The ultimate guide to sports journalism

sports journalism

What is sports journalism?

Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating and presenting curated information for the masses as news, messages, podcasts, videos, etc., while mass communication deals with the study of spreading information to the masses through a number of channels. All humans seek information and communicate with each other and are connected through various means of communication. 

Sports journalism is a specialization in journalism exclusively or primarily dealing with and reporting on all aspects pertaining to sports and related activities. Sports journalists cover all aspects of sports and games (indoor and outdoor) in general, or may specialize in and cover one sport only. They focus on reporting amateur and professional sporting events. Sports journalists work in different types of media, including print, broadcasting, internet, or other related fields, and do games reporting, games statistics and analysis, game recaps interviewing players and coaches, game commentary, investigative games journalism on important developments in the sport, etc. 

A career in sports journalism can be extremely rewarding and enjoyable as you can follow your favorite sport, team or player and travel to new and exciting locations. At the same time, sports journalism is an extremely tough career demanding extensive travel to cover games or sports taking place at different locations. You will also be required to work long hours. You will also need to deal with individuals of different temperaments. To become a successful sports journalist, you should have good people skills, written and oral communication skills, and command of the language.

If you are a sports fan and would like to pursue a journalism career, then read on to find out more about sports journalism. 

History of sports journalism

Sports journalism started along with the advent of journalism. Initially, it was part of journalism, and there were no specialists such as sports journalists. The increased popularity of sports among the masses is attributed to the evolution of communication mediums such as newspapers in the early 1800s and radio in the late 1800s. This led to more coverage of sports content in media and more need for sports journalists. Initially, the sports that attracted considerable interest were horse racing and boxing.

The period from 1880 to 1920 saw a massive increase in sports coverage in print publications. Photographs became an integral part of sports coverage, and sports journalists either did the photography themselves or relied on photographs of key action shots taken by others to bring visual imagery to their audience with illustrated sports stories.

A daily sports page in newspapers began in the 1920s, and by the 1960s, 80% of newspaper readers wanted sports news and preferred reading some portion of the sports page. Sportspeople or their sponsors started supporting the media for sports news, and industry houses started sponsoring sports events. By the 1950s, full journals/magazines focusing solely on sports appeared with monthly and later weekly issues. All of these publications created a need for more and more sports journalists. The popularity of games and sports such as football, basketball, cricket, hockey, chess, swimming and athletics created more interested readers, and therefore more content needed to be published. This required more content creators – i.e., sports journalists.

In the 20th century, several technological changes occurred that led to the increased demand for sports journalists. The newspapers became cheaper with the advent of print technology, and advertisements in newspapers paid for their production costs. In the last century, technological developments and the growth of the internet have massively changed the sports journalism space. New uses of the internet – websites, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – in the 21st century have pushed the boundaries of sports journalism beyond imagination.

This is an industry that has been rapidly growing throughout history and is showing no signs of slowing down. The new technology is influencing the world of information, and it is the perfect time to jump into the industry of sports journalism. 

Digital invasion in sports journalism 

The continued technological advancements in the 20th century introduced new digital communication mediums such as television and the internet. These opened new avenues and brought sea changes in sports journalism, like in every other field. The arrival of television opened a new dimension in journalism. 

Telecasting of sports enhanced the entertainment value of games with features such as close-ups, live commentary, instant replay, slow motion and highlights. Today, there are hundreds of sports TV networks televising more than 50,000 hours of sports coverage yearly. Sports journalists broadcasting live sports commentaries, live interviews and post-game analyses soon became celebrities, earning highly lucrative salaries. 

Developments in the digital age have significantly affected sports journalism. Digital sports journalism is both a competitor of print sports journalism and a complement of sports journalism. Digital sports journalism began in the mid-1990s, with ESPN creating the first website fully dedicated to sports. Although the growth of the internet and the rise of digital sports journalism has impacted print sports journalism, there is an overall increase in demand for sports journalists. 

Digital sports journalism began by covering major and popular sports, but as digital technology advanced, the internet became more accessible and widespread, and almost every sport and game, however small, was covered. This has led to mushrooming growth of team/sports-specific sports bloggers (sports journalists) and websites, with the majority of them offering partial or fully free access but lots of advertising. 

Sports journalists face more deadline pressure than other journalists because sporting events happen with tight time schedules. They use the same tools as other journalists and uphold the same professional and ethical standards. Today, sports journalism requires extensive knowledge of statistics and mathematics in order to do an analysis of teams and games, compute metrics to study and quantify the quality of performances, and compile rankings of players and teams.

Social media and sports journalism

Online digital media has revolutionized sports coverage, requiring more digitally savvy sports journalists. Information technology has allowed anyone with internet access to comment or participate in the dialogue on sports. Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms are now popular sports information providers setting a new trend in sports journalism.

Social media and information technology have drastically impacted sports journalism, and the responsibilities of sports journalists in reporting have increased significantly, as social media allows anyone to comment or react without having any knowledge of sports journalism. At the same time, social media permits sports journalists to gather instant feedback or have audience interaction with their work. Players also use social networks to communicate with their fans without needing to rely on the media and sports organizations.

As the popularity of sports is increasing, the world of sports journalism is expanding year by year. Consequently, new issues keep emerging. Newer media platforms such as the internet, digital television and smartphones have changed the world of sports journalism, and the delivery of sports content has become increasingly sophisticated.

