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Accountable sports journalism. Building up a platform and a new specialized code in the field



Far from its traditional consideration as the 'little brother' of the profession, sports journalism plays a key role in the new information ecosystem and has a huge impact in society. Therefore, sports journalists must gain awareness of their accountability in order to counteract the widespread deficiencies that have not only challenged the normative standards of the profession but have also eroded their credibility. With the aim of helping journalists address these shortcomings, this investigation: (1) has compiled and examined the most relevant ethical codes, stylebooks and other accountability instruments in sports journalism; (2) has created the online platform Accountable Sports Journalism (; and (3) has produced a new specialised code aimed at covering sports responsibly. Published in Ethical Space. The International Journal of Communication Ethics, Vol 15 n. 1-2, 2018
Copyright 2018-1/2. Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics. All rights reserved. Vol 15, No 1/2 2018 15
Xavier Ramon-Vegas
José-Luis Rojas-Torrijos
Accountable sports journalism.
Building up a platform and a
new specialised code in the field
Far from its traditional consideration as the ‘little brother’
of the profession, sports journalism plays a key role in the
new information ecosystem and has a huge impact in
society. Therefore, sports journalists must gain awareness of
their accountability in order to counteract the widespread
deficiencies that have not only challenged the normative
standards of the profession but have also eroded their
credibility. With the aim of helping journalists address
these shortcomings, this investigation: (1) has compiled and
examined the most relevant ethical codes, stylebooks and
other accountability instruments in sports journalism; (2) has
created the online platform Accountable Sports Journalism
(; and (3) has
produced a new specialised code aimed at covering sports
Key words: accountability, code, ethics, instruments, sports
In the current cluttered and ‘increasingly complex digital
media landscape’ (Boyle and Haynes 2014: 85), sport content
is ‘available from a growing range of digital, mobile media and
telecommunications companies and intermediaries’ (Hutchins and
Boyle 2017: 505) as well as from communication departments
at clubs and leagues (Suggs 2016). For legacy media, despite its
‘perennial dismissal as trivial subject matter’ (Weedon et al. 2016:
1), sport remains a pivotal asset to attract advertisers and audiences
(Hutchins and Rowe 2009).
In this context of ‘digital plenitude’ (Hutchins and Rowe 2009),
sports journalists face severe challenges, including ‘commercial and
economic restrictions’ (English 2017: 534), ‘greater demands in
terms of publishing platforms, technology, content and workloads’
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(English 2016: 1002) and ‘growing competition from content
aggregators and “social” news specialists’ (Hutchins and Boyle
2017: 499). Professionals also struggle with the seemingly endless
growth of the PR industry in the world of sport (L’Etang 2013;
Sherwood, Nicholson and Marjoribanks 2017).
However, as Hutchins and Boyle (2017: 497) highlight, ‘the influence
of multiple crosscutting forces does not mean that shared practices
of news work no longer exist, or that journalists have voluntarily
ceded their cultural authority to “the crowd” in determining what
counts as news and how it should be produced and delivered’.
Beyond adapting their skills ‘to meet the demands of a converged
media environment’ (Ketterer, McGuire and Murray 2014: 282),
sports journalists should maintain the essential principles of ethics
at the core of their professional task (Oates and Pauly 2007). Ethics
and accountability should be at the centre stage of the ‘community
of practice’ of sports journalism. This is essential to counteract
the widespread deficiencies that have not only challenged the
normative standards of the profession but have also eroded the
credibility and status of its professionals (Horky and Stelzner 2013).
‘The toy department’: Exploring the ethical shortcomings in
sports journalism
Sports journalism has been labelled as the ‘toy department’ or the
‘sandbox’ of the newsroom (Rowe 2007). Its professionals ‘have
been described as cheerleaders, hero worshippers, fans, homers
and sycophants’ and as ‘biased and responsible for boosterism
of athletes, teams, organisations and the sports industry’ (English
2017: 532). The dissolution of the frontiers between facts and
comments has been commonplace in the field (Boyle 2006).
Rumour and speculation have pervaded the coverage, which has
also been ‘subordinated to entertainment as a way of expression
incorporating sensationalist elements that come from the spectacle
industries’ (Rojas-Torrijos 2011: 18). The use of violence metaphors
and images in sports reporting, connected to ‘commodification of
sport, and its marketing as spectacle’ (Holt 2000: 102) has also
been frequent.
