Out With The Old, In With The New: The Threat of Social Media on the Practice of Sports Journalism

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Nov 13, 2013 (3 years and 5 months ago)


Out With The Old, In With
The New: The Threat of
Social Media on the Practice
of Sports Journalism



Friday 15

March 2013

Word Count: 10,997


Supervisor: Peter Millward



I would firstly like to thank my dissertation supervisor Dr. Peter Millward, who
provided me with valuable provision and support from the foundation to the completion
of this dissertation, helping to ensure my enthusiasm remained relentless throughout.

must also thank my parents, for instilling within me a belief that good, honest hard
work produces success.

In loving memory of Derek Clark, who taught me perseverance and determination, when
he reminded me every day to “keep your eye on the ball”.


Supervisor: Peter Millward



This dissertation explores

how modern sports journalists are changing their working
practices to accommodate for the recent technological advancement of social media
Using an intepretivist research
approach, eight semi
structured interviews
were conducted over Skype with professional sports journalists. This qualitative
methodological approach amassed data at a micro level, rather than macro level as
undertaken in previous research
within this field

Thematic analysis of the interview
transcriptions was performed to identify key


of the

how social media sites such as Twitter are dynamically
influencing the practices of sports journalism by increasing the professionalism
required, the necessity of building rapport and the

of social media policy


Supervisor: Peter Millward


Contents Page


p. 2


p. 3

Contents Page

p. 4

Chapter One
: Introduction

p. 5

Chapter Two
The Past Presents The Future: How Technology Has Shaped Sports Journalism

Literature Review


Understanding the Future Through the Past




Social Media and Sports Journalism




Twitter: A Revolutionary Social Media Format




Virtual Rapport: Creating an Identity and Online Trust



The Transformation of Me
dia Hierarchies via Social Media




Citizen Journalism and Social Media



Authenticity Within Social Media



2.8 Social Media Policy: A Balancing Act



An Ambiguous Horizon






Research Design



3.2 Participants


3.3 Methods






3.5 Data Handling



3.6 Ethics






Chapter Four
Changing the
Game: Breaking Boundaries of Sports Journalism

Results and



4.1 Professionalism



4.2 Rapport



4.3 Policy



4.4 Concluding Summary



Chapter Five

Future or Fad? Further Considerations and
Study Limitations

5.1 Conclusion







5.3 Final Thoughts







Appendix A



Appendix B



Appendix C




Supervisor: Peter Millward


Chapter One


This dissertation argues that social media is impacting on the professional practice of
sports journalists by: increasing professionalism through increased working hours,
brevity, legitimacy and immediacy; building audience rapport;
of social media policy by media corporations.

Following the rising use of social media as a journalistic apparatus, coupled with the
potential it holds to transform media

, it is the impact of
that is the core of this research


qualitative methods,

dissertation investigates
how social media is influencing tradition

sports journalism.


collecting data

at a micro

this study will
adjustments experienced by sports
journalists as they are f
orced to embrace
social media.

Little research has been undertaken to explore the impact this revolutiona
ry media
format is having on

sports journalism
; an

industry that has adopted technological
advancements since the creation of

the printing press. Therefore, this study was

to provide an understanding of the impact of social media. Such analysis is
important to ensure that social media does not destroy sports journalism in the Digital
Age, but compliments traditional fo
rmats sufficiently.

As an innovative dissertation, this study used a novel approach to research. Using
Skype to conduct interviews with participants, a technological method that has not
been used extensively in previous literature, reflects the original
flair of this

Supervisor: Peter Millward


dissertation. Directing research using such technological methods is pioneering to the
realm of research. Where previous difficulties arose using traditional research
techniques associated with expense, geographical locality and accommodating

subject’s schedule, technological modern formats, such as Skype, overcome such
confines. Hine (2005, p.246), identifies that,

‘this air of innovation and anxiety is a valuable asset that Internet research can
build on and sustain, in order to maximize

the potential for reflexive thinking
about social science that it offers’.

The subsequent dissertation will combine

chapters: the literature revie
w; within
which the exploration

and evaluation of relevant literature will occur; a methodology;

the justification and explanation of chosen res
earch methods will be outlined;

discussion section; which will investigate and appraise discovered theme
s stemming
from the systematic

; and a final chapter delineating future considerations,
sive inferences and limitations of the study

The objectives of this di
ssertation are to understand: ‘h
ow do sports journalists think
social media has affected professional dimensions of the
sports journalism industry?’;
ow do sports journalists think

social media can allow them to build on
relationships?’; and ‘w
hy do sports journalists believe social media policies should, or
should not, be implemented by media organisations? Overall, the broader research
question to be a
nswered within this
thesis is ‘h
ow does social media impact on the
practice of sports journalism?’


Supervisor: Peter Millward


Chapter Two

The Past Presents The Future: How Technology Has Shaped Sports Journalism

Literature Review

Twitter is a prodigious Internet phenomenon. With an estimated 32% of
Internet users registered to the social media site (Honigman, 2012), it is astonishing
that the impact of Twitter on a wide variety of professions, including sports
journalism, has not been analysed in academic research more intricately. A ‘real
information network’ (Twitter, 2013), founded in 2006 (Gruzd
et al
., 2011), Twitter
allows users to send 140
character messages to one another defined as ‘tweets’
(Lomicka and Lord, 2012). The extent to which sports journalists are using Twitter
the question as to why they are engaging in such a phenomenon and what
changes it is placing upon them as professionals. Twitter has encouraged the move
towards the current Digital Age, which sociologists describe as an age,

‘in which people are networked
together through technology and rely on such
things as television, radio, and computers with which to conduct their lives,
creating a culture different from that which came before’ (John
son, 2000

The implications of such technological advancements
must be understood thoroughly
alongside the history of journalism to allow sports media personnel to excel. The
following chapter argues that social media is impacting on sports journalism as other
technological advancements have done so previously. Social

media and the bearing it
is placing upon media hierarchies and the public perception of sports journalists is
also explored, alongside how ordinary citizens can be perceived as ‘journalists’
through their social media activity. The concept of social media

policy is similarly

Supervisor: Peter Millward


investigated, discussing whether the current policies in the industry are effective, and
if they are restrictive to journalist’s professional interests.


Understanding the Future Through the Past

It is often said that to underst
and the future, one must understand the past and
‘throughout history, technology and the media of public communication have
travelled paths often intertwined’ (Pavlik, 2008, p.1).
Previously, technology has
dictated the

of each message we conduc
t; yet today, in the ‘Digital A
the power to communicate is undeniably immeasurable (Murthy, 2011). Mass
defined as ‘communication reaching large numbers of people,
primarily developing in just the last 500 years’ (Lee, 2008, p.158) and
formerly a
monologue transaction (Castells, 2009), has been reconfigured by digital media,
‘an alternative, unorthodox, and questioni
ng voice’ (Harcup, 2011, p. 23)
generating a domain for intercultural discourse (Miah, 2010).

A combination

of technological progression and social change has ‘helped spark the
demand and innovation necessary for creating today’s mass media’ (Lee, 2008,
p.158). The most imperative milestone in the expansion of mass communication came
n 1440,


Johannes Gute

unded the printing press in Mainz, Germany
(Farah, 2007
). This revolutionary invention

shift from script to print,
embodying an indisputable

industrial and public mutation. As the public developed an
enthusiastic appetite for informatio
n, a

cultural drift
showing how news
dispersal impacted on

social status

‘you were what you knew’ (Conboy
, 2004, p.
18). As subversive

as the computer would later be on society, the invention of the
in the early 1800s (Brake and Demo
or, 2009)
forced a substantial increase

Supervisor: Peter Millward


in typing skills and eliminated the need for
good penmanship
and a growth in the
profession of journalism ensued
(Squier, 1919).
Almost a century later, in 1937, the
first functioning computer, of which we are famili
ar with

n today’s society, was
created (Mayo, 1985).

