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The Future of Sports Journalism

December 7, 2010

Sports Journalism in the coming decades will almost certainly be nothing like it was in the past.  Journalism as a whole has been heading towards dramatic change for years now.  Newspapers are cutting budgets and staff left and right as television and the internet expand.

So what exactly is in store for sports fans?

Well, to put it simply, sports are going viral.  Fans can now get up to date coverage of teams and specific players (don’t discount the popularity of fantasy sports in the internet’s increasing dominance).  They can test there opinions and engage in debate in an ever increasing catalog of forums and blogs.  In many ways, the Monday morning watercooler has been replaced by the Sunday night comment section.  

The newest, and potentially the most influential addition to the internet repertoire is the ability to watch games in real time.  Where websites once replaced a newspaper, services like ESPN3 and MLB.TV have removed the need for even a television set.

That’s not to say TV is going by the wayside.  On the contrary, new technology from Google and Apple is poised to start bridging the gap between television and the internet.  In the future, sports media will likely become a fluid experience, transitioning seamlessly from computer to TV to mobile device.  Successful companies and journalists will be the ones who maintain and exploit a presence across a multitude of mediums and formats.  Think Buster Olney or Bill Simmons (both of whom, despite different styles, write, blog, tweet and make TV appearances), only on HGH.

Following sports will likely become a seamless, multimedia experience (newscaster.eu)

Other than the change in forum, what does the future hold for the average sports journalist?  The outlook is somewhat murky.

On one hand, wider availability of information and the advent of blogging have pushed opinion-based writing to the forefront while taking much of the spotlight off of traditional sports reporting.  On the other hand, there will always be a need for face to face information gathering, as any opinion worth mentioning needs a basis in fact.

So where does that leave the locker room interview?  The insider with easy access the the general manager?  Still very much alive I think.

Instead of reporting dying out, it will likely become specialized.  Like the closer in baseball or the third down back in football, editors will need to hire an increasingly varied roster of journalists with more specific tasks in mind.

Gone will be the days of the same reporter sitting in the press box, heading to the locker room for interviews, and then writing a story or column.  Instead you’ll see an army (or at least small group) of employees gathering the raw data, the stats and the quotes.  This mass of information will then be taken back (in reality sent wirelessly in a matter of seconds) to the personalities, the faces of the outlet who’ll process it into a unique angle or opinion.

In the end, the future of sports journalism is both expanding and consolidated.  As the availability of information and the avenues to express it grow, the need to simplify and package the product will become increasingly important.

This does, unfortunately, mean the death of many a small newspaper.  But the companies that survive will likely be strong, multimedia enterprises with an encompassing and streamlined experience catered to the 21st century sports fan.

 

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