The limited range of sources has been mainly drawn ‘from the
ranks of celebrity athletes, coaches and administrators, thus further
isolating the sports desk from the world beyond sport’ (Rowe 2007:
400-401). Partly because of this interplay between media and the
sport industry, sports journalists have failed to cover properly the
‘problems, issues and topics that permeate the social world to
which sport is intimately connected’ (Rowe 2007: 400). Thus, they
have proved unable to comply with the essential ‘watchdog’ and
investigative functions of journalism in democratic societies. There
are some noteworthy exceptions to this trend, such as the broader
perspective shown by US newspapers in the coming out of Jason
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Collins and Michael Sam (Cassidy 2017); the critical reports in the
Australia–India Test cricket series (English 2017); the exposure of
child abuse in football (Taylor 2017); the investigation of corruption
cases at FIFA (Jennings 2011) or the research on Lance Armstrong,
pursued by David Walsh of The Sunday Times and the blog
NYVelocity (Brock 2013). Yet, the amount of critical interrogation
on the world of sport is scant compared to other genres.
In addition, as Suggs (2016: 265) highlights, ‘news coverage looks
surprisingly uniform across different publications and different
media’. Moreover, sportswomen, non-white and impaired athletes
have been marginalised in the coverage (O’Neill and Mulready
2015; Tulloch and Ramon-Vegas 2017) and have been often
presented through the lens of stereotypes. To illustrate, in their
recent examination of the US press coverage of Alex Rodriguez,
the baseball player, for his alleged use of performance-enhancing
drugs, Brennen and Brown (2016: 29) found that newspapers
‘dehumanized Rodriguez through repeated use of overtly racist and
animalistic imagery’.
The role of accountability instruments in sports journalism
To mitigate the long-held claims of sports journalism being a
‘bastion of easy living, sloppy journalism and “soft” news’ (Boyle
2006: 1), ‘sports journalists must also be accountable to the
professional norms that advance the entire profession’s credibility’
(Hardin and Zhong 2010: 6). The concept of accountability refers
to ‘the commitment of media organisations and professionals to
be held accountable by society for their practices’ (Rojas-Torrijos
and Ramon-Vegas 2017: 916). According to McQuail (2003: 19),
‘accountable communication exists where authors (originators,
sources, or gatekeepers) take responsibility for the quality and
consequences of their publication, orient themselves to audiences
and others affected, and respond to their expectations and those of
the wider society’. Traditional and innovative media accountability
instruments (Bertrand 2000) – including ethical codes, stylebooks,
recommendations issued by organisations, ombudsmen websites
and scholars’ or citizens’ blogs can play major roles in offering
guidance and helping journalists and users monitor and assess the
quality of sports content (Ramon-Vegas and Rojas-Torrijos 2017).
Objective and methodology
Taking the aforementioned framework into account, the objective
of this research has been to compile, examine and disseminate the
most relevant accountability instruments in sports journalism. The
first stage of the project involved mapping and analysing the most
relevant instruments in the field. We first monitored the internet
over an 18-month period (October 2015-March 2017) to locate
the most relevant instruments across different countries, media
systems and journalistic cultures. Through snowball sampling, the
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instruments were identified and progressively incorporated into
the sample. Afterwards, the researchers examined each one of
those instruments using the qualitative content analysis technique
(Bryman 2016). The categories of the analysis included the following:
instruments produced inside or outside of media organisations,
description of the specifications for and use of the instruments, and
evaluation of the mechanisms from the accountability perspective
(Ramon-Vegas and Rojas-Torrijos 2017).
The second stage of the research involved the creation, in April
2017, of the platform Accountable Sports Journalism (http:// to make the instruments readily
accessible to media practitioners, scholars and students. On this
site, users can find access to the instruments produced inside the
media (in-house stylebooks promoted by major sports media,
recommendations for sports journalists in news agencies and
general information outlets, ombudsmen and online chats) and
to tools implemented outside media companies (external codes,
recommendations issued by key stakeholders in the world of sport,
the largest publications related to media criticism, as well as several
scholars’ and citizens’ blogs). The range of resources on the platform
is being enhanced on an on-going basis. Nowadays, Accountable
Sports Journalism brings together 42 resources (n=42) from 15
different countries, along with those produced by international
organisations. Finally, after critically examining all the instruments
available, the investigation has produced a new specialised code
in sports journalism (“Guidelines for covering sports responsibly”).
