How to Build a Career as a Sports Journalist

consumers of sports information

Virtually every newspaper and magazine you open will have a section dedicated to sports, showing how it is integrated into daily life and of interest to everyone. Whether one is reading about the players and their personal lives or the game itself, there is no shortage of newsworthy topics. With such widespread interest in sports, the role of the sports journalist is an important one. We cover the scope and history of sports, as well as the steps to take to get into sports journalism consumers of sports information.

Just How Popular Are Sports?

Sports is big news! Aside from the players who receive lucrative contracts in the top games and the aspiring players who aim to get into the major leagues, many people play sports for social reasons and to get exercise. 

But this is just the tip of the iceberg in the complete picture of global sports. By far, the biggest group is the fans. They are the consumers of sports information

Football (soccer) fans make up the largest sub-section of supporters with four billion adherents around the world. Cricket accounts for 2.5 billion fans, hockey two billion, and tennis one billion. This is closely followed by volleyball with 900 million fans, table tennis with 875 million, basketball with 825 million, baseball with 500 million, rugby with 475 million, and golf with 450 million. 

The History Of  Sports

There is historical data that indicates that sports have been a part of human life for at least three thousand years. To put this into context, the oldest human civilization is the Sumerians, which date, back to 3000 BC. While modern sports have the benefit of new technologies, and the new kid on the block, the science of sports, the love of the game have not changed. 

The oldest sport is wrestling as attested to by cave paintings in Lascaux (France), Mongolia, Libya, and Japan. The Lascaux records date back 15,300 years ago. A papyrus fragment from between 100 and 200 AD contains wrestling instructions.

Running is the single sport that was recorded in the very first Olympics in 776 BC. Javelin throwing, which still occurs in the current Olympics dates back to 708 BC, although it only began to be included in modern-day Olympics in 1906. Polo was the sport of emperors in Persia in 316 AD, with the first polo club opening in 1833. Hockey harks back to 600 BCE.

The most recent development in sports is the search for ways to make it safer. Professional athletes are one of the five careers that report in excess of 1,000 injuries out of every 10,000 employees, with the actual figure being 2,000 injuries for every 10,000 players. Some injuries only occur in sports participants, for example, pitcher’s elbow, sports hernia, and turf toe. Three sports, in particular, have been negatively affected by injuries. These are the National Football League, major league baseball, and the National Hockey League. 

If this has intrigued you, let’s look at how you can become a sports journalist and add your name to the long history of sports reporters, dating back to the first cave painting.

Background To Studying For A Sports Journalist Qualification

A sports journalism qualification takes a broad, yet sensitive approach. You will need to understand your role as a sports journalist operating within the spectra of race, culture, ethnicity, and gender. You will be governed by reporting ethics based on the principles of truth, accuracy, fairness, and diversity.

As has been shown, from its earliest days, sports have evolved. For example, safety and the science of sport are part of the modern landscape. This milieu will continue to advance new business models, media, and key issues. 

Certain skills are needed by the sports journalist. Capability with media such as podcasts and digital interviews are required, as well as adapting to new forms of reporting that emerge. Culturally competent interviewing skills must be demonstrated.

Research skill is a core competence that you will need, and your study program will usually require you to undertake a major project in sports journalism, from identifying an area where you can make a contribution to sports literature to producing this work in an academically satisfying manner.

If you want to become a sports journalist, studying journalism will increase your chances of being offered the opportunity to work in the field. An online sports journalism master program teaches all the skills necessary to become a modern-day sports journalist. Studying online also provides you with the opportunity to work to gain experience at a lower level in sports journalism while working towards a lucrative and rewarding career.

How Much Does A Sports Journalist Make?

On average, employers of sports journalists in the US provide salaries of around $35,000. On the other hand, some sports journalists make as much as $90,000.

This will largely depend on the type of sports journalism work you do and who your employer is. IF you have a job with a small, local publication, your responsibilities will probably entail reporting on high school sports teams and home-grown leagues in your area. This may extend to covering college sports and some professional teams. Such a publication likely has a relatively small budget to allocate to the salary of a sportswriter.

Those who earn the top salaries will actively pursue the major leagues and be employed by large, well-known publications, such as The New York Times.

Having an education in sports journalism starts you off with the potential for higher earnings. Likewise, gaining experience will provide you with better opportunities. Remember that a sports journalist is regarded as an expert in the field and many fans will be reading your words. This requires more than just reporting sports but also the ability to provide context and studied opinion. The more you know about the background, history, and developments of your sport, the more knowledgeable you will be.

