Friday, October 27, 2006

Sport the Difference

Why stop at sports? Why not have fashion updates and diet tips. Maybe squeezing in a home make-over if a "filler" is needed. Sorry to sound cynical but sport simply is not news....
Poster on BBC Ten O'Clock News Editor's Blog

As a would-be sports journalist the first reaction to a quote such as this is outrage. But, after thinking more closely about it this is precisely the type of viewpoint that those of us who love sport and feel it has a rightful place in news bulletins must confront.

On many TV channels, and especially on BBC network news, sport is on the run. The first day of the Ryder Cup failed to make the Ten O'Clock news, Test cricket is routinely ignored and anyone after that night's football scores often has to look away now- onto another channel.

Craig Oliver, the Editor of the Ten O'Clock news, has recently been defending his decision to largely ignore sport on his programme. He argues that focus group feedback to putting sport on the Ten is 'almost universally negative'. It seems there is a vocal group of people who believe sport to be just one of many leisure time activities and as such no more worthy of a place in national news bulletins than wallpapering or gardening.

So, why has sport been traditionally treated as an integral part of news bulletins? One argument could be that it's all down to the historical male dominance in editorial positions. Men like sport so they put it in bulletins and ignore what women may want.

But this is too simplistic. Women make up an increasing proportion of those attending football and rugby matches. And females athletes are reaching unprecedented heights in tennis, golf, football, athletics and elsewhere.

The truth is that sport has been, and still is a remarkably important part of many people's lives. It might appear irrational but the fever that the citizens of the UK whip themselves into when a big sporting event rolls around shows that. It's more popular than any amount of showbiz news, or, it has to be said, any number of long-winded 'special correspondent' pieces from far flung corners of the world.

There is a case for taking another look at what sports journalists do and how we do it. We do need to take a more critical perspective and earn our place in bulletins. There needs to be an end to the 'old boy's club' mentality mentioned by Eamon Dunphy recently. Footballers, rugby players and other sportsmen are not above answering tough questions, and bland answers shouldn't just be accepted.

Editors need to reconnect with what the whole population wants and not just a vocal minority. And for their part sports journalists need to reconnect with who they are- journalists. Otherwise we could end up with a sports news service looking 'sick as a parrot, John'.


Blogger Martin said...

Sport is clearly news. And in the hands of a great writer like Norman Mailer (who wrote a book about the Rumble In The Jungle) it can be great journalism too. So think on.

5:45 AM  

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