Accountability instruments on a new platform
So far, 42 accountability instruments have been located and
uploaded on to the Accountable Sports Journalism platform. Those
have been classified, as previously noted, into two categories:
instruments produced within media organisations and those
created outside of them.
Instruments produced inside media companies or media
Stylebooks and guidelines promoted by major sports media
One of the fundamental accountability instruments is in-house
stylebooks which establish an implicit contract between journalists
and citizens. One of the scarce sports outlets that has adapted its
stylebook to the digital environment is Bleacher Report (http:// Another American outlet
concerned with accountability is ESPN, which has published its
Editorial guidelines for standards & practices (http://edge-cache. As their authors note, the
purpose of the editorial guidelines ‘is the protection of ESPNs
journalistic credibility across all platforms’. These recommendations
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tackle a wide range of ethical issues, including: transparency,
commentary, sourcing, attribution, corrections, media criticism,
activity on social networking sites and advertising. Grantland, a
sports and culture website created by Bill Simmons in 2011 and
discontinued in 2015, developed useful terminological glossaries
on sports like tennis, wrestling, basketball, American football and
baseball (
Recommendations for sports coverage proposed by agencies and
general information outlets
News agencies and general information outlets worldwide have
also proposed recommendations for sports journalists. In Europe,
the Reuters sports style guide (
index.php?title=Sports_Style_Guide) is one of the key documents
available. In Spain, the major public broadcasting corporations have
specific sections devoted to sports in their in-house handbooks:
namely RTVE, the Spanish public broadcasting corporation (http://; CCMA, the Catalan Corporation of
Audiovisual Media ( and Canal
Sur, the radio and TV corporation in Andalusia. In complying with
their remit as public service broadcasters (PSBs), these institutions
stress the importance of disseminating the positive values associated
with sport.
Moving on to America, the Ethical journalism handbook from The
New York Times (
NYT_Ethical_Journalism_0904-1.pdf) outlines three rules (131-
333) addressed to the sports desk. More precisely, it mentions that
journalists should avoid gambling on sports events and serving as
scorers and that they should not ‘accept tickets, travel expenses,
meals, gifts or any other benefit from teams or promoters’. Further
references to conflicts of interest are included in documents issued
by Minnesota Public Radio (
ethics) and the Los Angeles Times (http://latimesblogs.latimes.
com/readers/2011/02/la-times-ethics-guidelines.html). Conversely,
other news organisations such as the Columbia Missourian
uploads/2009/04/missourian-stylebook.pdf) focus on providing
guidance on sports language.
Online ombudsmen/ombudswomen
The role of ombudsmen/ombudswomen is nearly non-existent in
sports media outlets. The exception can be found in ESPN’s public
editor, a pioneering post created in 2005 to ensure that the content
of the network complies with its Editorial guidelines. The public
editor ( fosters transparency
and helps fans understand ESPNs journalistic culture and the
editorial criteria behind the content. He writes a monthly column,
reflecting on core aspects such as the loosening of standards
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with the treatment of ESPN Body Issue photographs, the use of
sponsored content, the criteria employed by the company to select
their anchors or the debates about conflict of interest.
Online chats
Online chats, which help foster live interaction between readers,
editorial teams and experts, have expanded in recent years and
have proved to be powerful tools for discussing editorial criteria
and handling errors (Rojas-Torrijos and Ramon-Vegas 2017). ESPNs
programme Sportsnation has promoted live chats since 2008.
All the live conversations (
archive) can be retrieved at any time from ESPNs website.
Instruments produced outside media companies or groups
Specialised codes in sports journalism
The range of external codes devoted exclusively to sports
journalism is fairly limited. The most recognised document is the
Ethics guidelines promoted by the Associated Press Sports Editors
(APSE) ( The
code, created in 1974 and revised in 1991, is built around seven
cornerstones that urge journalists to safeguard professional
independence, verify information, be attentive to sources and avoid
gender and race discrimination. In 2014, the International Sports
Press Association (AIPS) approved its Code of professional conduct.
The document (
guiding principles, including the need to be knowledgeable about
the law, work with honesty and integrity, provide information about
potential conflicts of interest, correct errors and avoid publishing
false information. In addition, professionals are reminded about
their duty to update their knowledge.
