Sports journalists and the professional crisis

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The work in this PhD by Publication submission explores what the disruption to the occupational conditions of sports journalists has meant for understandings of themselves as professional people. Journalists have lost monopoly control over sports information and share emerging digital platforms with fans, bloggers, and sports clubs/organisations, which has led to questions regarding expertise, distinctiveness, and importance. Further, sports journalists’ professional cohesiveness is threatened as new, online specific role-orientations emerge within the occupation that involve new forms and styles, approaches, and practices. These shifts have occurred at a time when sports journalists are trying to elevate their professional status and banish their ‘toy department’ reputation.

    This collection of single-authored, peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters finds that sports journalists are experiencing a crisis of professionalism for three reasons. First, sports journalists continue to rely on traditional understandings of professionalism anchored in accreditation to prosports. Sports journalists’ discourse of expertise is entwined with the experiences of attending sports events, media briefings, and press conferences. However, sports journalists find themselves in a vulnerable position because the politics of access to pro sports have become increasingly unstable and unpredictable.

    Second, socialisation processes within the sports desk are geared towards valuing traditional, newspaper-oriented roles. Newer role-orientations, for example live blogger, explore innovative ways of professionalising new forms and styles but these approaches lack legitimacy and recognition within the occupational group. This attitude is problematic because digitally focused ways of working are considered to be the industry’s future.

    Third, sports journalists’ attempts to elevate their professional claims by establishing distance from sources and complying to regulatory frameworks is difficult to achieve in a hyper-commercialised sports environment. Further, sports journalists struggle to be accurate and reliable on social media, which has led for calls within the profession to ‘raise our game’. However, sports journalists have seen core values, for example the ability to break news, become more difficult to achieve in these settings.

    This research makes an original contribution to knowledge by applying the professionalism lens to sports journalism. The studies apply an interpretative and qualitative methodology that consists of interviews with sports journalists, insider research or a combination of both. Researcher positionality as a former sports journalist with The Sun and current role as an educator with Sky Sports News industry professionals also informs this work. The research draws from social and hermeneutic phenomenology in providing an underpinning philosophy that explores meaning, sense-making, and lived experience.
    Date of AwardOct 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorAlan Tomlinson (Supervisor)

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