Breaking Into The Field Of Sports Journalism

There is no traditional or required path you have to take to become a sports journalist. It all depends on where you are starting from, your qualifications, experience, and abilities as a writer. For example, if you have a degree majoring in English, are an accomplished writer, and understand sports, there are ways to use this to your advantage when seeking a position as a sports journalist.

There are many opportunities for aspiring sports journalists in both traditional print media and online versions. 

The person who already has the right qualifications and experience is in a better position to apply for a job at a print or digital publication immediately after completing their studies. Although they may not walk straight into their dream job, they can certainly start somewhere and climb the ladder as they prove their merit. 

Another possibility exists for would-be sports journalists who have embarked on online studies in sports journalism. By taking on a position as an intern at a publication, valuable experience can be gained, and working in the field while studying allows you to learn the ropes, policies, and structures of the sports department. Additionally, you will rub shoulders with other professional sports journalists and editors, which will enable you to get a firm foot in the door. 

If you are already a professional writer, you will also have the leverage to enter the field, provided you know your stuff. Assuming you can produce informative, engaging, and entertaining content, and your passion for sports comes through in your writing, many publications will be prepared to review an article written by you. They may then consider offering you a position in their sports division.

On that note, a lot of publications are open to receiving freelance submissions from sports journalists. Do your homework to find out if they do indeed accept samples of work that match their criteria and format. If you can obtain work as a freelancer, you will be able to start putting together a portfolio that showcases your ability. This will stand you in good stead when applying for sports journalism positions and going for interviews. Make sure your online presence reflects positively on you as potential employers will be sure to research your profile. Ensure that your English is better than basic and when you submit freelance work, always be on time with deadlines and submit quality content.

Sports journalists write for professional blogs, newspapers, magazines, television, and radio.

Different Types Of Journalism

Whether you start as a sports journalist and move to another area of interest or began elsewhere and are now eager to move into sports journalism, online media has provided many new avenues to explore. 

Obtaining a master’s qualification in journalism of any kind will allow you to move easily from one type of journalism to another. Journalism degrees are becoming more popular with modern technology that allows a writer to connect online from any country in the world. You don’t have to relocate to do this. Several new types of journalism have emerged recently. 

Social media journalism concentrates on news from around the world and makes it accessible to readers on online platforms such as blogs or social media platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook. One study revealed that there are 3,484 billion users of social media, making this a vast network of readers on every topic under the sun. Whether you choose to report on sports or a different field, your target audience is assured. Trending news is being consumed nowadays more often online. This also applies to sports journalism.

Other newer types of journalism are civic journalism, agricultural journalism, cultural journalism, and solutions journalism.

Important Tips For Aspiring Sports Journalists

To produce really good content, you should travel to related games, research relevant current events, and make use of your networks and contacts. The more you prepare before writing, the greater depth your piece will have. Sports journalism articles should contain a lot of specific detail. Instead of simply providing the score, you should include factors that contributed to it and the likely outcomes of future games.

You can add interest to an article by holding interviews with players and coaches to discuss a match just played as well as forthcoming events. The sports journalist will conduct a big part of their job on such aspects and not only on the actual writing. You cannot produce the same quality of work if you do not put in the effort outside of the office. 

This side of sports journalism will add to your enjoyment of the job. Hours are flexible and you will need to be adaptable and go where the sport is. You may not be given a fixed office to work from and will have to do your writing at home or perhaps over a few cups of coffee at your favorite hangout. Another big plus is that you can include visits and background research on games you have not been tasked to write about. This enables you to offer it as a freelance piece of work and to increase your portfolio.

When you set out to become a sports journalist, there are several things you can do to increase your effectiveness and enhance your chances of landing the desired job, Learn as much about sports in general as you can. Additionally, know at least three sports very well. Play sports as a participant so that you stay in touch with the experience of being a sportsperson instead of only being a spectator. Keep up with sports news by reading from several online and traditional publications. Be passionate about sports and discuss it with your friends to hone your reasoning and storytelling skills. To gain experience, do not turn down writing jobs that don’t match what you are aiming for. Upgrade your written competence by taking writing and English short courses. 

With so many fans eager to devour the latest sporting news, develop your writing style, and find your niche as a sports journalist. Aim for the place where skills and experience meet your passion for sports, and in particular, communicate your views along with the hard facts of the game. This way you will stand out and start to carve your career and make a name for yourself.

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