This rapid development from agricultural to industrialised societies was subjective to
the improvement of media, as well as the technological advancements involved in the
medias expansion (Beniger, 198
6). The Industrial Revolution provided a period in
which education and transportation thrived (Hartwell, 1971), supporting a ‘spur reader
demand and hence the growth of newspapers, books and magazines’ (Lee, 2008,

‘From the simple, crude printing

techniques of yesteryear to today’s
sophisticated digital communications that canvas the globe, the mass media
have continually evolved and adapted to changing demands and technological
opportunities’ (Lee, 2008, p.159).

The media has established into a
relentless domain as an integrated combination of
new and old technology forms.
The constant evolution
in the news media has subtly
formed a history
, according to Steinb
urg (1961 cited Eisenstein, 2012
) ‘is an
integral part of the g
eneral history of c
ivilization’ (p.4).


this flashed
historical narration

is not
directly related to journalism,
it must
be emphasis
ed tha
t it composed quantities of
societal and economic alterations

formed modern society
. These adaptations then created necessary conditions in which

could prosper into the Digital A
ge of
that is currently prevalent.


Supervisor: Peter Millward



Social Media and Sports Journalism

The fluctuating field of media consumption is dependent upon a mult
iplicity of
elements, ‘including the evolution of new media technologies, wider public access to
the internet, [and] the globalisation of information flows’ (Anderson, 2006; Gillmor,
2005; Lasica, 2003 cited Mythen, 2010
, p.45
), constructing a p
ioneering s
phere of

, 2007). As technology has developed, such advances have
inevitably formed the provision of
sports journalism (Conboy, 2004)

‘has become one of the most important sections of the UK media,
greatly in the amou
nt and prominence of coverage it receives and the respect it
gets within the wider profession’ (Boyle, 2006a; Boyle, 2006b cited Price
., 2012, p.10).

Sports journalism
is undergoing ‘a time of radical media change’ (Miah
, 2010, p.2);
sts into a competitive

digital domain (Sanderson and Hambrick, 2012
The revolution of digital media ‘seems to add another dimension that questions
previous boundaries and definitions of professional journalism’ (Domingo
et al
2008, p.326), dilapidating

the precincts of reporting and hinting t
hat our current
concept of ‘
media’ is self
destructing (Couldry, 2009).

revious rese
arch into social media within the sporting field

has taken place on a
evel. Overlooking the implications of such a sensa
on on sports journalism,
earlier studies have examined the emergent use of systems on professional athletes
Pegoraro, 2010; Kassing and Sanderson,

. Therefore, many of the earlier
findings undertaken within t

have failed to produce

empirical studies
examining how
media members employ social media, such as Twitter
Kassing and
Sanderson, 2010). Ahmad (2010, p.147) identifies: ‘within academia… virtually

Supervisor: Peter Millward


nothing has yet been published on Twitter in journalism studies, the social scien
or, for that matter, in the field of media studies’.
research, however,

has been
piloted on a quantitative level, producing statistics that lack a complex examination of
the imperative issue. Consequently, ‘as the Internet has seemingly emerged as

medium for the future of sport reporting, it is integral to know the dispositions of this
new era of journalists’ (Kian
et al
., 2011, p.39) a
s well as the inferences of
media on sports journalism.

Kassing and
Sanderson (201
0) claim

that socia
l media
is becoming fundamental to
sports journa
lists, serving as both an information source and
a means for distributing
information to consumers (Hutchins, 2011). Reducing the barriers between athletes,
journalists and fans, social media is amplifying pr
eviously impeded communication
Kassing and Sanderson, 2010

as well as restructuring concepts of space, time and
place (Mythen, 2010).


Twitter: A Revolutionary Format

Twitter, the most profound network in the social media shift, was founded in 2


is said to have reached 500 million users worldwide (Semiocast, 2012).
primary users of Twitter are aged 35

years old (Gregory, 2009),

the demographics of sports consumption (Gantz and Wenner, 1991 cited Shultz and
, 2010) and
reasoning the social media bearing on sports journalism.
Now the
second most popular social network site, topped only by the omnipresent Facebook
(Keneally, 2012), Twitter allows users to send 140
character messages referred to as
‘tweets’. Eac

message a member sends is
transmitted to the person’s ‘followers’, a
relationship which ‘requires no reciprocation’ (Kwak
et al

2010, p.591).

Supervisor: Peter Millward


can respond to a tweet by replying, or ‘re
tweeting’ the

message to their own
followers and t

can be directed by using ‘@’ followed by the individu
username (Murthy, 2011). U
sers can identify a sear
ch term by using a hash tag (#),
which although o
riginally used by Twitter to express a ‘trending’ topic (Page, 2012),
now represent
s a

social tend
ncy. How a

function of

social network site can escalate
into a social phrase, as ‘LOL’ previously did, reflects the prominence of Twitter
within the social sphere.


Virtual Rapport: Creating an Identity and Online Trust

Twitter allows communic
on amongst its users
without the intervention of
gatekeepers vital in offline settings (Lister
et al
., 2009). However,

the identities
shared via the network are often
‘staged selves’ (Page, 2012)
performed to serve a
ournalists often create perso
nas to operate

as reliable news sources

and play
a supporting role in the ‘soap opera of the digital age’
Wahbe, 2011, n.p.). Now, the
magnitude of a follower list on Twitter has been socially constructed to represent a
sign of status (Page, 2012), with s
ome sports journalists hosting as many followers as


Social Medias

Transformation of Media Hierarchies


transition of media formats is forcing a shift in the purpose

of media centres.
Rather than
being controlled outputs of materi
al, media organisations are
to provide arenas for innovation, democracy and participation (Miah, 2011).
(2012, p.318) claim

that social media ‘disrupts the authority of the journalist as the
professional who decides what the public needs to know
and when it needs to know

Benkler (2006, p.32) describes an emerging ‘simple coordinate existence’ as a

Supervisor: Peter Millward


sult of such a media r
evolution as

d’Entreves (1992, cited Harcup, 2011, p.17)
likewise note


ability of citizens to enlarge their opinions and to test their judgements
can only flourish in a public culture of democratic participation that
guarantees to everyone the right to action and opinion’.

An outburst from a citizen, however, is not enough
to transform their status into that
of a journalist. The public ultimately find interest in the stories themselves, rather than
wrote them, which suggests that
‘citizen journalists are ephemeral, vanishing
after their fifteen minutes in the limelight

(Murthy, 2011, p.14).

Social media, whilst destructing media hierarchies, ‘demands adjustment and
reorganization in both media and sports industries’ (Hutchins and Rowe, 2009, p.
354). As
Curran identifies
e various forms of social media,

‘enable diverg
ent social groups to define and constitute themselves, facilitate
internal strategic debate, and further the forceful transmission of their
concerns and viewpoints to a wider public.’ (


Social media can inform us

considerably about the current

state of media

The concept of digital media has
evolved from

discontent with the ‘epistemology of
news’ (Atton and Ham
ilton cited Harcup, 2011, p.16),
signalling that changes ensure
the positivity of
media. Previous research (Harcup, 2011) h
as identified an
axiomatic societal requisite for other media formats, and has expressed that digital
media is

fitting solution to placate such a desire.


