A Profile of Australian Sport Journalists (Revisited

)

Matthew Nicholson, Centre for Sport and Social Impact, La Trobe University,
Australia
Lawrie Zion, Journalism Program, La Trobe University, Australia
David Lowden, Journalism Program, La Trobe University, Australia

Matthew Nicholson (corresponding author)
Centre for Sport and Social Impact
La Trobe University
Victoria 3086, Australia
Telephone +613 9479 1220
Facsimile +613 9479 1010
Email: m.nicholson@latrobe.edu.au

Lawrie Zion
Journalism Program
La Trobe University

David Lowden
Journalism Program
La Trobe University

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Abstract
This article presents key findings from a survey of Australian sport journalists, the
first of its kind since Henningham’s (1995) seminal study in the early 1990s.
Australian sport journalists (n=166) participated in an online survey, which asked
questions related to their profile and work practices. The findings reveal that in many
respects the profile of Australian sport journalists is similar to what it was almost
twenty years ago, yet there are indications that both the professional lives of sport
journalists and the broader sport media industry are undergoing significant change.
Like their predecessors, contemporary Australian sport journalists are ‘thirtysomething’, predominantly Australian-born, work in a male-dominated environment,
plan to be working in journalism or the media in five years time and have similar
views about the functions of the news media. The contemporary Australian sport
journalists differ in that they are far more educated, are more likely to be located in
Victoria and are now more likely to work in non-print media forms such as radio and
online than their predecessors, who were far more likely to work in the print media.

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‘Sports journalists are overwhelmingly male and Caucasian, slightly less well
educated than other journalists, more conservative in their political values, less
professional, but less inclined to support ethical breaches. They are happier in their
work, less stressed, more supportive of traditional, “objective” models of journalism
and less supportive of investigative roles for the media.’ (Henningham, 1995: 13)

These were some of Henningham’s (1995) key findings from what has remained the
most thorough attempt to investigate the values and professional backgrounds of
Australian sport journalists. But what has changed since then, an important question
given that both in Australia and internationally, sport has become an even more
important part of the mediascape during the first decade of the 21st century.
Furthermore, understanding who sport journalists are is an essential foundation for
broader examinations of the role of the sport media as an influential social institution the role of the newsmaker is as important, if not more so, than an analysis of the
meaning of sport media texts, or the ways in which audiences interpret or consume
these texts. This article reports on the findings of a study that attempted to redress the
absence of research into what remains the single largest specialty cohort in Australian
journalism (Lange et al., 2007).

Researching Australian Journalists
Henningham’s (1995) study of sport journalists was part of a broader investigation
into the working lives and attitudes of more than 1400 Australian journalists (see
Henningham, 1998), which in turn was part of an international collection of studies
led by Weaver, an American researcher. The latter, along with Wilhoit, have been
pioneers in investigating the attitudes and professional lives of American journalists

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‘precious little large-scale research has been conducted on Australian journalists’ (Hanusch. production staff. In the context of this study it also examined generational changes within journalism by comparing entry-level and veteran journalists. 2007). the mission of which was “to allow for a standardised comparison of journalists' characteristics. 2008: 114) using a combination of survey questionnaires and follow-up in-depth interviews that explored journalists’ perceptions of their roles and values. casual and freelance journalists. digital and online staff. 2008: 99).for more than four decades (see. Weaver et al. Hanusch’s attempt to ‘map’ Australian journalism culture provided another important perspective on Australian journalism. however. ranging from editors and managers to reporters. 2008: 98). but not at the scale of the earlier Henningham (1998) study. A notable exception is Rodrigues’ study of Victorian journalists that ‘built on and borrowed from the work conducted in Australia by Henningham in 1992’ (Rodrigues. attitudes. Hanusch referred to the work of Brand and Pearson (2001) as an exception. The research gap remains. for example. views and role perceptions’ across a number of different countries” (Hanusch. While this study was 4 . photographers and artists (Este. Hanusch’s interviews with 100 journalists were designed to integrate with an international ‘worlds of journalisms survey’. Since then Australia’s Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has conducted two surveys as part of their Future of Journalism project. Weaver and Wilhoit. 2010). Since Henningham. which included full-time. but noted that nobody had taken up Forde and Burrows’ (2004) challenge to update Henningham’s study. 1991. In the 2010 survey there were 1669 respondents.