The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) provides
recommendations in four areas: the search for truth, minimising
harm, professional independence and accountability (http://www. The ethical code of the
Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) also considers
the avoidance of any conflict of interest a cornerstone (http://www. The American Auto Racing Writers
& Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) has its own code: The white
paper (
In the European context, we should highlight the Italian media and
sports code (
This code is organised in six chapters that seek to promote justice,
dignity and the citizens’ right to receive information. Moreover, the
eight guidelines presented in 2010 by the German association of
sports journalists, the Verband Deutscher Sportjournalisten (http:// are noteworthy.
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These recommendations emphasise the public function of sports
journalism and call for non-discrimination. The VDS also highlights
the importance of maintaining independence, respecting
individuals’ privacy and ensuring accuracy (Horky and Stelzer 2013).
In eastern European countries, there’s the Serbian Sports Journalists
Association (USNS) Code and sport journalists’ club ethics (http://
novinara-Srbije.pdf) and the Moral code (
eticky-a-moralni-kodex) from the Czech Republic. Both are concise
texts focused on standards such as safeguarding independence and
verifying information.
There are other relevant codes in Latin America: the Sports
Journalists Association ethics code (Puerto Rico) (http://www., Manual de Conduta Ética
da Associaçao Brasiliense de Cronistas Desportivos (ABCD) (Brazil)
abcd/) and the Argentinian Federation of Sports Journalists (FAPED)
Ethics code (
General codes of media ethics
In addition to specialised codes in sports, professionals can consult
the website Accountable Journalism (http://accountablejournalism.
org/) created by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the
University of Missouri. The site contains more than 400 general
and specialised deontological codes from around the world.
Among them, central documents such as UNESCO’s International
principles of professional ethics (
international_principles_of_professional_ethics_in_journalism), the
International Federation of Journalists’ (IFJ) Declaration of principles
on the conduct of journalists (
of-principles/) and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of
ethics ( should be highlighted.
Recommendations for sports journalists issued by key stakeholders
Recommendations issued by key stakeholders in the world of sport
should also be taken into account. Among those suggestions, two
relevant ones are accessible online: the Code of sports ethics, from
the Council of Europe ( and the
Charte d’etique et de déontologie du sport Français (CNOSF 2012).
Both emphasise the media’s responsibility to promote fair play and
set a positive example to children and young people. Moreover, the
Code of sports ethics, devised by the Portuguese Institute for Sport
and Youth (
Ethics.pdf), includes a section on recommendations with regard to
objectivity, truth and privacy.
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In addition, the International Paralympic Committee (2014) created
an 18-page document entitled Guide to reporting on persons with
an impairment. This easy-to-use guide provides journalists with
general rules and a list of preferred terminology and incorrect terms.
Similarly, in 2012 the British Paralympic Association published
Guide to reporting on paralympic sport, (
Paralympic_Sport.pdf). The Special Olympics (2014) Style guide is
also available to practitioners.
Other external recommendations
Recommendations also come from institutions that promote
the appropriate use of language, such as Fundación del Español
Urgente (Fundéu), created in 2005 by the news agency EFE and
BBVA with the support of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE). In
2013, Fundéu created a specific section on the language of
football, entitled ‘Liga BBVA del Español Urgente’ (http://www. Recommendations
for the whole sports community are included in Violence in sport
deporte.pdf), a document jointly produced in 2009 by the
Andalusian Audiovisual Council and the regional Federation of
Sports Journalists (FPDA).
Media observatories and specialised publications in media criticism
Although there is a lack of observatories exclusively devoted to
sports journalism, the largest publications related to media criticism
around the world examine the good and bad practices of sports
media. A relevant example here is Ética Segura, a site created by
Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (Colombia), which
regularly promotes debates about ethical issues in the sports field
Scholars’ and citizens’ blogs
Finally, other innovative instruments such as scholars’ and
citizens’ blogs also promote reflection on news quality. In
Spain, we highlight La Buena Prensa (http://labuenaprensa. and Periodismo Deportivo de Calidad (http:// In the United
States, two key examples should be considered: the blogs from
the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University (http:// and the Center for Journalism Ethics at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison (http://ethics.journalism.wisc.