Sports journalism careers

Sports journalism, like any other profession, has many specializations such as sports reporter, sportswriter, sports editor, sports commentator, sports radio/television show host, and many others. Sports journalism is a good career to pursue as statistics predict a growth in demand for positions over the next decade. 

Sports journalists have an income of around $29,250, depending on their experience and position, and if you have a passion for sports, you can enjoy very successful career doing something you love. With a sports journalism degree, you acquire and sharpen communication and other interpersonal skills that can also provide opportunities outside of sports media. 

With this rising popularity, an increasing number of jobs, and the potential of a rewarding career, getting a degree in sports journalism is necessary. The qualification gives you the opportunity to work in a creative and challenging environment and excel in the field. 

A career in sports journalism offers many advantages, including getting to engage with fans and work with a topic you have a passion for. The following are some of the reasons to choose sports journalism as your career:

  • Rewarding 
  • Ample growth opportunities
  • Social prestige
  • Networking with celebrities – sports and fans
  • Extensive travel and new experiences
  • Fulfilling
  • Freelancing work
  • Writing blogs and books
  • Career opportunities outside of sports – e.g., advertising, public relations and broadcasting

Sports journalism can be a very rewarding career as long as journalists are willing to make some sacrifices and tough decisions.

How to become a sports journalist

To become a dynamic, forward-thinking sports journalist, you must have the required education and a fierce passion for sports. Signing up for a master’s degree in sports journalism is the first step if you are interested in sports, conducting sports research, and crafting gripping stories about sports.

Some skills and aptitudes required to be a successful sports journalist include:

  • Passion for sports
  • Knowledge of sports
  • Familiarity with how sports journalists write/create their stories 
  • Good command of language
  • Writing experience 

A master’s in sports journalism degree educates you on various aspects of sports, such as how diverse players, teams, organizers and audiences interact with sports and how sports journalists manage issues of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual misconduct and other contemporary issues. It gives the perspective on the role of sports journalism in today’s rapidly changing technology and media landscape; the forces affecting change; and how adaptability, flexibility and agility are essential for sports journalists and for opening career possibilities. A bachelor’s in journalism with a sports journalism concentration could also be the starting point for sports journalists. 

The program not only teaches skills such as traditional news reporting and reporting in multimedia formats, but also imparts a wide variety of digital competencies, including storytelling, interviewing, podcasts, social media and mobile apps to compete in the current environment. This degree will enable you to develop a comprehensive knowledge of the sports industry, sports journalism, sports communications, and sports media production.

A sports journalism degree online or on campus at the master’s level can also prepare you for senior or leadership roles in the field. If you are thinking of pursuing a career in sports journalism and a master’s degree is the right fit for you, then you can start exploring accredited universities to find the sports journalism online master’s program that best aligns with your goals and interests.

Online master’s in sports journalism 

The online master’s in sports journalism is no different from a campus-based, full-time degree. An online master’s degree in sports journalism is a multidisciplinary program that combines methods and theories from journalism, communications, public relations, and other related fields. It provides knowledge of the latest methods and technologies in news gathering and gives you the skill to develop original stories for traditional as well as digital media, based on the highest journalism standards. 

With an online degree, you acquire all of the skills that are critical to success in this field. The graduate program’s requirements to complete internships and practicums offer several benefits for a future career in sports journalism, such as allowing you to create a portfolio and offering valuable networking opportunities. You will learn how sports journalists work full-time for corporations and media houses and as freelance sports journalists, and you will decide which career to choose.

Compared to other types of journalism, sports journalists develop a thorough understanding of the games and sports, the history of sports, and the organizations and regulations governing sporting events. Because sports journalists often report on live events, it’s necessary to have the ability to produce polished content live, where there is no opportunity to write-read-revise before publishing.

Admissions requirements

The sports journalism graduate program’s admissions requirements are similar to other master’s degrees:

  • A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose 
  • GRE or GMAT or similar public test score (some schools require)


The online master’s in sports journalism should have regional accreditation as employers often prefer graduates of accredited programs. 

Financial aid and scholarships

A sports journalism master’s degree may be costly, but some schools, government agencies and organizations may offer scholarships or tuition waivers to eligible applicants. In the online graduate program, you can also work, and your employer may provide support for your professional development. 

Duration of an online master’s in sports journalism

Typically, an online master’s degree in sports journalism takes one to two years, depending on factors such as the university, type of enrolment (full-time or part-time), summer work, project/thesis work, etc.

Female sports journalists

Until the 1960s, women had not been working in the field of sports journalism, though they were present in other journalism careers. This had been mainly due to social restrictions – for instance, female reporters were not allowed in the locker rooms of the games to interview players there. With the advancing society and gender equality, women are entering sports journalism, but the ratio between male and female sports journalists is highly skewed.

The future of sports journalism

Sports journalism began as a need for people interested in sports. With the advancements in the last two centuries, sports news has become a daily need for people of all ages. 

Information technology has introduced many exciting new options to sports journalists and provides numerous analysis tools for them to exploit and use to give better coverage to their audience. Technology has not changed the essence of sports journalism, but the focus in the future is going to be on the use of analytics in sports, as information technology has made huge amounts of data on sports available to write articles supported by deep analysis.

In the future, journalism will continue to thrive with sports journalists who are unbiased, do plagiarism-free work, and do not compromise quality or succumb to unethical demands. It is clear that sports journalism will remain a high-demand profession because of the high skill level it requires and the ever-increasing interest in sports.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in sports journalism, then look into taking an online sports journalism course. The journey to a successful career in sports journalism begins here. Good luck with your sports journalism career.

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