Avid sports fans are known to keep up with their favorite games all around the world. They all follow different events, matches and tournaments that take place within a particular sport for sure, but many fans also like being updated on the latest news regarding sports.
This is why it is so important to have journalism dedicated to sports. People not only want to watch the game; they also want to know everything there is to know about it. They want to know about how the game went, they want to know about the athletes who play, and they even want to know about the managers and coaches of the teams playing.
A sports journalist can’t simply write about the score of the game, they must comment on so much more. Typically, a sports journalist sticks to a particular form of sport instead of trying to cover every different sport there is. They do this to ensure that they offer nothing short of expert coverage of everything that is related to the sport.
Now, you might be wondering if sports journalism is any different from general journalism. Well, the answer is yes and no. After all it is a form of journalism, so naturally there’s a lot that is common between the two. However, there are some differences as well. Getting into sports journalism would require one to possess a certain set of skills that might not be needed in other forms of journalism. Read on to see just how the two compare.
How are they similar?
Before jumping into the differences between the general journalism and sports journalism, it is important to establish the similarities the various types share with each other in terms of the skills needed to get into them.
1. Strong research skills
No matter the subtype of journalism you want to get into, research is one constant you will have to master everywhere. Knowing how to conduct research, where to find credible sources for your work and having proper citations to show that your work is reliable are a must. Journalists typically need to get involved in both primary and secondary forms of research, which may involve conducting interviews. Gathering relevant and important pieces of information to support your topic of discussion is something every journalist must master.
2. Coverage of events/updates
A journalist must be consistent. You can’t be a good journalist if you address a point of interest such as sports once and not follow up on it afterwards. If you are covering the Super Bowl, then you can’t just write about the first game and skip all the others. Journalists must write on their topic of choice in a regular manner in order to maintain their work.
3. Strong writing, editing and proofreading skills
Every journalist needs to be a strong writer. With writing, it becomes absolutely necessary to make sure that whatever is written is proofread and contains no grammatical, spelling or factual errors. Sometimes editing is also needed to make sure the content is of good quality. So merely being a good writer doesn’t cut it; a journalist must be good at all three.
Although anyone who has a passion for writing and has a degree of some sort can get into journalism with a little practice, the formal requirement to get into this profession is to have a relevant degree. A Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Social Sciences or Communications can help improve your chances of succeeding.
5. Critical thinking
A journalist must have the ability to think critically to ascertain useful information out of the data available. Keep in mind, journalism isn’t the same as reporting where one must compile the findings. Journalism requires personal commentary as well to explain your take on the subject matter.
Now that we have talked about the broad similarities that all types of journalism share among each other, let’s see how sports journalism is a bit different.
Skills needed for sports journalism
If you are serious about becoming a sports journalist, you will have to work on acquiring the relevant skills. It is one thing to be a sports enthusiast, but to be a sportswriter, you need to go above and beyond simply watching games.
1. Education and training
As stated above, having a relevant degree will increase your chances of building a solid career. As we already know from above, it is important to have a bachelor’s degree to get into journalism. However, if you are serious about having a long career in journalism and in the domain of sports, you should consider earning a master’s degree.
If you are interested, check out the sports journalism master’s course from St. Bonaventure University. Not only is the entire program online, which allows you to continue your current job, it also offers a full curriculum to help you in becoming a very good sports journalist.
Ever since the pandemic hit the world, online education has become more common and better accepted. Many people prefer online education as they have the liberty to do other things as well. There are stigmas attached to online education as some people assume it isn’t as effective as face-to-face education. The truth is that online education has been able to transform the entire process. So don’t knock it until you try it.
Apart from education, training is also very important. To get into sports journalism, it would be a very good idea for you to take an internship working for agencies or offices that hire sports journalists. You can even work for a journalist that covers sports as an assistant or as an intern to gain some first-hand experience in this specific niche. Once you have the education and experience relevant to this field, you will be able to form a good career.=
2. Sports knowledge
You should be a sports enthusiast to join this field, because it will require a lot of knowledge and expertise to be able to write about it. If you are someone who does not care much for sports, then this isn’t the best choice as a career. Although one can always research sports and cover different games, it is better to know what you are getting into.
Having an interest in sports will enable you to possess a good base of knowledge on it. Besides, there are many other forms of journalism to get into if sports isn’t your forte. Before you consciously choose to pursue this job, make sure you know your stuff.
If you want to cover multiple sports, make sure you have enough general knowledge to sail through. However, if you want to focus on a specific sport, it will be a bit simpler as you would only need to keep up with one sport. There is no right or wrong choice. It all depends on your interests really. You just need to be prepared for what it is you want.
