Knowing sport is your job if you're a newsreader
Reading a very insightful blog about radio news recently there was a reference to sport coverage and that the writer would treat this separately. It’s not unusual to have different rules or advice for covering sport and what we deem ‘normal’ news. However, over the years I have lost count of the number of times colleagues have too easily dismissed the world of sport. I have often been told ‘I don’t do sport - so can you help me write it?’. It’s not with pride they say it but nevertheless they are not shy to admit it.
Imagine though if I said the same thing about politics. Would it be acceptable for me to dismiss every story from Westminster just because I don’t understand or care about it? Of course not. What if I said that about crime stories? My role as a journalist – and particularly one that works in radio – is to embrace all news. That includes everything. So not just current affairs but sport as well. Entertainment often gets treated in the same way. Easily dismissed as gossip rather than news. But big showbiz stories need the same respect as ‘hard news’. Likewise big sport stories.
If you are working in a newsroom where sport will be significant, you need to make even more of an effort to embrace it. When I worked at Fox FM in the 1990s, Formula One was of huge importance because Silverstone was in the area, as were a number of the teams’ headquarters. Often a journalist would join the radio station and know nothing about F1. But it was their job to research it, perhaps watch it and understand it.
I have always been interested in lots of sport and therefore have had to work harder at getting a grip on some other aspects of news. I would expect the same from journalists who feel more comfortable in the world of politics but have to also include sport in their bulletins.
Radio news can feel very transient as we read a few words and move on. But you still have to understand what you are saying and writing. You can be sure sports fans are more likely to notice (and then tell you via social media) if you say a team name or a player name wrong than people will pick up on someone saying Istanbul’s the capital of Turkey.
In the modern multi platform newsroom it is not just different skills that we need to learn but also a broader subject area. One day you can be leading the news with a prime minister resigning but the next day with a football manager being sacked. News is news – and that includes sport.