Supervisor: Peter Millward



Citizen Journalism

and Social Media

Many of the

most iconic images present within

first century media are a result
of ordinary citizens distributing their i
nvolvements in

an incident via

and Veglis, 2012). Miah (2010, p.5) believes that ‘digital media has given rise to a
proliferation of citizen journalists’ as
smart phones in particu
lar, allow everyday

who happen to be in the right place, at the right time, share their
experiences with a p
ractically infinite audience instantaneously.

The term ‘citizen journalism’, although
not yet

ing a certain

2003), refers to th
e online engagement

by everyday consumers, in journalistic duties
(Goode, 2009).

their own
media forms
, active citizens are, or at least
attempting to, give themselves a voice (Harcup, 2011). Through online

sense of
is created within the public sphere. Digital media ensures that the
conversation between media and consumer is no longer monologue, and is
ental to how identities form.

Couldry (2009, p.437) acknowledges, ‘producer
and consumers of media are often now the same p
erson’ and
it has been reasoned that,

‘the increasing ubiquity of the internet shifts the balance between expert
knowledge, everyday experience and personal testimony and increases
opportunities for public p
articipation in debat
es around shared risk’ (Hughes
, 2006, p.266).

Atton and Couldry (2003) iden
tify that

active citizenship is a result of dissatisfaction
with media, thereby ascertaining a crippling problem for media on an empirical level.
By pro
viding a contrasting voice to the professional journalists, Mythen (2010, p.49),
claims that citizen journalists are uniting,


Supervisor: Peter Millward


‘against the tendency within professional journalism to produce black and
white accounts of news events that gloss over the grey a
reas that might
otherwise be productively debated’.

Alternatively, the development of citizen
journalism can be acknowledged
from a
sociologically oriented
approach, as a response to the

intricacies of society and
serving as a resolution to the defiant pro
cess of public interaction in a

social network (Domingo
et al
., 2008).

The proliferation of

alternative media form

does not distinctly divide citizens and
journalists, or traditional and modern media forms, as Schaffer (2007) predicts

journalism holds the potential to link traditional journalism with new media. Citizen
journalism offers abundant opportunities for insi
ght, however it
s critics focus on the
lack of
reflexivity, little

iliarity of
libel legislation


its focus
on promoting

than accurate n
ews (Mythen, 2010). Meyer (2007

Mythen, 2010, p.55) rationalis
such polar opinions, stating:

‘debating over citizen journalism is like arguing over a Rorschach test. Each
sees in it the manifestatio
n of his or her fondest hopes or worst fears’.

Citizen journalism has been praised for i
ts open stance on news and how it

‘can lead to greater depth of expression and wider understanding of the
consequences of particular life events and dis
er, 20
01, p.189).
Giving an unedited
account of

incident adds ‘an instant and shocking visual
element to the unfolding tragedy that simply would not have been possible in previo
epochs’ (Mythen, 2010, p.50) and Couldry

(2009, p.438)

claims that a deep
‘transformation is underway that challenges the ontology on which the mass

Supervisor: Peter Millward


communication paradigm was based’. Offering an alternative
journalism has
the potential to interrogate

social judgements associat
ed with events
(Mythen, 2010). According to Johnson (2009 cited Schultz and Sheffer, 2010, p.229


actually having a genuine, public conversation with a group that
extends far beyond our nuclear family and our next
door neighbours… it adds
a second layer of discussion and brings a wider audience into wh
at would be a
private exchange.’

The creation of
ories in which individuals can express their

opinion is
acknowledged as ‘crucial to their possibilities of acting as cit
izens’ by Couldry (2006,
p.326) as

Harcup (2011) su
ggests that citizen journalism
can be rigorously
comprehended in relation to
ntribution. Mouffe (1992) insinuates

that active
citizenship is

not a consequence of habitation
, but rather necessitates the custom of
social involvement:

‘A radical, democratic citizen must be an active citizen, somebody who acts as
a citizen, who conceiv
es of herself a participant in a collective undertaking’
(1992, p.4).

Correspondingly, Mouffe proposes that active citizenship is a procedure as opposed to
a rank (Harcup, 2011).

This links to sports journalism, as social media gives sports
fans a ‘strong
consumer identity that facilitates the unravelling of the primacy of
national identity’ (Levermore and Millward, 2007, p.145). Therefore, fans gain a
sense of involvement through their dispersal of information via social media.


Supervisor: Peter Millward




n Social Media

Digital media has triggered
temptations to publish

news stories before their

been confirmed ‘to the point where websites have reported the death of somebody
only to retract it later’ (Andrews, 2011, p.10). Such a rapid need fo
r information does
not necessarily detract from the quality of sports news (Andrews, 2011), but suggests
that ‘lies can indeed go around the world whilst truth is pulling its boots on’ (Mythen,
2010, p.52).

‘On Twitter because it’s there and people see it
, it’s got that broadcast quality
and you assume, in most cases wrongly, it has reliability.’ (Bond, 2012, n.p.).

Bond, as noted in the above quote,


envisions the future of his profession in

accuracy of

tweets, rather than the ‘cases of hoaxe
s and patent misinformation’

2011, p.14)

found on social media that can have devastating implications on
susceptible communities.

With an estimated 400 million tweets sent

(Costolo, 2012) it is inevitable that
issues surrounding content i
ntegrity occur (Mythen, 2010). Media

are now
being faced with an ultimatum: be first or be accurate (
Kassing and
Sanderson, 2010).
Citizen journalists, however, have no fear of consequence when publishing

and do not

distance their opi
nion from their content, often distorting their
depiction of news events. In contrast, editors implement policies on gathering data,

double check facts and lawyers
are employed to

be certain content is

with libel law (Mythen, 2010),
giving the qualified journalists, ultimately,
the u
pper hand.
Mainstream media organisations do not hold ‘an unblemished record
so far as accuracy and impartiality is concerned’ (Mythen, 2010, p.52), however,


Supervisor: Peter Millward


‘there is perhaps more accountability and more
at stake for professional
journalists in maintaining a tight ethical code and steering clear of hearsay’
(Mythen, 2010, p.52).


Social Media Policy: A Balancing Act

With the aforementioned issues surrounding illegitimacy, media organisations have
ome susceptible to the notion of implementing social media policies. As a fresh
media format, corporations are facing concerns with applying effective policies
without limiting their social media output. With insufficient literature available on
social med
ia policy, it is yet to be analysed intricately to provide reliable data and
suggestions for execution. Flynn (2012) describes the process of implementing a
social media policy as a ‘balancing act’:

‘On the one hand, you want to provide enough social web
access to keep your
business thriving and maintain consideration for some level of personal usage.
On the other hand, you are obligated to manage social media use effectively in
order to protect your organization’s assets, reputation, and future’ (p.2).

msterdam University Press (2005) denotes that media policy in general ‘urgently
needs such a future
oriented re
appraisal of the current paradigm’ (p.9). However,
Barefoot and Szabo (2009) argue that Microsoft provide an excellent example of
effective poli
cy making, simply by telling their employees, “don’t be stupid” (p.148).
This policy is founded on the belief that employees who understand the company’s
strategies will act accordingly, acknowledging what to reveal and what not to reveal,
regardless of th
eir environment. Utilising a ‘no
use’ policy on social media can be as
damaging to a company as much as an inaccurate tweet or negative employee

Supervisor: Peter Millward


outburst. Audi Inc. appreciated the importance of social media in 2011, when,
following a US snowstorm tweeted,

“Did your car get you stuck or get you home?”
The response led to the discovery of a homemade video of a customer testing an Audi
during the blizzard, and subsequently, Audi used the video in television
advertisements (Ernst and Young, 2012).