There has been a significant amount of work that has examined the broader sport media ‘institution’ in terms of government regulation. have been the subject of sporadic academic attention. however. texts and audiences. sport fandom has become a popular field of academic endeavour. So. Researching Sport Journalists Wenner (1998) identified that the world of ‘MediaSport’ is created by the interaction of institutions. as well as the impact of sport media on globalisation and globalisation on sport media. a major component of Wenner’s ‘institutions’. the survey was not linked to previous academic studies. These institutions and audiences have more recently been examined. there has been a paucity of studies that have examined the ways in which audiences interact with sport media texts. sport journalists. but also by important issues such as racial and gender biases in reporting. particularly of major events such as the Olympic Games. institutions and audiences were the subject of relatively little academic attention. while it is no longer the case that analysis of sport media texts exclusively dominates the field of sport media studies. such as the profile and role of sport journalists. 2002). particularly in the area of sport marketing. and did not specifically address the working environments of sport journalists. At the same time. This emphasis was in part driven by accessibility and the relative ease of conducting research. which has often explored the tension between 5 . particularly through the lenses of policy and sport fandom respectively. there remains a paucity of research that examines specific aspects of the production and consumption aspects of the sport media supply chain.revealing in terms of the working conditions and selected practices of Australian journalists. By contrast. Since the hyper-commercialism of sport in the 1970s. and noted that the bulk of research in the field had been concerned with texts (see also Bernstein & Blain.

1995. 1998. It will never turn back’ (p. issues and topics that permeate the social world to which sport is intimately connected. Cotton. it seeks reinforcement and affirmation from the largely closed circle of sources that creates the insular world of sport in the first place. and so has the authority of its own popularity. the issue of whether sport journalism is ‘legitimate’ remains contentious. 1981. 400) 6 . 2005. Koppett. Lowes. Salwen and Garrison. Lowes. Hardin. 1997. 1976). Schultz-Jorgensen. Despite the confidence with which this pronouncement was made. 2005) in which he examined the sport content of several Australian newspapers. In 1989 Garrison felt sufficiently confident to claim in the American context that ‘sports reporting has become as sophisticated as the city desk and has turned the corner into legitimate journalism. As part of an international study (Schultz-Jorgensen. It is economically important in drawing readers (especially male) to general news publications. see also Garrison. In doing so. 2005. Rowe (2007) considered the seemingly perennial question of whether the pejorative jibe that sports journalism is the ‘toy department’ of the news media is justified: The sports beat occupies a difficult position in the news media. 1993). drawing it away from the problems. Yet its practice is governed by ingrained occupational assumptions about what ‘works’ for this readership. (p. Rowe and Stevenson. 1999. in part because little is known about sport journalists and their work practices.the seriousness of news making and the fun of sports and games (c. Smith. 1989. 3-23.f.

not least because defining just who is a sport journalist is itself hardly straightforward. This problematic. yet he also warned against overgeneralising.166). In many respects this might be considered to be stating the obvious given the long standing debate over the relative merit and professional standing of sport journalists. in different contexts. however. As Boyle (2006: 167) noted ‘the boundaries between print and broadcast sports journalists are more porous than was once the case’. the implications of what this might mean are debatable.174-5). who noted that sport journalists are traditionally positioned towards the lower regions of any journalistic hierarchy. Boyle’s contention in part is that sport journalists are increasingly being perceived as becoming more professional. Boyle concluded a discussion of sport broadcasters ‘selling’ international events through their reporting by noting that ‘sports journalism and notions of journalistic impartiality remain a problematic area. perhaps no more so than it is for the wider field of contemporary journalism. Writing about the British context. the boundaries between traditional media forms and online journalism have exacerbated the trend towards an occupational pluralism in which journalists can. be commentators. symbiotic relationship 7 . editors or bloggers.These issues have also been taken up by Boyle (2006). which is saturated with comment and opinion as well as factual reporting’ (pp. however. Boyle noted that ‘internal divisions’ across sport journalism are still evident ‘but in many ways have become more complex’ and that given the expansion of sports writing and the sportswriter ‘to talk of sports journalism as if it were one homogeneous body of work is simply to misunderstand the range of journalistic output and practice that one can find under this rubric’ (p.

