JournoFest 2022: Why sports journalism matters

The JournoFest panel ‘More than a game: why sports journalism matters’ explored the value of sport reporting in today’s world, writes Manchester sports journalism trainee Tum Balogun.

Met with a frankly daunting question our four JournoFest panellists offered up a variety of sobering responses.

Thankfully though, despite our sporting landscape being set to a backdrop of sportswashing and deception, the message was not entirely solemn.

There was also a trove of golden nuggets for the aspiring sports journalists in attendance. 

The Times chief sports correspondent, Matt Lawton, believes sport today is vulnerable to corruption and abuse. 

“If it wasn’t for sports journalism, a lot of this stuff would be going unchecked,” he said. 

Freelance broadcaster Katie Shanahan agreed. “The quality of it matters most of all,” she said. “We’re surrounded by so much information.”

For Leon Mann, founder of BCOMS – a collective which aims to improve diversity in sport media – sport reporting is a hook that provides a perfect platform to bridge the gap to audiences. 

The importance of the medium was undeniable as the panellists spoke just hours after news broke of an announcement by young Championship footballer Jake Daniels, the UK’s first openly gay active male player in over 30 years.

Mann said: “Be it taking the knee or the news today about Jake, all of those things introduce themes, ideas and discussions into households that wouldn’t necessarily be having them.”

Shanahan added: “It’s our job to tell their stories.”

Sky Sports very own – or should I say – Deadline Day’s very own, Dharmesh Sheth argued today’s insatiable demand has a large role to play in the importance of sports journalism. 

From breaking transfer news to hard-hitting investigative pieces, there has never been so much desire for content. 

He said: “Whether it’s good news or bad news, I think there is a huge appetite for sports journalism now.” 

He also stressed the need for young journalists to compile an extensive contacts book. Yes, a book of contacts. 

“You never know when you might need them,” he added. 

So why does sports journalism matter? Well because sports journalism is journalism. It’s everything, everywhere, all at once. 

Our sports reflect our societies and as long as there is a need to report on scandals in Downing Street, pressing social issues or even the latest tabloid goss, there will always be a need to shine a light on those same issues in the sports we love. 

More than a game: why sports journalism matters’ was the third panel in a week of captivating events. Read about the full JournoFest line-up here.

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