your senior bosses, but just as crucially to be able to interview, interact and converse with people of all ages, nationalities, religions and from all walks of life. Compassion and empathy are also key prerequisites of a competent reporter, as well as excellent interpersonal skills.
Other important attributes and skillsets necessary for a long career in sports journalism include, but are categorically in no way limited to:
- Excellent command of the English language
- Writing skills
- Incredibly strong work ethic
- Strong networking skills
- Excellent time-management skills
- Honesty and integrity
- Empathy and the ability to connect with players and fans alike
- A high tolerance for stress
Your Sporting Knowledge
Even though you may be passionate and exceedingly knowledgeable about a wide range of different sports, games and events, there is likely to be one that you have always felt most drawn to.
In an ideal world, this would be the area in which you work; for example, if you are someone who lives and breathes the honorable sport of rugby union, then working 24/7 as a sports journalist specifically stationed at various rugby stadiums across the country would be the proverbial dream job.
A Typical Day In The Life Of A Sports Journalist
The most important thing to point out is that the working life of a professional sports journalist is by no means a traditional, Dolly Parton-esque nine to five job.
As a sports journalist, you will be essentially in control of your own time, with regards to arranging your day around matches, interviews and other sporting-related activities that often happen outside of the normal working hours.
If you succeed in the exciting acquisition of a career as a sports journalist, your schedule will essentially depend on and be entirely based around the time of year, the particular teams you cover and the schedule of coaches, players and the other team-related professionals. For obvious reasons, a great number of sporting events and matches occur on the weekends and therefore you will more than likely have relaxing days in the week and be exceedingly busy each weekend.
Obviously, depending on the company you work for and the medium in which you work, a typical ‘shift’ when reporting a sporting event will be different, although all assignments usually follow the following basic framework.
- Check -in with your editors, attend meetings and complete any administrative responsibilities
- Arrive at the stadium or match location and check-in through the designated media entrance
- Head to the press area and set up notebooks, recording devices and laptop
- Receive press pack put together by the media relation staffs of both teams competing
- Accompany other reporters to the clubhouse or locker room where the players will arrive, get dressed and prepare for the match
- Attend the team manager’s pre-game talk
- Take part in the usual question and answer segment with other members of the press
- Converse and compare notes with other sports journalists
- Once the match starts, take detailed notes, record highlights, chronological scores and red cards etc., being sure to be as thorough as you can
- After the match, head to either the visiting media clubhouse or the home team’s clubhouse, depending on who you are representing and take part in the second question and answer press session.
- Receive any quote from the team, media relations, visiting team or other sporting professionals
- Finish the article, ideally whilst still on location.
Salaries In Sports Journalism
For a sports journalist working in either television or radio broadcasting, you can expect to start at around $40,000 and work up to earning around $51,000 which works out to be around $24.00 per hour. From a 2015 study, there were approximately eleven thousand, two hundred professional sports journalists working within radio and television, making up just over five percent of overall industry employment.
Sports journalists working for periodicals, book and directory publishers and newspapers can expect to start on a wage of around $30,000 and work up to an annual salary of approximately $40,100. The same 2015 study revealed that early twenty-five thousand sports journalists were working in such companies, making up over six percent of overall industry employment.