the median length of career was 14 years and approximately 85% had a college degree or higher. Levels of education and media length of career had also increased slightly. Hardin and Shaine. 1997. Globally. Lowes. a national group compromised mainly of sports section managers as opposed to reporters. 1985. 2006). whether sport journalists as a cohort have changed. Hardin and Whiteside. as Boyle suggested. Wenner. 1998. Lowes. 2005. almost 99% were white. Within Australia the Henningham study remains a beacon in terms of understanding who sport journalists are. Garrison and Salwen (1994) conducted a follow-up study with the same APSE cohort and found that sports journalists remained overwhelmingly white. 1995. for example Dunne. male. 1999. by contrasting contemporary data with Henningham’s (1995) findings. and in doing so attempts to assess. Schultz-Jorgensen. 1989). A considerable amount of research into sport journalists has been conducted in America. Fountaine and McGregor. This article seeks to address the research gap that exists by investigating the profile and work practices of Australian sport journalists. the sport journalism cohort appears to exhibit a stubbornly white male homogeneity (see. 8 . whether sport journalism is more greatly afflicted than other forms of contemporary journalism. 2005. although it is unclear. For example. Rowe and Stevenson. Salwen and Garrison. the median age was 36 years.between sport journalism and its industry has been an issue of significant academic interest (see Knoppers and Elling. found that 96% were male. Garrison and Salwen’s (1989) study of 249 members of the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE). 2004. college-educated and ‘thirtysomething’. 1999.

whereas it was 40% and 45% respectively in the Henningham study. 30% of the current sport journalists are less than 30 years of age and 47% are aged between 30 and 45. we have had to estimate the number of sport journalists that were sent the survey. radio and magazines) and location (regional areas as well as major metropolitan cities). online.Method During late 2010. whereas the current study’s sample is slightly older. an email invitation (with two reminders) to participate in an online survey was sent to sport journalists throughout Australia. Henningham reported a median age of 32. websites. A total of 166 usable surveys were completed through an anonymous online survey system. both in Australia and internationally (Hanusch. The total number of sport journalists invited to participate was approximately 500. television. These sports journalists were identified through publicly available media guides. 9 . All efforts were made to make the list as representative as possible. Findings In many respects the current cohort of sport journalists appears very similar to their colleagues of the early 1990s. While Henningham’s (1998) study found that journalism was a relatively young profession. broadcasts and hard copy publications. it appears that the workforce has aged. with a median age of 36. Thus. but delivered the invitation via email to staff through a central contact. The survey consisted of a series of questions related to the sport journalists’ demographic profile and work practices. as well as personal contacts. We are unable to provide a definitive number because some organisations were unwilling to provide email addresses. including types of media (print.

Similarly. rugby league and rugby union. but in which there is relatively little international competition. This data might be explained by the dominance of Australia’s indigenous football code. illustrating that sport journalism is still a relatively youthful profession.3% involved for 21 or more years. Only 19% of current sport journalists are aged over 50. This data might be used 10 . In the current study. Henningham reported that the sport journalist’s average number of years in journalism was 12.4% of the sample planned to be working in journalism or media in five years time. which is consistent with the findings of this research. 46% of the sample had been involved in journalism between 0 and 10 years. as well as a preponderance of team sports in which Australia is highly successful. in the current study it is 88%. In the current study 95. such as netball. the proportion of Australian and overseas-born sport journalists has not changed significantly since the early 1990s. By comparison.6% planning to be working in sport journalism or sport media. 86% of sport journalists in the Henningham study planned to be working in journalism or media in five years time.4% having worked in the profession for 21 or more years.2008). In the Henningham study the proportion of Australian born sport journalists was 90%. The data was somewhat similar for the number of years involved in sport journalism: 46% had worked 11 or more years. with 22.4 years. with 85. and 29. with 54% of the sample 11 years or more. Este et al (2010) reported that only 47% of Australian journalists in a study conducted by the MEAA were ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ about their career prospects. slightly less than the average number of years for nonsport journalists. Henningham also reported that sport journalists are more likely to stay in journalism than their non-sport colleagues. cricket.