Creating a new specialised code in the field
Bearing in mind that ‘sports journalism should not be exempt from
scrutiny regarding conventional professional criteria within the news
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arena’ (Rowe 2007: 386), researchers examined all the materials
included in Accountable Sports Journalism to produce a new
ethical code, named ‘Guidelines for covering sports responsibly’
( In order to
bridge the gap between the ideal and professional practice and
to encourage journalists to use such guidelines, these have been
kept as short and operational as possible. The Decalogue, which
was first presented in October 2017 at the annual conference of
the Institute of Communication Ethics (‘Sports journalism: Ethical
vacuum or ethical minefield?’), in London, presents the following
1. Public function and right to sports information
Sports journalists should report on all areas of sport. As an
essential part of their public-service approach, they should not
only concentrate on mainstream disciplines but also give exposure
to underrepresented sports that generate news and have a large
number of practitioners. This can help to broaden the coverage and
expand citizens’ sporting culture. Media professionals should not
report on the private lives of sports people unless the information is
relevant to understanding the athletes’ performance.
2. Conflict of interest
Sports journalists should avoid taking part in activities that lie
outside of their professional realm or in employment that may
create conflict of interest. This includes working in the field of public
relations (PR) and as advisors for a sports person, club or federation,
and writing for a team or league publication. Editors and reporters
cannot be sources who are assigned to themselves. Behaving
professionally entails remaining loyal to the news organisation for
which one works.
3. Hospitality from sources and independence
Sports journalists should reject invitations and gifts from teams
or promoters that could call into question their working as
independent eyewitnesses. Likewise, they should not use their
position as journalists to obtain free tickets for any sports event
from sources other than those which customarily make passes or
tickets available when a performance has a clear bearing on the
journalist’s job.
4. Newsgathering and impartiality
Sports journalists should avoid developing a close relationship with
sports sources and maintain a critical distance by seeking and using
a varied and representative number of arguments and facts on any
issue, and presenting them appropriately without bias towards their
audiences. They should also avoid misconduct such as ‘boosterism’
and nationalistic or chauvinistic approaches. Impartiality entails
being professional rather than behaving like fans.
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5. Factual reporting
Sports journalists are committed to truthful and factual reporting.
They should establish a clear distinction between facts and
their personal opinions about them, as well as between news
and advertising or sponsored content. Reinforcing methods
of verification is essential to the fight against fake news, the
pervasiveness of speculation and rumour in sports content, and to
discarding sensationalism and trivialisation in news reporting.
6. Journalistic quality and use of language
Sports journalists are committed to journalistic quality and must,
therefore, rely on a correct use of language as their main working
tool by which to enhance their stories. Acquiring a vast vocabulary
and developing the ability to use suitable words and phrases in
referring to any sportsperson are valuable assets towards improving
content quality within the field.
7. Promotion of positive sports values
Sports journalists should contribute to the promotion of positive
values, such as fair play, non-discrimination and international peace
and understanding through their coverage of sports events among
citizens, with special attention for youth and children.
8. Violence in sports
Sports journalists must avoid using warlike language, as well as
disseminating expressions and images that emphasise or legitimate
any form of violence towards individuals or groups of people within
or outside sports venues. Sport is not a substitute for war. Thus,
journalists must minimise confrontational narratives and warlike
9. Gender perspective
To counteract the long-standing under-representation of
sportswomen, sports journalists should work with greater
dedication to promote equality in their reporting by giving female
athletes more exposure when their results deserve it. More women
should be incorporated as expert sources into the news agenda.
Sexist comments and stereotypes should be avoided when referring
to them.
10. Sports beyond sports
Sports journalists should go beyond the dramatic action on the
field and raise public awareness about relevant contexts that exist
behind the play. Sports should be thoroughly explained from their
social, financial, cultural and political dimensions.
This text is not intended to be read in isolation. Sports journalists
should also observe the general principles of trustfulness, fairness,
social responsibility and respect for the universal values and
Copyright 2018-1/2. Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics. All rights reserved. Vol 15, No 1/2 2018 25
diversity of cultures that are included in the baseline codes of the
profession. These codes are the UNESCO’s International principles
of professional ethics in journalism, the International Federation of
Journalists’ (IFJ) Declaration of principles on the conduct of journalists
and further documents available on https://accountablejournalism.
org/ethics-codes. Beyond these general and specific codes, as well
as their organisations’ in-house guidelines, sports journalists must
seek ethical guidance from within themselves, by placing emphasis
on their individual conscience.