A policy i
s a formalis
ed code of ethics, putting parameters around online use
(Barefoot and Szabo, 2009). Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) state that organisations
require a custom social media policy, independent to their consumers and employees
needs as much as
their ow
n branding. Jones (2012

cited Durrani, 2012) advocates that
companies should take ‘social responsibility’ and engage with consumers, meanwhile
maintaining a professional approach. With organisations lacking understanding of
social media, many are choosing
to restrict their journalists social media use, yet
san (2012
cited Fidelibus, 2012, n.p.) denotes, ‘remember that part of the
reason you hired these people is their personal brand in the first place’ and therefore
journalists should not be permitt
ed from creating an online personality.


An Ambiguous Horizon

Social media, as a dynamic framework


whenever users output

(Trogemann and Pelt, 2006)

played ‘a constructive part of Olympic
consumption and production’ (Miah, 2011, n.p.)
during London 2012. This
that news organisations are
recognising the possibilities of incor
porating citizen
journalism features to add value to their news pac
Singer and Ashman,
Some scholars suggest that this is the direction that all media organisations are
ng with Bardoel and Deuze (2001)
claiming prospective reporters will


Supervisor: Peter Millward


‘serve as a node in a complex environment between technology and s
between news and analysis, between annotation and selection, between
orientation and investigation’ (p. 100).

However, there is still an ambiguous horizon concerning the

future of sports
journalism and social media.
Therefore, it is principal to

phenomenon and

prevailing research underpinnings, particularly through investigating the

practices of sports journalists
An analysis of how journalists perceive social media in
a professional capacity is required, alongside discoveri
ng how journalists use social
media to develop audience rapport. As media organisations imminently seek to
employ social media policies, an exploration of the necessities of policy from the
perception of sports journalists is vital.

A concise summary and
explanation of the methods used in this study will follow this
literature review
The methods undertaken are the most suitable for achieving the
objectives of this research: (i) ‘How do sports journalists think social media has
affected professional dimens
ions of the sports journalism industry’, (ii) ‘How do
sports journalists think social media can allow them to build on audience
relationships?’ and (iii) ‘Why do sports journalists believe social media policies
should, or should not, be implemented by medi
a organisations?’ The aim of this
dissertation is to determine, ‘How does social media impact on the practice of sports


Supervisor: Peter Millward


Chapter Three


Within this chapter, the research methods adopted during this pragmatic research
project will
be reflexively presented
. Through focus on participants, selection of
methods, interviews, data analysis and ethics, this methodology will provide a
thorough acco
unt of the research design and process in relation to the relevant
research question.


Research Design

he research of this study utilis
ed an interpretive explanation towards understanding.
interpretivist model


‘a type of theoretical explanat
ion about why events occur and how things work
expressed in terms of the socially constructed meanings and subjective world
views’ (Neuman, 2011, p.84).

Interpretive epistemologies determine that social phenomena are made distinct by the
individuals who o
vertly construct them (Orme, 1997) which advocates that people
hold distinctive subjective comprehensions of social facts.

Interpretivism deems that theory results from the collection of data, and hence an
inductive exploration of the research area was implemented. Thematic fields of study
were induced from the process of research, rather than situating pre
defined themes in
elation to results (Draper, 2004).
The studies research questions

were formulated

the literature review

which provide

the researcher with a theoretical

of the topic

Strauss and Corbin, 1990).

Qualitative research, such as
this study,
is an on
going process of reflexivity where,


Supervisor: Peter Millward


‘the activities of collecting and analysing data, developing and modifying
theory, elaborating or refocusing the research questions, and identifying and
dealing with validity threats are usually going on more or

less simultaneously,
each influencing all of the others’ (Maxwell, 2005, p.2).

An interpret
ivist approach is often criticis
ed for abandoning scientific verification
processes and consequently being incapable of generalisation (Kelliher, 2005).
Despite i
ts aptitude to achieve substantial awareness of the experiences of participants
(Merriam, 1998), critics claim that interpretivism is ‘not radical enough’ (Mack,

p.9). It must be recognis
ed that, should the exploration be repeated, different
es may outcome from a researcher’s alternative subjectivity to the research
(Williams, 2000).



Skype interviews

six male and two

emale professional
sports journalists currently working on a local level within

were conducted

‘Skype is a peer
peer VoIP application that has gained substantial popularity since
its launch in 2003’ (Ehlert and Petgang, 2006, p.1). Skype offers a reliable mode for
communication (Educause, 2007) similar to that of a video
all and ‘users download a
piece of software that allows computers to communicate directly with one another’
(Educause, 2007, p.1), regardless of their geographical location.

ranged from 21 to 55 years with journalistic experience ranging
from 2 to 35 years.
All of the participants involved in this study used Twitter on a daily basis.


Supervisor: Peter Millward


e demanding working hours of journalists


he particular characteristics of the


made finding

participants willing

and able

to participate in the study

Initially, it was intended for the interviews to be performed face
but with the unorthodox schedules of the participants the interviews were conducted
via Skype.

Such difficulties are identified by Powell
and Lovelock (1991, p.128):

‘Empirical research in the social sciences generally requires access to data and
to research subjects…the ultimate quality of a piece of research, indeed the
very possibility to carrying it out, depends upon the researcher succe
negotiating and sustaining such access’.

In order to target participants who were familiar with the concept of social media, I
used the ‘Sports Journalist Association’ (@SportSJA) as a gatekeeper, defined as ‘a
person in an official or unofficial r
ole who controls access to a setting’ (Neuman,
2011, p.429). Using a gatekeeper with prominence as a leader ‘that members in the
field obey’ (Neuman, 2011, p.429) en
sured that participants recognis
ed the mature
tone of the research. This yielded a signific
antly high response rate (45 respondents),
allowing me to choose eight participants of varying ages, locations, sex and
journalistic experience to interview.

With no sampling frame for
the studies population group
‘purposive sampling’ was
. Pur
posive sampling
, a non
probability sampling method,

is defined as
when ‘particular settings, persons, or events are deliberately selected for the important
information they can provide that cannot be gotten as well from other choices’
(Maxwell, 1997, p.87)
. Using eight participants in this study is in regulation with
Seidler (1974), who highlighted that a minimum of five informants is necessary for
data to be reliable

when using purposive sampling. Operating a non

Supervisor: Peter Millward


sampling method has limitations

such as bias and universalising
(Gliner and Morgan,
, however, purposive sampling can stipulate robust data (Tongco, 2007). As
et al
., (1986) advocates, by selecting the participants directly, samples can be
elected which suit the requirements

of the study.



A qualitative methodology comprising of semi
structured in
terviews was utilis
ed for
research within this domain
has been
placed on
data (Armstrong and Gao, 2010; Howe, 2011; Kwak
., 2010),
therefore, it is essential that a qualitative, in
depth focus be given to this field.
Qualitative interviews ‘are reality
constructing, meaning
making occasions, whether
recognized or not’ (Holstein and Gubrium, 1995, p.4), thus are useful for
emotions in response to a given study area than a questionnaire, for example.

Churton and Brown (2010) suggest that
, as a micro
level method, offer

magnitude of insight into person’s experiences which alternative methods are unable
to achieve. Semi
structured interviews benefit from the ability to ‘deviate [from the
questions] where necessary in order to maximize the information obtained’ (Adams
and Cox, 2008, p.22), allowing themes to emerge that were not considered before the
view (Aira
et al
., 2003).