1% of journalists in the current study responded ‘yes’. Only 11% of his sample of sport journalists were women. compared to 85% and 32% respectively within the Henningham (1995) study. the current study reveals that there is a disparity between the views of male and female journalists. The data presented in table 1 contrasts the current study with Henningham’s (1995). Similarly. The survey results also highlight the need to ask the question of genderbased prejudice amongst former female sport journalists.7% of the current study answered ‘no’. with female journalists more inclined to answer ‘yes’ to the above question.3% in the earlier study. 24.8% of female sport journalists answered yes to the question. when asked ‘have you had any personal experience or knowledge or women being victims of prejudice in the newsroom’. compared to 42. Henningham (1995) concluded that sport journalism is essentially a male domain.2%. while more of the women and less of the men believed that it was more difficult for women to get ahead in journalism and that women were victims of prejudice in the newsroom. sport journalism remains a man’s domain. It is unclear whether there is less prejudice within contemporary sport journalism. Based on the proportion of men and women. Asked the question ‘is it more difficult for women to get ahead in journalism’. a small decrease that indicates that despite a much larger number of high profile female sport journalists. while only 10% of men answered yes to the question.with caution to suggest that the current sport journalists are more satisfied or contented in their work than their predecessors and non-sport contemporaries. 82. however 68. The proportion of women in the current study was 10. The authors are aware of a 11 . as with the earlier study. but it is clear that female sport journalists perceive that it exists or have experienced it far more than their male colleagues. and their perceptions of workplace prejudice. However.

**Insert Table 2 near here** Interestingly. **Insert Table 1 near here** The perceptions of the importance of news media functions also appear remarkably similar between the current and previous cohorts of sport journalists. (3) ‘be an adversary of public officials by being constantly sceptical of their actions’. although given that we have no data on the current cohort of non-sport journalists these findings must be treated with caution.female journalist who left sport journalism after several years to report in general news because of her perceived or actual workplace prejudice. Henningham (1995) found that the most statistically significant differences between sport and non-sport journalists were for the following functions: (1) ‘provide analysis and interpretation of complex problems’. and (4) ‘be an adversary of businesses by being constantly sceptical of their actions’. albeit a small one. while ‘provide entertainment and relaxation’ is less important. the percentage of sport journalists who believe it is extremely important to ‘investigate claims and statements made by government’ has dropped considerably. (2) ‘discuss national policy while it is still being developed’. By contrast. The first of these functions – ‘provide analysis and interpretation of complex problems’ is more important for the current cohort. the final three functions in which there was a statistically significant difference in Henningham’s original study all experienced a decrease in the perception of importance in the current study. 12 . as illustrated in Table 2. These two results are more aligned to Henningham’s cohort of non-sport journalists.

Policy problems are by their very nature complex and the public relies on journalists to provide analysis and interpretation. and the claims and statements made by government. This might be explained by the general apathy of sport media consumers in relation to issues of public or sport policy. Professional elite sport organisations also employ experienced and professional media and public relations advisors who ensure there is a well managed torrent of information on any particular issue. or do so with less system and resources than professional leagues and clubs. particularly the prioritising of elite sport success (Hoye and Nicholson. rarely initiate contact with sport journalists. yet the same does not appear to be the case for sport policy issues.while the percentage who believe it is extremely important to ‘discuss national policy while it is still being developed’ is relatively low. For many non-sport journalists government policy. The designers of public policy. within government and associated organisations. It might also be explained by the relatively consistency of Australian sport policy since the mid 1980s. especially political journalists. In the context of the increasing commercialisation of sport media it is also worth noting that the percentage of sport journalists who believe that it is extremely important to ‘be an adversary of business by being constantly sceptical of their actions’ was the lowest in both the current and the Henningham (1995) study. which in turn influences the approach of sport journalists. clubs and promoters have more influence than government in the Australian sport landscape and government policy is therefore a relatively low priority. as 13 . sport journalists might perceive that the professional sport leagues. are essential to their working lives. These results are seemingly in conflict with the relatively high proportion of sports journalists that believe that it is extremely important to ‘provide analysis and interpretation of complex problems’. 2009).