As outlined at the beginning of this paper, many interlinked factors,
constraints, debates and tensions contribute to the quality of the
media’s output in the contemporary ‘fluid and commercially volatile
context’ (Hutchins and Boyle 2017: 496). That being said, sports
journalism is a very important commercial engine for newspapers
and, therefore, its task should be guided by the same professional
values, ethical standards and demands for quality that apply to
all journalism. The escalating pressures, orientation towards the
market and the tensions of immediacy in this high-speed media
landscape should not deter journalists from pursuing the goal of an
ethical and comprehensive treatment of sports that ultimately links
to media’s public service mission in democratic societies.
Weedon and Wilson (2017: 22) pose the following question:
‘Could sports journalism (and its educative forms) in the future
inherit more from the idealist’s vision of journalism as a democratic
project intended for the betterment of society, than from the allure
and prestige of covering sports?’ In the light of this question, we
contend that all the actors involved in the communicative process
(media organisations, citizens and researchers) are responsible in
promoting accountability in sports journalism. With the aim of
contributing to this task, this investigation has located, examined
and made available to professionals, scholars and citizens the most
relevant accountability instruments in this field, stemming from
different countries and journalistic cultures around the world.
Even though there are differences in the ethical practices of sports
journalists ‘based at least partly on the expectations and cultures
within their beats’ (Hardin and Zhong 2010: 9), the resources
available in the Accountable Sports Journalism platform, as well
as the ‘Guidelines for covering sports responsibly’ code, can help
current and future practitioners around the globe to be better
equipped to develop their task.
To capture an even greater idea of accountability in sports
journalism, further work should be carried out. Following the
international approach employed so far, future research must track
and thoroughly examine the new accountability instruments that
emerge in the field. Drawing on these new contributions, which will
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be progressively incorporated into Accountable Sports Journalism,
the proposed guidelines will be updated to point journalists
in the right direction with regard to language and the highest
reporting standards. To maximise the transference of knowledge
of the project, the authors will also present the platform and its
code to professional associations, media organisations and higher
education institutions in different countries.
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Note on the contributors
Xavier Ramon-Vegas is a lecturer in the Department of Communication of Pompeu
Fabra University. He holds a PhD in Communication from the UPF. He is also affiliated
to the Olympic Studies Centre at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (CEO-
UAB). His research focuses on media ethics and accountability and sports journalism.
He has been a visiting researcher at the University of Stirling, the University of
Glasgow, the University of Alabama and the IOC Olympic Studies Centre. Contact
details: Xavier Ramon-Vegas, Pompeu Fabra University, Roc Boronat 138. 08018
Barcelona, Spain. Email:
José-Luis Rojas-Torrijos is a lecturer in journalism at the University of Seville and
EUSA Business University. He also participates in the MA programmes in journalism
28 Copyright 2018-1/2. Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics. All rights reserved. Vol 15, No 1/2 2018
and sports communication of the Pontifical University of Salamanca, Pompeu
Fabra University, European University in Madrid, San Antonio Catholic University in
Murcia and Marca-CEU University. He holds a PhD in Journalism (2010) and a BA
in Information Sciences (1994) from the University of Seville. His research focuses
on sports journalism, ethics and stylebooks. Contact details: José-Luis Rojas-Torrijos,
University of Seville, Avda. Américo Vespucio, s/n. 41092 Sevilla, Spain. Email:
... Rather, professional organizations dedicated to improving sports media standards, like the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), implemented its first code of ethics in 1974, aimed at curbing the acceptance of gifts from sources, gambling on events, and other general conflicts-of-interest (Bradley, 2009). Although the APSE code of ethics received an update in 1991, Ramon-Vegas and Rojas-Torrijos (2018) propose that a new ethics code should be developed emphasizing more of a public service approach to sports journalism than entertainment-based strategies. ...
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On March 11, 2020, the National Basketball Association suspended its season after a player tested positive for COVID-19. Within days, the rest of the sports world similarly suspended play in the wake of the pandemic. This study focuses on sports media storytelling when covering athletic competition was no longer an option. Utilizing four distinct time periods and framing theory as the foundation of our theoretical framework, the content analysis examined shifts from the normal reporting routine and how those shifts morphed as pandemic information dictated. As the pandemic grew more widespread, health and safety became the predominant focus of national sports media. In spring 2020, sports news experienced a significant shift in coverage as economic and fairness frames were replaced with health, safety, and quality of life as the principal frames in the coded articles. By pinpointing the major differences in coverage across time, the study revealed that sports content and frames quickly shifted to reflect the perceived severity to the global health community, while the sources used in those articles stayed largely the same. The theoretical and applied implications of the study are discussed.
