Sports journalism


Sports journalism is the essential element of many news media organizations. While the sports department (along with entertainment news) within some newspapers has been mockingly called the toy department, because sports journalists do not concern themselves with the 'serious' topics covered by the news desk, sports coverage has grown in importance as sport has grown in wealth, power, and influence.  

Major League Baseball gave print journalists a special role in its games. They were named official scorers and kept statistics that were considered part of the official record of league. Active sportswriters were removed from this role in 1980. Although their statistical judgment calls could not affect the outcome of a game in progress, the awarding of errors and wins/saves were seen as powerful influences on pitching staff selections and play lists when coach decisions seemed unusual. The removal of writers, who could benefit fiscally from sensational sports stories, was done to remove this perception of a conflict of interest, and to increase statistics volume, consistency, and accuracy.  

Sportswriters regularly face more deadline pressure than other reporters because sporting events tend to occur late in the day and closer to the deadlines many organizations must observe. Yet they are expected to use the same tools as news journalists, and to uphold the same professional and ethical standards. They must take care not to show bias for any team.  

Cricket, possibly because of its esteemed place in society, has regularly attracted the most elegant of writers. The Manchester Guardian, in the first half of the 20th century, employed Neville Cardus as its cricket correspondent as well as its music critic. Cardus was later knighted for his services to journalism. One of his successors, John Arlott, who became a worldwide favorite because of his radio commentaries on the BBC, was also known for his poetry.  

The London race, called the Polytechnic Marathon and originally staged over the 1908 Olympic route from outside the royal residence at Windsor Castle to White City, was first sponsored by the Sporting Life, which in those Edwardian times was a daily newspaper which sought to cover all sporting events, rather than just a betting paper for horse racing and greyhounds that it became in the years after the Second World War.  

Some newspapers, such as The Sunday Times, with 1924 Olympic 100 metres champion Harold Abrahams, or the London Evening News using former England cricket captain Sir Leonard Hutton, began to adopt the policy of hiring former sports stars to pen columns, which were often ghost written. Some such ghosted columns, however, did little to further the reputation of sports journalism, which is increasingly becoming the subject of academic scrutiny of its standards.  

McIlvanney and Wooldridge, who died in March 2007, aged 75, both enjoyed careers that saw them frequently work in television. During his career, Wooldridge became so famous that, like the sports stars he reported upon, he hired the services of IMG, the agency founded by the American businessman, Mark McCormack, to manage his affairs. Glanville wrote several books, including novels, as well as scripting the memorable official film to the 1966 World Cup staged in England.  

Likewise, award-winning writers Duncan Mackay, of The Guardian, and Steven Downes unravelled many scandals involving doping, fixed races and bribery in international athletics in their 1996 book, Running Scared, which offered an account of the threats by a senior track official that led to the suicide of their sports journalist colleague, Cliff Temple.