As a necessity, an interview schedule was composed to direct discussion with
ticipants (Appendix 1). This schedule allowed for flexibility from outlined themes,
yet ensured that the focus of the interviews was maintained.


Supervisor: Peter Millward




All of the interviews for this
research took place between Thursday 15

2012 and Monday 3

December 2012. W
ith the discret
ion of the participants, all
interviews were recorded
to ensure
precise translation of data.
This improved

subsequent ease of transcription,
later used for data analysis
. The questions asked
during the interviews concentrated on themes that ascended from the literature review,
with attention on participant’s experiences of using Twitter professionally.
well as
allowing for later transcription, recording interviews in research ensures that the

can maintain focus on the questions being asked
(Hoepfl, 1997).


fundamental element in the process of interviewing
is the building of rapport
n interviewee and interviewer
Bloom and Crabtree, 2006). It is
important that the researcher exercises reflexivity, which is defined by Spencer
et al
(2003, p.71) as,

‘showing awareness of the importance of the research on the researcher and
e versa; recognizing how values, assumptions and presence of the
researcher may impact on data’.

This includes not taking advantage of any vulnerability the participants may have to
the interview questions and not wording questions in a certain way to inf
luence results
(White and Marsh, 2006).

A recurrently disregarded concern in qualitative research is how the researcher’s
individual characteristics influence the gaining, forming and sustaining of rapport
with participants (Gurney, 1985). As Hammersley
and Atkinson (2007, p.73) suggest
‘the researcher cannot escape the implications of gender: no position of genderless

Supervisor: Peter Millward


neutrality can be achieved’ and therefore, as a female researcher interviewing within a
principally male domain, the affect gender may hav
e on the interview process must be
considered. Consequently, one must not overlook the possibility that information may
remain undisclosed during interviews with male participants.


Data Handling

The transcription of interviews was performed unerring
ly and,

‘analysis led to the emergence of themes and categories that helped the researcher to
intuitively unravel the developing construct’ (Polit and Hungler, 1999, p.239). With a
sizeable magnitude of data produced, it was not possi
ble to comprise all of the data
sourced in the subsequent discussion. While a vigilant effort was made to include a
range of themes, it could be said that the researcher undertook confirmation bias, and
selectively chose data to include (Nickerson, 1998).
For example, Corden and
Sainsbury (2006, p.12) state that ‘a researcher would be able to find at least one
quotation to support any point they wish to make.’



The Durham University
ethics committee
pproved the study and the p

completed an ethical consent form prior to participation.
The p
description of the study and were made aware
that they could willingly withdraw
from the study at any point.

Additionally, the participants were informed that t
the anonymi
ty of participants’, aliases would be

used throug
hout the research
conclusions. It was also necessary to make the participants conscious that the
interviews would be recorded for transcription purposes, but that all of their data

Supervisor: Peter Millward


would be stored
, maintained and protected in compliance with the Data Protection
Act, 1998.



This research project utilis
ed research methods to generate intricate findings. The aim
of this chapter was to judiciously analyse the selected methods to draw upon any
limitations. Although an observable limitation of the study is the moderately small
sample volume, suggesting that
the data cannot calculate comprehensive generalities,
it is coveted that the study will nonetheless offer a respected input to the research


Supervisor: Peter Millward


Chapter Four

The Past Presents The Future: How Technology Has Shaped Sports Journalism



An arguably revolutionary format, it is surprising that there is little academic research
into the impact of social media on various professions. This study provides evidence
to contend that the impact of social media on sports journalism
is extensive and must
not be ignored. The following discussion explores how professionalism is enhanced
because of the expectations associated with social media and the implications on
journalists’ working hours, legitimacy, brevity and immediacy. As media

organisations debate the necessity of social media policy, this study explores how
journalists perceive policy as a legitimate method of management, rather than a mode
of constraint. Furthermore, this thesis constructs an argument agreeing with the
ture review that social media is redefining ‘journalist’. It is essential that the
impact of social media on sports journalism be understood thoroughly to certify

media personnel can utilis
e this new skill effectively.

The extent of sports journalist
s use of Twitter, revealed within this study, cannot be
overlooked. Rather than regarded as an informal domain for cyber socialising, Twitter
must now be assumed to be a professional and serious territory for journalists.
Another notation of importance is
that the impact Twitter has on the practice of sports
journalism is greater than one
fold. This study disputes claims by Sears (2011) that
Twitter is not revolutionary. Changing the methods of news production and
consumption, Twitter predominantly impacts
on sports journalists in three emerging
themes from the conducted research: professionalism, rapport and policy.


Supervisor: Peter Millward




Sports journalism is often identified as the ‘toy department’ of the newsroom (Boyle,
2006, p.9) and the lack of respect

it has previously received has caused it to face a
challenging contest to confirm its specialty as a commendable news sector. Fehser
(2002) makes reference to the definition of what constitutes professionalism,
observing skills such as responsibility, pub
lic service, benevolence, esteem and
preservation of a high ethical code as an apt description. Schultz and Sheffer (2010),
however, provide a definition of professionalism in a sports journalism domain:


make decisions about the newsworthiness of daily news… and [keep] pace
with the speed of media consumption and the increasing demand for
information services’ (p.227)

Twitter has increased the discipline of sports journalists and, as Price
et al
., (2012,

p.15) state, ‘from a professional standpoint [Twitter] does raise questions about
expectations on journalists’. These expectations include the growth of sports
journalists working hours.

As Andrews (2011, p.5) depicts, ‘print newspapers have traditional
ly been once
mediums. They have now become 24/7 machines’, forcing journalists to work
dynamic hours to produce around
clock news and serve the public as identified in
Fehser’s (2002) definition of professionalism. The majority of participants wi
thin this
study reflect these views, with Participant D stating,

‘I use Twitter all the time. It’s something I’m constantly checking, you know.
It almost pays to be on there, even though, in a way, it’s the opposite. As a

Supervisor: Peter Millward


journalist I don’t get paid for th
ose extra hours I’m putting in on social media
but I’m always kind of, naturally, looking for a story on there’.

As the above statement implies, journalists find themselves expected to constantly
scout Twitter for content in order to provide their audience

with the latest information,
thus increasing their journalistic professionalism. Participant F echoes this awareness
of expectancy,

‘I think with all of the cuts and such going on in the media recently, it kind of,
makes me feel grateful for having a job
in journalism. So, I guess, I feel like
I’m required to put in the extra hours and get a social media presence, you

Participant F suggests that, without keeping to the expectancy of engaging frequently
in social media, their job as a journalist woul
d be at risk. This agrees with Nolan
(2012, n.b.) who describes how ‘real
time journalism has become, a mind
frenetic, sleep
deprived hamster wheel’ as journalists acknowledge the necessity to
immerse in the digital environment to maintain their p

Not engaging in Twitter on a seemingly constant basis would suggest that a journalist
is lapse in their professionalism and unprepared to make sacrifices to ‘get ahead’ in
their occupation. Participant C explicated how ‘everyone is looking for
that exclusive

including the average ‘everyday Joe’ public tweeters’. This common perception
increases the pressures placed on journalists despite the fact that spending significant
time on a medium which some journalists fail to engage in completely, is

an intense
commitment (Price
et al
., 2012). It is now mandatory for most sports journalists to
write several online news articles, frequently update these stories, meanwhile
scripting a blog post and constantly tweeting updates of their activity (Andrews,


Supervisor: Peter Millward


2011). Such demands are resulting in a 24/7 professional lifestyle for sports
journalists as they seek ‘to keep pace with the speed of media consumption and the
increasing demand for information services’ as required by Schultz and Sheffer’s
(2010, p.227)

professionalism definition.

