Diversity is a hot topic in today’s world, and for good reason. Many sectors of the working world that had been predominantly one race, gender or creed have started opening their doors to accept more and different types of people. Sports journalism is one such area, and diversity in sports journalism has a lot of benefits for both athletes and the journalists themselves.
This article isn’t going to look at the current state of sports journalism or how sports journalism can be more diverse, but instead we will review how having more voices telling sports stories is beneficial. No matter the color of your skin or the way you identify yourself, at the end of the day, your voice matters and sports journalism can help you share that voice.
What is sports journalism?
Sports journalism is a subset of journalism that focuses on the world of sports. From the breakdown of games, to breaking sports news and to reporting on the highs and the lows of the athletes who play on the fields and in the stadiums, if it has anything to do with sports, it is going to be written about within sports journalism.
Sports journalism can focus on amateur sporting events such as little league games and school tournaments, or professional teams like the MLB, NFL and the MBA. From talking about the games, breaking down all the key decisions, discussing players and interviewing the people involved in making each game possible, there are plenty of things to do.
Plus, sports journalism has a very wide field for people to work within. You can be a sports writer, anchor, interviewer or photographer. You’ll have the talents and the drive to pursue at least one of these fields within sports journalism, so you can have a blast while reporting on your favorite teams and players.
How do I become a sports journalist?
No matter your skin color or what role you want to take on in the world of sports journalism, you’ve got to start the same way everyone else does. With education, hard work and a degree to your name.
Sports journalism is rapidly changing and will become even more advanced in the future, so simply having a love for the game and a talent for writing and speaking won’t be enough. Instead, you also need to have digital skills as well. Knowing how to create a podcast, how to tell effective stories and how to move fast in today’s 24/7 all news all the time world are all skills that you will need to have. The best way to learn all of these skills efficiently is to pursue a masters in sports journalism from a reputable institution such as St. Bonaventure University. Their program is 100% online, and it won’t take long until you are learning the ethics of journalism and how to write for all audiences about diverse sports players.
This leads us to one of the first reasons that diversity is important in sports journalism.
Sports is a diverse field
Not just in the number of different races or creeds or genders in sports, but that sports itself is diverse. There are countless sports out there in the world, from football and basketball to poker and even professional cornhole. For sports journalism, the more people from different backgrounds and ethnicities that come into the field wanting to be journalists, the more spots can get filled as they work with sports and teams they enjoy.
Additionally, the more diverse background that you have, the more you will find journalists who really know their stuff. Often, wanting to pursue a career in sports journalism comes from the fact that the journalists played sports themselves or were otherwise involved in sports. So, you might get a soccer journalist who played soccer in their youth and knows exactly what the players are thinking and why they make the moves they make.
While another journalist who spent their childhood shooting hoops in the backyard is likely to know exactly what questions to bring to the table when talking to athletes about the shots they made and missed. Diversity within the field of sports journalism isn’t just about having more races and genders filling out the ranks, but it is also about getting new experiences and brand-new ways of looking at things.
Diversity in sports journalism allows for a deeper analysis of sporting events
Sports journalism is about turning facts, numbers and data sheets into opinions and predictions for the future. For example, if two football teams are playing one another, many sports journalists will analyze the previous matchups the teams might have had, as well as past games. Then they will make predictions using the data to determine each team’s strengths, weaknesses and how they will play.
There’s a lot of data in the world of sports journalism, and the more people that you have looking at that data and interpreting it in their own ways, the better analysis you are going to get.
People from different backgrounds are going to see a piece of data and start to think critically about it in different ways. Then they can interpret the data differently, have their own opinions and debate and defend those opinions against other sportscasters and sports journalists.
This also leads to some interesting moments for the person watching the game as well. If journalist A says that one football team is going to win because of the arm of their quarterback, while journalist B says that same football team is going to win because of their defense, it can be very interesting to watch the game and see who was right.
Diversity of opinion is always a good thing in journalism, and the more diverse people you can get looking at an event and covering it, the more opinions you have to consider.
The importance of understanding the game through representation
Additionally, having different groups represented in the world of sports not only makes sports more fun to watch, it can also increase our understanding of the game. Sports are universal, but many of the sports we watch and the players who play them come from very diverse areas of the country and many walks of life.
Having different voices talking about these sports games will help educate the people who watch sports about different games. For example, if a player comes from Africa and joins a basketball team, you can have African journalists share what life was like back home in that area and what that player had to do to become who they are now.
Alternatively, if a sport that originated in another country starts to become mainstream, then journalists who share the same home country can talk about the origins and history of the sport. This can provide more knowledge and share some context and stories in order to enlighten the public and let them know a few things they wouldn’t have known otherwise.
There’s great potential for storytelling in sports, and whenever you invite more people in to tell their stories and share their opinions on the events of the various games, you will only benefit, as will all of the people reading the work.