particularly given the hyper-commercialisation of sport during the period between the two surveys. exclusive media partnerships and advertising and sponsorship deals that are predicated on sport audiences. recording a similar result almost two decades later is a surprising result to say the least. These developments have also meant that the relationships between sport and business and sport and media are more complex now than they have ever been. particularly within the major sports: rugby union was professionalised. Media organisations are heavily invested in leagues through broadcast rights deals. In large part all of these developments were related to the relationship between the sport and the media.illustrated in Table 2. and the pressure placed on leagues and teams to become a more attractive media product. soccer was transformed via the Crawford review and the subsequent establishment of the A-League and the national netball competition was broadened to include teams from New Zealand. But. clubs and individuals. rugby league endured the Superleague saga. while in some instances the media organisations own the content (the team or the league). cricket was irreversibly altered by the introduction of the twenty-twenty format. 14 . In the last two decades Australian sport has experienced a significant transformation. The result in the Henningham (1995) study is perhaps explained by the fact that at the time of the survey the commercialisation of Australian sport was just beginning in earnest and that sport journalists were concerned more with match and game reports than they were with an analysis of the off-field activities of leagues. the Australian Football League added additional teams from outside Victoria in attempt to nationalise it product. as well as the means of distribution.

in which they noted 15 . The notion of ‘being constantly sceptical of their actions’ might have caused sport journalists to respond differently.6% and 60. as illustrated in Table 3. it is clear that sport journalists are now far more educated.The increasing convergence of sport and media organisations is likely to have an impact on public access to sport and the character of Australian sport consumption. It is unclear how sport journalists will interpret future developments. as media organisations explore ways to charge for previously free content and more sport content is provided on a pay-per-view basis. Whereas in the Henningham study 56% of the sample had not studied beyond high school. with a diploma.8% of this sample respectively. Henningham (1995) referred to the Garrison and Salwen (1994) study of sports writers and editors in the US.2% had completed a diploma or bachelor degree. Given these developments the result recorded in this study related to sport journalists being an adversary of business is of potential concern and perhaps indicates that sport journalists are less likely to be critical than their non-sport colleagues. compared with 6. as they are often employed by organisations that are the major players in the development of Australian media sport. and as such it would be worth future research exploring the nexus between sport journalists and the impacts of the hyper-commercialisation of Australian sport in more detail. By way of contrast. The current cohort or sport journalists also differ from their predecessors in several important respects. in the current study 67. In the Henningham (1995) study. An important caveat here is that it is unclear what impact the wording of the statement might have had on the responses by sport journalists.2% had completed a qualification beyond high school. bachelor degree or graduate qualification becoming the norm rather than exception for entry into the profession.9% of the sample had completed a graduate degree and 30. 0.

Although New South Wales was the location for approximately a third of sport journalists in the Henningham study. Rip Curl Pro. Given the distribution of sport journalists by state. it is 16 . In terms of the specific location of sport journalists. while 92. or perhaps an indication that since the mid 1990s the state has cemented itself as the sporting capital of Australia. as it is in the current study (33.8% respectively. Queensland and Western Australia have dropped from 18% and 12% to 7.that 71% had a bachelor degree. the current study revealed that 66. As such.1%).8% work in a city of 50.000 or more people. and an additional 13% had undertaken postgraduate study.2% and 7. Australian Football League Grand Final and the Formula One Grand Prix. Victoria is perhaps the state with the greatest demand for sport journalists. It also might reflect that sport journalism has been a ‘serious’ career in the US for longer than it has in Australia. **Insert Table 3 near here** The current sample also differs from the Henningham (1995) study in terms of their location. This is perhaps due to the highly competitive nature of the American sport industry generally and American sport journalism more specifically. the current Australian data is still not on a par with the Garrison and Salwen data.9% work in a city of more than one million people. particularly with the growth and media coverage of major events such as the Australian Open. Melbourne Cup. More than 15 years later. The large number of Victorian sport journalists in the current study may be an anomaly. Victoria has risen from approximately 20% in the Henningham study to the number one location with almost 37% of the sample.