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As a crucial part of their mandate, public service media (PSM) have historically used sports to construct and nurture cultural citizenship. In a landscape characterised by dwindling resources and growing competition from pay-TV channels and on-demand streaming services, concerns about how PSM will enhance cultural citizenship through new platforms, including social media, are all the greater. In the digital age, delivering diverse content should remain a foundation of PSM in their countless platforms: public media should not only concentrate on major sports but also provide exposure to traditionally underrepresented disciplines and individuals, including sportswomen and athletes with disabilities. Through content analysis, this research examines the agenda diversity offered by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) through its sports-centred Twitter account (@BBCSport). The analysis of 10,821 tweets indicates how the BBC's content reinforces, rather than counteracts, the long-standing diversity imbalances in the analogue age. This case study facilitates an understanding of the nuanced relationship between PSM, social media, and sports, demonstrating that more content does not necessarily ensure diversity. The football-driven, male-centred, and able-bodied agenda displayed by @BBCSport signals that PSM should reframe their social media strategies to adequately contribute to fostering cultural citizenship.
This first book in the Journalism Insights series examines the major practical and ethical challenges confronting contemporary sports journalists which have emerged from, or been exacerbated by, the use of digital and social media. Combining both quantitative and qualitative research and contributions from industry experts in sports reporting across Europe, America and Australia, the collection offers a valuable look at the digital sports reporting industry today. Issues discussed in the text include the ethical questions created by social media abuse received by sports journalists, the impact of social media on narratives about gender and race, and the 'silencing' of journalists over the issue of trans athletes, as well as the impact on 'traditional' aspects of sports journalism, such as the match report. The book features first-hand accounts from leading sports reporters and scholars of how these changes have affected the industry and sets out what 'best practice' looks like in this field today. This book will be a useful resource to scholars and students working in the fields of journalism, media, sports and communication, as well as to current sports journalism practitioners interested in the future of a changing industry.
Based on interviews with leading sports journalists and grounded in the authors’ experience and expertise in both the sports journalism industry and sports media research, Sports Journalism gives in-depth insight into the editorial and ethical challenges facing sports journalists in a fast-changing media environment. The book considers how sports journalism’s past has shaped its present and explores the future trends and trajectories that the industry could take. The far-reaching consequences of the digital revolution and social media on sports journalists’ work are analysed, with prominent sports writers, broadcasters and academics giving their insights. While predominantly focused on the UK sports media industry, the book also provides a global perspective, and includes case studies, research and interviews from around the world. Issues of diversity – or a lack of it – in the industry are put into sharp focus. Sports Journalism gives both practising sports journalists and aspiring sports journalists vital contextualising information to make them more thoughtful and reflective practitioners.
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This article analyses the Twitter accounts created by four international news media organisations to adapt their stylebooks to this social network.The analysis is based on the comparison of the volume and frequency of tweets, user interactions, use of hashtags and links, engagement and types of content published in Twitter over a two-year period by the selected media organisations. These accountability instruments are continuously updated on Twitter. Two models have been identified: a participatory, multimedia model and an insular, one-way model. Stylebooks on Twitter are more focused on addressing stylistic rather than ethical issues. This fact limits the possibilities of these accounts for accountability purposes.
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Sports journalism has been characterized by a series of ethical deficiencies that have challenged the normative standards of the profession. Media accountability instruments can play an invaluable role in addressing these shortcomings. With this in mind, this article identifies and examines the most relevant accountability instruments in the field of sports journalism, including those produced within media organizations and those created outside of them. The researchers have scrutinized the specialized codes in this area and the stylebooks promoted by major sports media, as well as the recommendations proposed by news agencies, general information outlets and key stakeholders worldwide. Innovative practices such as chats, social media, online ombudsmen, observatories and blogs have also been identified as positive examples of the cultivation of a two-way conversation about the standards for and quality of sports content.
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The consolidation of the counter genre that is long-form sports journalism (LFSJ) is of growing interest to the sports media researcher. In order to trace its expansion across the sports journalism landscape, this article offers a comparative transatlantic case study featuring the entire collection of long-form stories developed by two prestigious publications: the American magazine Sports Illustrated (SI Longform) and the French sports daily L’Équipe (L’Équipe Explore). The study considers the slow journalism heritage of LFSJ and its challenge to established Web interface theology while exploring key issues such as the sports agenda, sourcing and the use of immersive multimedia formats, aimed at improving the sporting culture of its users. The article concludes by considering the pivotal role of LFSJ in the brand-building strategies of the media outlets themselves.