None of the participants within this study spoke negatively regarding the additional
pressures placed upon them. Participant C claims that ‘what I didn’t realise was how
24/7 my role would become

especially since social med
ia became the norm rather
than an exception.’ Interestingly, all of the participants in this study deem it
unacceptable to

engage in social media activity in a professional capacity. As
Participant F stated, ‘I love sports, so I’d probably be on Twitte
r checking out the
latest stories even if I wasn’t in sports journalism’ which questions the ‘previous
boundaries and definitions of professional journalism’ as noted by Domingo
et al
(2008, p.326), as a merging of personal and professional life is enfor
ced by social
media. Despite this increased discipline, participants within this study noted that they
did not resent the expectation, nor did they question it as unreasonable. For example,
Participant C claimed,

‘I pride myself on being on hand for fans a
s much as possible. Like, they can
ask me a question at say 11pm, and if I’m up, then I’ll answer them. Because
[Twitter] is on my phone, it’s just like sending them a text message back. It’s
so easy to reply. It’s kind of overkill on my part, but I don’t

With previous research failing to investigate the implications of digital media on
journalists working hours, the findings from this study reflect that professional
expectations of journalists are expanding. A constant presence on social media

Supervisor: Peter Millward


ests a 24/7 career for journalists, or contrastingly, could promote the formerly
common view that journalism is not a profession and is, rather, a hobby (Hornig,

et al
., (2012) identified that brevity in social media is coupled with the skill

being concise as a journalist: ‘if good journalism involves saying a lot in a few words,
then Twitter’s 140 characters could provide one of it’s greatest tests’ (p.10). Previous
research (Hughes and Palen, 2009) disagrees with Price
et al
., (2012) and
that a limiting factor of Twitter is the stubborn constraint of 140
character ‘tweets’,
which ‘produces at best eloquently terse responses and at worst heavily truncated
speech’ (Murthy, 2011, p.4).

Twitter, Participant C concedes, ‘is like gett
ing a digest of world thought in an
instant’ and participants recognised brevity as an advantage of social media, but were
also familiar with the negativity of suc
h a restriction. Sambrook (2009

cited Bunz,
2009, n.b.) denotes that ‘you get a lot of things
, when you open up Twitter in the
morning, but not journalism’, insinuating that there is more to journalism than a 140
character tweet. However, with the dynamics of news reporting changing, and in
consideration of Bardoel and Deuze’s (2001, p.94) definit
ion of journalism as a
‘professional selection of actual news facts to an audience’, Participant C accepted

‘Keeping it short and sweet keeps a lot of followers happy. People are too
busy to want to know every single detail of the game. So, like, whe
n you’re on
the go, a lot of fans just want, kind of, ‘Arsenal 2, Spurs 1, you know?’


Supervisor: Peter Millward


This highlights that participants within this study viewed journalistic professionalism
as providing a service to ‘sports fans’. This immediacy was viewed as advantageous

to journalists in the package they provide. Participant H discussed the sense of
emergency in providing news,

‘Sometimes when you’ve just got hold of a decent bit of information, you just
want to get it out there ASAP, really. Like, if I wanted to get the

piece out on
the website, I’d have to write it all up, say, then send it over to the editor, get it
back and then make any changes, get it posted by one of the online team. It’s
just not practical in a fast
paced job like journalism, particularly sports

Contrastingly, succinctness in communication is not consistently suitable; Participant
C was unforgiving in outlining,

‘I wonder if we are going down a route of, are we diluting the good journalists
out there? I work with some people who coul
d really, given the chance, do a
wonderful 2000 feature. But, with pressures now on getting information out
there via social media, they can’t. Doesn’t our industry lose something as a

This suggests that Twitter is restricting the abilities of
journalists, leaving one of their
fundamental skills unused. However, as literature suggests, some of the most defining
technological advancements were made with the pithiest messages: ‘What Hath God
Wrought’ was the first telegraph sent, only twenty
one c
haracters in length, and
‘QWERTYUIOP’, constructed the first
email (Murthy, 2011). With this in mind, and
in consideration of the discovered impact of Twitter, it has to be questioned with

Supervisor: Peter Millward


Berman (1982 cited Murthy, 2011, p.3), ‘are we saying more with les
s, or just saying

Participant A stood by the notion that Twitter is not a defining aspect of a journalist’s
arsenal of skills:

‘The basics of journalism is storytelling. People read because they want to
learn a story, so as good as Twitter is, it w
ill never replace traditional
journalism. It just doesn’t have the depth, you know, you don’t get that chance
to really develop your voice.’

The above statement from Participa
nt A agrees with Sambrook (2009

cited Bunz,
2009, .n.b.) that ‘journalism needs d
iscipline, analysis, explanation and context… the
value that gets added with journalism is judgement, analysis and explanation

that makes the difference.’ As Participant A admits, ‘you can’t tell a story in 140
characters’, acknowledging that you can
not be a journalist via Twitter alone.
Therefore, should the use of Twitter develop further, it must be forewarned that the
social media site can damage the talents of future journalists should they forget the
importance of storytelling.

As discussed in t
he literature review, legitimacy is a problem associated with social
media. Increasing professionalism within journalism forces media personnel to be
thorough in their reviewing of sources; a necessity that has never been more
significant. The interviewees

within this study tended to discuss legitimacy of tweets
liberally, in acquiescence with Mythen (2010), who identified the ease at which a
rumour can be spread through social media with the presence of unidentified
‘tweeters’ and fake validity. Participan
t D reflected on a recent controversy,


Supervisor: Peter Millward


‘There was this guy, you might have heard about him actually, he created this
account, something like, I think ‘@footballagent49’. He just tweeted football
transfer rumours and he ended up with something ridiculous li
ke 50,000
followers. Professional journalists, top ones too, were using him as a source,
retweeting him and everything. It came out that he was just some 18
year old
kid who was bored and thought it’d be a laugh.’

Participant D has outlined a relevant exam
ple of the deceitfulness permitted by the
candidness of Twitter (Murthy, 2011). As the public tends to undermine the
importance of reliable sources online, illegitimacy can have ‘disastrous ramifications
on marginalized and vulnerable populations’ (Murthy,

2011, p.14). Many of the
participants within this study, however, expressed confidence in dealing with
unverified hoaxes. Participant A believes ‘it’s often down to common sense. Can this
person be trusted? Is it a credible source?’ Participant E, however
, thinks that
unlawful sources will eventually be eradicated:

‘As long as you’re sensible and check your sources, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Now a lot of people have made mistakes with quite big consequences in the
media, people are aware of the problems
with fake accounts and things and I
think it will start to be less of a problem.’

Mythen (2010) believes that with editors in media organisations regulating data
collection, double
checking facts and involving lawyers in examples of libel,
professional jo
urnalists should be exempt from falling victim to fraudulence on
Twitter. Participant B, however, contrastingly noted that professionals are liable to
forgetting their professionalism in a hurry to get news out first:


Supervisor: Peter Millward


‘[Twitter] is often quicker off the m
ark but deals mainly in speculation and
rumour. There’s that pressure to get news out there first which means you
don’t always check if where you got your news from is legit’.

This notion of legitimacy has the potential to restrict journalists in their fin
giving citizen journalists an edge in fast
paced news distribution. Despite professional
journalists facing an increased risk in preserving a strong moral approach (Mythen,
2010), there is the pressure that ‘many independent, digital
based news site
s do not
subject themselves’ to such pride (Sanderson

and Hambrick
, 2012, p.398). Participant
C was familiar with such instances:

‘I’ve had journos print stories about the club on ‘Twitter sources’. For me,
that’s piss poor journalism, and you can quote me

on that! It does the industry
no favours. Any gossip you get down your local boozer from your standard
‘John Smith’ can be put on Twitter as fact.’