For some this might be within a multi-platform organisation. 67 were employed 100% by a single media form. while in the current study print was divided into newspapers and magazines. television and wire services. the percentages for the current study reported in table 4 do not represent individual journalists. cognisant of the fact that contemporary journalists may be required to work across multiple forms. Even if the newspaper and 17 . In the Henningham study the categories were print. more than half of the sport journalists who responded to this question work across multiple media forms. the percentage of sport journalists working in the print media has declined significantly in relative terms. In the Henningham study journalists nominated the primary media form in which they worked. such as the ABC. Table 4 shows the distribution of sport journalists in the different media forms. **Insert Table 4 near here** Perhaps not surprisingly.reasonable to conclude that most of the nation’s sport journalists are working in Melbourne and Sydney. In other words. while for others it might be the result of working for more than one employer. radio. while in this study we allowed sport journalists to nominate the percentage of their time allocated to the specific media forms. Of the 153 sport journalists who responded to this question. The concept of sport journalists moving to live where major events are located may also be linked to the comparative lack of employment opportunities for sport journalists in states and territories other than New South Wales and Victoria. the category of online was added and wire services was omitted. but rather an aggregation of the total time across the entire cohort. As such.

the proportion of sport journalists employed in radio has increased. Newspapers remain the stalwart in terms of sport journalism employers. regular follow-up studies are required to determine how quickly the print media is diminishing and how quickly the broadcast media are ascending. Television sport presenters may self identify as sport journalists despite not having a journalistic role. This may account. In his acceptance speech. Garry Lyon. Since the first survey. in part. the second largest category behind newspapers. won the highest individual honour for journalism at the Australian Football Media Awards for his columns on Australian Rules football. sport related content. The proportion of sport journalists employed within television has remained relatively constant. Australia has seen the introduction of radio stations with formats that broadcast predominantly.magazine data are added together to recreate the category ‘print’ in the earlier study. this category has declined by approximately 20%. Lyon admitted he did not think of himself as a ‘journalist’ and that the award would challenge him to reconsider whether he should maintain that 18 . while the new category of ‘online’ represents 16%. the former AFL footballer. Is the presenter of a sport program on radio a sport journalist? Should the producers of sport discussion programs on radio and television be regarded as sport journalists? In September 2010. It is unclear from two time points (1995 and 2011) how rapid this change is. The distinction between sport journalists and sport presenters is worth considering in the context of these findings and any discussion of professional boundaries. contributing to the editorial content of a publication or broadcast. for the increase in the number of sport journalists who spend the majority of their working week employed by a radio station. By contrast. which is somewhat surprising given the introduction of pay television and the subsequent proliferation of sport channels. that is. if not exclusively. yet it is clear that the profession is changing.

Given the predilection of media outlets to hire ex-players and athletes as commentators. a predicament that is itself the source of some misgivings with the ranks of sport journalists (Nicolea. we asked the current cohort whether they had previously been paid to play sport in a professional capacity.view of himself. columnists or reporters. 2010). There are also a number of findings from the current study for which we have no comparative data. we asked the survey respondents to nominate the 19 . broadcasters. Again. As such. Further research may also explore the related issue of whether the proliferation of sport channels has resulted in more sport journalists being employed.8% of the sample had been professional athletes prior to their current sport journalism career. but are worth reporting given other research in the area. The data from this survey indicates there has not been a marked increase in the number of sport journalists employed. perhaps indicating that the profession draws upon the industry on which it reports for prospective talent more so than any other journalism speciality. Defining who is and who isn’t a sport journalist was not the subject of this study but future research into this question would be useful for the analysis of data relating to the profession. **Insert Table 5 near here** The current study also sought to establish the types of sports that sport journalists were allocated to. The research revealed that 7. this assertion relies on an existing definition of a sport journalist which the authors acknowledge should be the subject of further research. and address the issue of the blurring of sport reporting and sport coverage.