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Sports organisations’ recently acquired ability to deliver their own news — through social and digital platforms— represents a potential paradigm shift in the once symbiotic relationship between sports organisations and the media that cover them. While sports organisations once needed the media to deliver their messages, they now have their own media. This study examined the impact of sports digital and social platforms, such as websites, Twitter and Facebook, on sports journalism through 37 interviews with public relations staff in Australian sports organisations and one targeted case study in a professional Australian Rules Football club competing in the Australian Football League (AFL) in Australia. It found that while public relations staff in Australian sports organisations still value traditional media coverage, they also signalled that their own platforms were increasing in value as distribution channels. The case study of the professional AFL club found that the club selectively chose to distribute some stories on their own platforms instead of through traditional media. These stories were not simply delivered on the club’s own platforms, but the public relations staff actively framed the narrative of these stories for strategic benefit. These results have significant implications for sports journalism, as it suggests the rapid development of sports organisations’ social and digital media platforms has the potential to irrevocably alter the once symbiotic relationship between sport and media.
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Sports journalists have long enjoyed close—many would say too close—relationships with their sources. As suggested by a neoinstitutionalist, understanding of organizational relationships, routines, and professional expectations become accepted over time by journalists and sports organizations alike. However, new competition from online media, as well as new opportunities for teams to bypass the media, have threatened the legitimacy of journalists and their work practices. A survey of 437 reporters and communications personnel found key differences in the ways those in the professions perceived access, suggesting that traditional work patterns are evolving in ways that could delegitimate journalists inside and outside sports.
Sports journalists have often been criticised for their casual approach to work and cheerleading content in stories. This style of journalism contrasts with the traditional norms of objectivity employed in other areas of newsrooms. It is also opposed to the critical watchdog role considered essential to objective reporting. To examine how sports journalists operate in relation to being cheerleaders or critical watchdogs, this study utilises the Australia–India Test cricket series of 2014–15 as a platform to investigate sports journalists’ views, and the content they produce. It employs in-depth interviews with 18 sports journalists from Australian and Indian newspaper organisations in conjunction with a content analysis of 1265 articles from eight Australian and Indian publications. This allows a comparison of the perceptions of the sports journalists with what they are producing in their stories. Selecting a major international event with historical importance, such as the Australia–India Test series, is important in providing an example for analysis of whether contemporary sports journalists have confused the roles of reporter and supporter. An important finding in this study, given the long-standing criticism of sports journalists, was a considerably higher proportion of critical reports about the series in both nations than of cheerleading. Overall, this was consistent with the perceptions of the sports journalists in the in-depth interviews.
This qualitative textual analysis considers the US press coverage of Alex Rodriguez for his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. It evaluates nearly 500 newspaper, magazine and broadcast reports from 2007 to 2014 on Rodriguez, as well as reader and journalistic responses, and finds issues of overt and inferential racism, stereotyping and symbolic impurity, and a crude emphasis on money in the coverage. This research considers the ethics of the press coverage through a framework of Critical Race Theory and suggests an approach rooted in communitarian ethics to foster greater social justice and balance in sports media coverage.
This research study considered the desired job skills for future newspaper sports reporters and television sports reporters in the convergence journalism era. A national survey of newspaper sports editors and TV sports directors ranked their five most important skills using open-ended responses. Although the skills were not correlated at each level of importance, a significant and strong correlation was found in overall rankings. Both groups stressed fundamental skills such as writing, but specialization was also important, especially production skills for TV sports journalists. Also, participants wanted applicants with a wider variety of skills to meet the demands of a converged media environment and a shrinking workforce.
Lisa M. George of Hunter College and Editor-in-Chief, Information Economics and Policy reviews “Out of Print: Newspapers, Journalism and the Business of News in the Digital Age”, by George Brock. The Econlit abstract of this book begins: “Examines the past, present, and future of the news and journalism industry, and considers how journalism can flourish in a new communications age by exploiting developing opportunities, with a special focus on the United Kingdom. Discusses communicating whatever we please; the newspaper industry in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the broadcasting era and the decline of newspapers; the development of the Internet; rethinking journalism again; the business model crumbling; credibility crumbling; the Leveson Inquiry's judgment; the generation of creative energy to rebuild with new materials; and clues to the future. Brock is Professor and Head of Journalism at City University London.”