This shows that Twitter has significantly impacted on sports journalism, but that it
should only be used to

maintain professionalism and not as a sole method of
journalistic practice.

Under four main divisions, Twitter affects the professionalism of sports journalists.
Notably, Twitter is causing journalists to be more disciplined through increasing their
rking hours, becoming more concise, evaluating their sources and increasing the
speed of news production. The participants within this study complimented previous
research (Sanderson

and Hambrick
, 2012; Armstrong and Gao, 2010), noting that
Twitter itself
is not journalism and social media is only an aspect of the journalistic
sphere regardless of its impact on discipline and expectancy.


Supervisor: Peter Millward




‘Relationships in the physical world are based on real trust and rapport’ (Durieux and
Stebbins, 2010, p.
189) and the social media world is not dissimilar. Defined as ‘a
tripartite feeling state involving interest, positivity and a balanced or smooth
interaction’ (Capella, 1990, p.304), rapport is the progression of unconscious
receptiveness, which constructs

a synchronous mutual feeling of confidence between
personnel. Relatedly, social media provides a domain in which ‘space for intercultural
dialogue and collaboration’ (Miah, 2010, p.4) is encouraged. Previous studies have
ntified how athletes have utili
ed Twitter to personally connect with others (Cohen,
2009 cited Sears, 2011), yet little research has been conducted to identify how
journalists employ social media to develop rapport with an audience. However, many
of the participants in this study were
familiar with the affects developing a
relationship with their followers can have. Participant A indicated that ‘having a close
rapport with readers through Twitter has benefited with giving my audience what they
want’, suggesting that the role of a journa
list now involves more than distributing
news, but distributing news in a specific manner.

Social media is forcing the boundaries of what constitutes being a journalist to
expand. Now, more is required from reporters than merely exhibiting facts however,
Bowman (2008, p.110) believes this deviates substantially from ‘the core tasks of the
journalist’. Participant G conceived that building a self
identity has become valuable
as a journalist in this Digital Age:

‘I interact with fans with the intention of bu
ilding my brand. It’s not
something I get to do, say, online or in print, which is why I see it as a benefit

Supervisor: Peter Millward


of social media. A one
one interaction, it lets your target audience feel as if
they know you.’

Regardless of socioeconomic background and geogr
aphical location, social media
sites allow for rapport to be built between individuals. This lack of restriction makes
sports journalists vulnerable to criticism and can turn journalists, whose role is to
create news, to be the subjects of the news themsel
ves. Forcing a practically
‘celebrity’ status upon media personal suggests that they are ‘part of the raw material
through which we construct identities and engage in public discourse’ (Marwick and
Boyd, 2011, p.141). Pulitzer (1904) proposed that journali
sts with better education
experienced greater regard as journalists in the nineteenth century (Beamin, 1990
cited Reed, 2011). In this Digital Age, however, it seems that the use of social media
is linked to validity and status as a sports journalist. Sear
s (2011, p.85) identifies that
‘Twitter impacts journalists by blending their professional and personal lives in a way
that is unprecedented’ and that Twitter allows relationships to form unrestricted by
editorial constraints. Similarly, Johnson (2009, p.2
/p.3) outlines how,

‘We’re actually having a genuine, public conversation with a group that
extends far beyond our nuclear family and our next
door neighbours… it adds
a second layer of discussion and brings a wider audience into what would be a
private ex

Sears (2011) agrees with Johnson that social media is eradicating gatekeeping theories
and allowing individuals to communicate regardless of socioeconomic status,
geographical location or opinion. Although this intensified communication positively
erodes b
oundaries of journalism, Bowman (2008) worries that new media forms are
causing journalists to deviate from their fundamental duties. With the destruction of
margins and increased expectancy, reporters are now forced to provide opinion as

Supervisor: Peter Millward


well as fact, cor
rupting the borders between journalist and columnist (Anderson
et al

Development of social media rapport is not always constructive and extensive
exposure of intimate disclosure can land journalists in controversial predicaments
(Sonderman, 2012
). Additionally, the absence of media logos, adverts, and even
newspaper titles by sports journalists on Twitter stresses the individual as a brand
rather than part of a broader identity (Bruns, 2012; Schultz and Sheffer, 2012). As all
participants within
this study identified, developing a personal public image is now
essential for journalists on social media. This transforms journalists from simply news
reporters into high
status, idolised online figures.



Policy is a broad term used to refe
rence a commitment towards an action of intent and
‘the rules and regulations, the ways in which things are customarily done or attitudes
that are customarily taken’ (Becker
et al
., 2012, p.12). Media organisations offer
policies to ensure consistent actio
n is undertaken by all of their colleagues (Mangold
and Faulds, 2009). These, however, have not yet extensively included social media
policies, which regulate how journalists use sites such as Twitter to aid their

Recently, the media has sensa
tionalised controversies on Twitter. A combination of
the ease at which a tweet can be sent, and the disregard of the mass audience Twitter
has, can lead to serious misjudgement of the consequences of a tweet. Sears (2011)
acknowledged that some organisati
ons have begun to construct social media policies,

Supervisor: Peter Millward


ultimately decreeing the actions of their employees, including limiting what they can
say on social media sites. Participant C explained how it was necessary for a social
media policy to be implemented in
his organisation:

‘Fans can be very rude, and abusive too, and a number of the lads at my club
had to come off Twitter to get away from it all. As a club, I had to start putting
a policy in place after one player ripped into a fan big time and another star
posting pictures of, well, I won’t go into it, but it was pretty crude. The
player’s didn’t realise they weren’t texting each other, anymore. The vast
majority of users have a few brain cells, but it only takes one, so I think policy
is important.’

A m
andatory requirement when considering policies within sports journalism is
training. Participant C described the manner of soc
ial media policy training utilis
within their media organisation:

‘Part of my social media training with our staff is to say

o you know who
the person you are tweeting is? If so, how old are they? Is what they’re saying
relevant? And if they said that to you in the street, would you care?’

et al
., (2012) conducted research that identified that many journalists were not
en instructions on how to use social media sites professionally, nor given guidance
on what they were, and were not, allowed to say. Seemingly, many media
organisations recognise that Twitter can be a useful resource for staff yet are unable to
outline a s
trong policy on the most effective method of using it. Breed (1955 cited
Schultz and Sheffer, 2010) recognised that media organisations are inconsistent in
detailing general policies to journalists; therefore, this habit has transpired to social
media. Con
sequently, journalists socially construct what is deemed acceptable and
unacceptable in a professional capacity, leaving severe space for error. Perhaps this is

Supervisor: Peter Millward


one of the reasons why ambiguity remains over what constitutes beyond the
professional boundari
es of journalism online.

