Updated: Jul 13, 2020
Sports journalism is not what it once was. Today’s sports journalists have to adapt or perish.
Since the advancement of technology and media, journalism has to adjust to the paradigm shift, especially sports journalism. When news broke in the sports world, fans would have to tune into radio broadcasts or read the newspaper the next day to find out what happened. Today, sports journalists can reveal breaking news with a tweet on Twitter or a television special announcing and reporting the news.
Darryl Ledbetter, the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who is a three-time Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) award winner, says “being versatile” is the key for young sports journalists to be competitive today. “Nowadays, you got to be able to write the story, go on TV and tell the story and go on the radio and talk about the story,” he said. Ledbetter, who has worked in both print and broadcast media, conveys that being multifaceted in sports journalism is the catalyst to being successful.
Moreover, in order to be competitive in sports journalism, practice is necessary. He said sports journalists should “get involved with the student newspaper” and “start [their] own blog or social media to build [their] presence.” These practices will allow young journalists to have experience in the sports world while building up their brand. Also, he wants sports journalists to know to “tell the truth, no matter good or bad.” He gave a real life example where he criticized former Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper. He would critique his game hard due to Hooper dropping a lot of passes. Although Hooper expressed his frustration, Ledbetter continued to critically analyze his game because that is his duty.
Likewise, Leo Willingham, a 25 year sports writer and editor for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, shared similar sentiments with Ledbetter. “Keep your options open and be digital-oriented,” he said. He went on to talk about the importance of internships and how sports journalists should pursue them. He said starting small then building up is better than immediately working at a big name media like the AJC or ESPN. Further, when it comes to writing stories, Willingham encourages sports journalists to separate themselves. “There is always another person or another angle to take to separate yourself,” he said. Separating yourself is valuable in a competitive environment, but competition isn’t a bad thing. “Competition breeds success,” he says. Journalists should strive to be the best in their writing and reporting against others in order to better themselves.