3. Data-oriented reporting
With so much information available online, people now want access to as much of it as possible and without having to look too hard. If you are going to be a sports journalist, you will be expected to provide detailed information regarding the sport you cover, which will need to contain a lot of data and stats.
You might even have to write articles on the past, present and the future of sports games or even a comparison of a sport in all three eras. Basically, simply knowing about the game won’t cut it, you will have to provide supporting data as well.
The internet is a very good source for accessing data and numbers but being present at games and talking to people in the field will help you in delivering very timely information to your readers.
4. Knowledge of esports
Sports are no longer limited to the traditional definition. With esports becoming so popular over the years, there are many players as well as fans who are looking for coverage of these games too. It is a different domain from traditional sports, so it is understandable that you might not follow esports as often.
If you want to find an area of sports that is not as widely covered as the others so that you have a good chance at securing a strong following, esports is a very interesting avenue with a lot of potential for growth. Developing a career in this field would require you to be aware of all the latest trends and practices. Esports and its related knowledge will always help you as a sports journalist.
5. Dedication to the profession
As a sports journalist, you won’t have the best work-life balance, especially not for the first couple of years of your career. As sports events take place around the clock, you will have to be present in many locations.
It doesn’t matter where you work, for magazines, journals or for corporations, in order to have enough intel on a game you will need to be present at it. Obviously, you can’t see every game for every sport, but you will have to see as many as possible. You will also be expected to meet with athletes, coaches and their managers to interview them. This also means that you might have to give up your weekends too at times and miss some holidays.
To put it simply, sports journalism is not an easy feat, and it can’t be done by simply looking up facts on the internet. That might work for other forms of journalism, but if you want to be in sports you will have to do quite a bit of running around.
The sports industry is volatile, with a great deal happening and changing within it. Proactivity with keeping up with all the related news will help you a lot in becoming a reliable sports journalist.
6. Build a portfolio
It is one thing to be a journalist but another to be one for sports. In order to build credibility around your name so that you have more avenues available for sports reporting, work on building a portfolio for yourself. If you already work as a sportswriter, you can use samples of your work. If you don’t have a job in this field yet, you can always create your own blog or website.
This will not only give you plenty of practice in becoming a good journalist, it will help you develop a good following as well. If you manage to find a decent number of people who enjoy reading your work, you can always find companies or publications that would look forward to hiring you.
Sports enthusiasts are some of the most passionate people on earth when the talk is about their favorite game. It is understandable that as a sportswriter, you will have some preferences of your own, such as your favorite teams and players, your beliefs and your opinions.
While working as a journalist, you will have to provide a neutral point of view free from any bias on your end. Sports journalists cannot be upset when the game didn’t go as they planned, nor can they diss a particular team in their content, no matter how much they wish to. Being neutral is an important skill you must adhere to if you want to develop a career in sports journalism.
How much does a sports journalist make?
No matter how passionate you are about the job, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t pay a good amount of money, it is not really worth it, especially if it is the only job you have. That being said, sports journalism pays really well, with many journalists earning $50k on average per year. This amount grows as the journalist gains more experience.
An experienced journalist always has the opportunity to start a publication or business of their own in the future by offering work with other aspiring journalists. If not, you can always become the head of the department for a company that you want to work for. The growth aspects are great in this field and sports will always remain a very popular form of entertainment that needs to be covered.
Forms of sports journalism
Although as a journalist, writing will be a very important part of your job, becoming a sports journalist will give you more options as well. If you have the confidence and the ambition to be in the media, you can become a sports presenter for a good sports network and go live regularly and present your fresh takes. You also have the option to become a news reporter for a news channel, specifically for their sports and entertainment section.
You can also consider starting a podcast on the internet or even your own channel on YouTube and work for yourself too, provided you manage to find enough people willing to subscribe to your content. Being a sports journalist can be more than just writing all the time. If you have what it takes to be on TV or on social media, go for it.
If you have read your way through to the very end of this blog, you must be an aspiring sports journalist. It is a safe assumption to make that by now you have a very clear idea of all the areas you should be working on so that you may start your journey in sports.
In this blog we have learned that while there are many skills shared by all kinds of journalists, to be a sports journalist there are some additional aspects you must master to be successful. As long as you have the dedication, the will and the persistence to be in sports as a journalist, you will be able to do well for yourself.
Don’t be too gutted if your work isn’t readily accepted, with so much competition out there it can take time to stand out. Just don’t give up and use the time you have to perfect the skills mentioned here so that when you do get a chance, you are ready for it.