Participant B delineated,

‘A problem is, it’s so time consuming, which is why I think a lot of
organisations overlook it. You need someone constantly monitoring what
employees say on Twitter. So, every time they tweet, it has to ge
t sent off to
somebody to then assess it and say if it’s acceptable or not. I can understand
why some companies just don’t want to take that step towards policies. It’s not

Interestingly, the only participant to completely disagree with the ide
a of social media
policies w
as Participant D, who rationalis

‘I think we should try and avoid implementing policies. You have to think
about why people like Twitter and why they use it. It’s that freedom of speech.
That’s why it’s so appealing to so man
y. If you start clamping down on what
people can and can’t say on social media, then it’s just going to lose it’s

With this in mind, the implementation of social media policies is significantly more
complex than initially understood. In 2012, the
University of Washington’s athletic
department implemented a bold social media policy based on the University selling
media rights to allow broadcasting of their games which are ‘private, ticketable
entertainment, after all, not public domain’ (Gu
n, 201
2, n.p.). Therefore, they
prevented journalists from real
time tweeting at their home matches. Sports journalist
Thiel (cited Gu
n, 2012, n.p.) described the policy as ‘breathtakingly stupid… It’s
so 1960s, when teams thought telecasts of home games woul
d threaten the gate.’ It

Supervisor: Peter Millward


seems that the University took the step prematurely as a defensive, proactive
statement of intent as they predicted it is,

‘better to ‘draw the line in the sand’ now, the official said, than to wait until
live tweeting gets even m
ore thorough and some media outlet develops a
lucrative model off real
time content off the University’s games.’

2012, n.p.).

All participants

within this study that recognis
ed a need for social media policy were
aware of the increasing requirement of such an implication, agreeing with Ward
(2009, n.p.) that ‘we need sober, nuanced, ethical thinking that takes the long view,
not emotional arguments from social media enthusiast
s’. Contrasting to Participant
D’s views, Ward (2009) believes that critics who discard social media policy arguably
solicit rights of free speech. In deliberation of the principles of journalism, editorial
independence must be acknowledged which asserts t
he averting of conflicting
interests. Ward (2009) continues to argue that the implementation of policy is not
suggesting restrictions to the freedom of journalistic style, but is ‘about how social
media should be used to contribute to responsible, democrat
ic journalism’ (n.p.). This
does not, however, imply that policies must be strict. Aswamy (2009, n.p.) denotes

‘organizations that appear to be least restrictive of journalists’ use of social
media are also the ones that have embraced social networks

to effectively
disseminate information, engage with the audience, and promote content.’

Social media policies are nothing more than coherent parameters and it must be
questioned ‘if you can’t trust the women and men who put out your newspaper to use

keyboard wisely regardless of platform, what are they doing working for you?’
(Rich, 2009, n.p.)


Supervisor: Peter Millward


From this study, it is identified that guidelines are a necessity, but are not required to
be greater than ‘common sense and ethical awareness on the part of
the reporter’
(Aswamy, 2009, n.p.). Ward (2009, n.p.) concludes,

‘Journalists who take on the often thankless task of developing guidelines
should ignore the sceptics and push on with this remarkable reinvention of
journalism ethics. The future of responsi
ble journalism depends on it.’

Conclusively, based on the results of this study, social media is being used by
journalists to achieve different outcomes than traditional media formats. Impacting
both positively and negatively on the practice of sports jou
rnalism the use of social
media is proving a learning curve for journalism professionals. All of the journalists
interviewed with this study identified that social media is now an essential component
of journalistic practice, however, it does not define jo
urnalism, nor can it replace
traditional media formats.


Concluding Summary

Overall, the identified increase in professionalism forces a subconscious demand for
discipline to be applied by journalists, as acknowledged by the participants of this
study. An increase in brevity, legit
imacy, immediacy and journalist
s working hours
increases the expectations on media professionals. Causing the boundaries of what
constitutes a journalist to change, social media is forcing journalists to portray
es as a brand, often straining against a connection to their employer as
‘Twitter certainly brings the person to the forefront of journalism carried out on that
platform’ (Sears, 2011, p.86) as well as build rapport with their audience. As this
suggests, policy is a prevalent topic within the social media arena, which
the participants within this study recommend should be implemented. The use of

Supervisor: Peter Millward


policy within social media, despite general perceptions, does not have to be intolerant,
and should be

thought of as a process as opposed to a product (Ward, 2009) to
achieve optimum results.

From the evidence produced, it is rational to advocate that journalists recognise the
impact of social media and how it is transforming their previously stable forma
However, sports journalists are embracing the change to develop a dynamic media
industry and an underlying message exists that social media

causing an impact; and
it is wise that journalists should not try to beat it, but join it.


Supervisor: Peter Millward


Chapter Five

Future or Fad? Final Considerations and Study Limitations



In consideration of the initial research question guiding this project, which asks, ‘How
does social media impact on the practise of sports journalism’, the answer

Dealing with a recent technological advancement, this empirical, qualitative study
aims to identify the impacts, if any, forced upon journalists, as social media becomes
a predominant aspect of their professional domain.

This study concludes tha
t professionalism within sports journalism has increased due
to expectations of the social media audience. As Participant D denotes, sports
journalism is now a 24
7 profession, with journalists expected to work around the
clock to seek information, distrib
ute news and interact with the public. These findings
agree with Andrews (2011) who acknowledges ‘the appetite for and nature of sports
news is such that it needs to be updated around the clock’ (p.41). Brevity, legitimacy
and immediacy are key expectation
s of sports journalists, with increasing discipline
placed upon them as a resul
t of social media demands. The p
articipants within this
study identified that their audiences now anticipate fast
paced news dispersal, concise
facts and accurate sources. Despi
te t
hese heavy demands, all of the p
articipants within
this study did not perceive this as a burden to their personal life, or as an unjust
expectancy. Outlined in the literature review and confirmed in the discussion, sports
journalists’ roles have altere
d drastically beside technological innovations, changing
the concept of professionalism in journalism and creating new standards of practice
(Reed, 2011). This thesis supports research by Salwen and Garrison (1998) who
proposed that sports journalists have

not rejected conventional concepts of journalistic

Supervisor: Peter Millward


professionalism, and have simply been guided towards a concept of professionalism
that has become strictly more disciplined.

Sport journalists, as a result of social media, are now more than news bearers
, and
have developed an online reputation as minor

celebrities. The responses by
articipants within this study outline the importance of developing a rapport with their
audience, which more traditional media formats do not allow. As Page (2012)
denotes, t
he amount of followers an individual has on Twitter reflects their status in
society, and with sports journalists often hosting thousands of followers, it can be
deemed that people want to know about them, as much as the news they regulate.

The intervie
wees in this study appreciated the concept of policy, with seven out of
eight participants supporting its application. This is the first study to address social
media policy in relation to sports journalism on an academic level, and therefore will
y stimulate further research to validate the findings of this study. The general
consensus of this study was that social media policy is necessary to protect the
professionalism of journalists, and their employers.

The research conducted within this
study was original in its approach and its
objectives. Previous research has not focused on the impact of soci
al media on a
sports journalist
s professional perspective as this dissertation has explored, with little
research existing on social media, genera
lly. Combined with the original aim, the
research conducted used futuristic research methods, such as Skype, to conduct
interviews, reflecting a forward thinking approach. What this dissertation does, which
other studies have failed to do, is offer a micro
level methodology, allowing eight

Supervisor: Peter Millward


journalists to explicitly share their opinions on a format which is changing their
profession. This fills the gap between academic research and social media, as well as
the gap between sports journalism and professional a




As with any study there are limitations and this dissertation is no anomaly. Firstly,
this research project used a sample size of only eight participants, which is unreliable
in giving a resounding representation of the ent
ire sports industry. Despite using
accredited journalists, further study is required to validate the claims of this research.

Secondly, there was limited previous literature regarding social media and its
relationship with sports journalism. Although ens
uring that this dissertation was
original, it restricts the foundations of the study on a research level. Academic
literature surrounding this subject can be deemed sparse for two reasons: (i) social
media is a relatively new phenomenon and (ii) sport is f
requently overlooked as a
worthy subject of academic investigation.