Diversity in sports and sports journalism empathizes teamwork and respect
In between all the lights, glamor, money, scandals and emotions around various sporting events, it can be extremely easy to forget some of the simplest maxims of sports, such as respect for your teammates and opponents, teamwork and working with others to achieve a common goal, playing sports with good sportsmanship and learning how to lean on a team to enhance your strength and cover your weaknesses. As sports become more diverse, it can lead to a deeper respect and a desire for understanding and bonding. Not just whenever it comes to respecting the players on the field, but also respecting the culture they come from and the traditions they hold dear.
It is very easy to focus on the star players and leave everyone else as background set pieces, and it is easy to judge sports stars whenever they make a mistake or for their off the field actions. However, diversity in sports allows everyone to see that no matter your skin color, creed or anything else, you can still shake hands with someone who is different from you and congratulate them on a good game.
The same thing happens in sports journalism as no story gets told alone. Having a diverse team all working to complete the same story or fight against the same deadline can bring people who wouldn’t normally meet together, and that can be a powerful bonding experience.
Plus, it can help everyone learn a little bit more about one another, and that can lead to unlikely friendships forming as people are introduced to different cultures. Sometimes, just like pressure turns coal into a diamond, the pressure of work needing to be done turns a group of individuals into a real team.
Finally, a diverse team all working together for a common goal can be inspiring. Everyone gets told to find a hero who looks like them, but that’s only half of the battle. If you have a hero who looks like you, works well with people who look different and can shake everyone’s hand with respect at the end of the day, that is a real hero.
Diverse reporters allow for a deeper understanding of the players they report on
Often, many players are misrepresented or misunderstood because of how they talk, dress and act. Even though their quirks might be positive where they come from or are indicative of how they grew up, if people don’t understand that then the information can be misconstrued. The media often reports on these quirks or misrepresentations, harming the brand of the athlete and their perception by the public.
Reporters who grew up in the same area or who share the same culture as the people who are playing on the field can communicate much better in their journalism pieces. They can give bits of information that the wider world just doesn’t know because they’ve never lived that life or experienced what the player has experienced, but that understanding can bring people closer together.
It can be extremely easy to turn an athlete into a caricature of themselves. Attention can shift away from a player’s on-field performance as their best or worst traits are overexaggerated and their personal flaws misunderstood. Having people who can understand the context and the deeper story behind why these athletes do what they do can help everyone seem just a bit more human at the end of the day.
Diverse reporters allow more people to do what they love and have fun with it
Finally, the more people you have getting into sports journalism, the more excitement you are going to get. People who want to report on sports, love sports and love writing a story, talking on a podcast or getting to share what they think about their favorite players and teams add excitement to the experience for viewers and readers. If people who want to become sports journalists are denied because of the color of their skin or their gender, someone who is passionate about sports loses their chance to share their views.
At the end of the day, the love that many people have for sports is real and is going to shine through in every piece they write and every single game they cover. No matter what else might be diverse about sports journalists, that passion is going to be the same and it is going to be evident to the people who are interacting with the journalists.
If you don’t seek diversity in your newsroom, you are going to be losing out on a lot of people with passion. That passion will almost always serve to attract readers and viewers who want to share in that excitement, if only for a little bit.
At its core, sports is all about passion and excitement. This is evident when watching a beloved team rise from the brink of defeat to clench a victory, watching a game that is one point or goal away from victory or defeat or watching the star players fight on even when everything is impossible. That is why many people choose to watch sports, and if you can find journalists who are able to convey that type of passion in their writing and their reporting, then you have hit the jackpot!
Sports journalism benefits from more people working within it
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how diverse people are, because regardless of the color of their skin or their gender, they are passionate people with skills and talents who want to work. The sports world is always moving along, whether it is the off season or not, because something is always happening either at the forefront or behind the scenes.
With countless newspapers, websites, podcasts, video feeds and more all trying to find and report the scoops and stories that seem to be happening 24/7 in today’s world, you need to ensure that you have the best people working with you and fighting with you to get the scoops your outlet needs.
Give people a chance to report their stories
In the world of cutthroat journalism, publicity pieces, stories designed to provoke outrage and the inherent drama that surrounds sports mean that you need to understand that sports journalism is just like any other kind of journalism. It exists to present facts and tell stories, and the more people with different viewpoints you have telling those stories, the better your work will be.
Don’t be afraid to let diverse writers and reporters tell their stories, because they will have different ways of doing things and different ways of reporting the story that might not have been considered before. Plus, with their experience and upbringing, they might be able to put a spin on the story that you never would have experienced otherwise.
Diversity is a hot button issue for many areas, and it should be, but it is important to remember that diversity and true equality are about more than just having different skin tones and genders in the room. It’s about allowing people to tell stories, report on things they are passionate about, and to help the audience understand their favorite teams, leagues and players just a little bit better.