in the main.5% was locally orientated. as specific journalists may be required to produce more copy than others. 21. we asked them to identify. national.8% was state-based and 19. state and local. have a similar duration of career in journalism generally and sport journalism more specifically. work in a male dominated environment. remain overwhelmingly Australian-born. have similar expectations of their career in the next five years and have very similar views on the functions of the news media. Only 6. this data on types of sports has been aggregated into a total number of people. Although slightly older. Of course. Table 5 shows that the AFL is the dominant professional league in Australia in terms of the number of journalists allocated to its coverage (25. In order to get a sense of the content being produced by the sport journalists. The data revealed that 51. these figures do not necessarily reflect the quantity of coverage each sport receives.8%).percentage of their time allocated to specific sports. which might indicate that Australian sport content is fairly parochial and that much international content is not produced by Australian sport journalists. but is imported. Conclusions In many respect contemporary sport journalists are not too dissimilar to their predecessors.9% of the content produced was national in orientation. As with the data related to the journalists’ distribution across media forms. what type the articles or segments they were writing or broadcasting were according to the following designations: international. while the top ten sports account for almost 90% of Australian sport journalists. rugby league and soccer combined represent more than half the total number of sport journalists. The AFL. they are still ‘thirty-something’. from which a percentage of the overall cohort has been derived. These findings appear to 20 .8% of the content was internationally orientated.

given a decline in the circulation of the printed version of most newspapers. That noted. Perhaps most significantly. a state which has cemented its place as Australia’s sporting capital since the mid 1990s. By contrast.suggest that the profile of sport journalists has remained a dependable constant amid the seemingly dynamic and highly fluid media and sport media environments. it is clear that by contrast the proportion of sport journalists employed in radio and the growing ‘online category’ has risen. most of whom are not trained in journalism and do not see themselves as journalists. Contemporary Australian sport journalists are now far more educated than their predecessors. Many sport programs on radio and television employ former professional athletes. and are more likely to work in Victoria. sport journalists who derive the majority of their income from newspapers are the most sought after by television and radio when it comes to the reporting of sport news (in programs other than their nightly news bulletin). 21 . where former parliamentarians are swelling the ranks of the commentariat. indicative of sport journalism’s growing professionalisation. The data presented in this article did not explore the inherent tensions that have been created by the growth of online sport journalism and the fusing of traditional and new media. such as political reporting. Identifying the extent to which the professional activities of such commentators can be classed as journalism remains open to question: as Zelizer (2004: 22) noted. However. the proportion of sport journalists working in the print media has declined. the findings of this research also suggest that there are some important changes occurring within sport journalism. such as the use of Twitter. but as ‘presenters’ or commentators – a trend that has its parallel in other areas of the media. which is in line with the financial pressure many newspapers are under. ‘tensions over the boundaries of who is a journalist persist’.

Despite the fact there are now many more sport-related shows on television.blogs and other social media platforms by journalists and athletes alike. as well as an interesting perspective on the interdependence of sport and the media. More research is required to establish to what extent other journalism specialities hire from within the industry. 90% of sport journalists are allocated to ten sports and the AFL. As noted earlier in the article. The current research also found that a relatively small number of sports in Australia are allocated almost all the available sport journalists. the survey indicated the number of sport journalists in television has remained constant since Henningham’s survey. or whether it has been relatively rapid over the last five to ten years. and to what extent sport journalism is a unique case. Further research is required to 22 . particularly the major professional leagues and the media.0’ on the work practices of sport journalists is worthy of more sustained analysis and it is likely that more qualitative or ethnographic studies might be usefully employed (see Lowes. The requirement to do more with fewer resources is not unique to sport journalism. The distribution of sport journalists is an important challenge and problem for smaller sports. but the paradox between the number of exponents and the number of sport-related programs is. The impact of ‘Web 2. three of the most prominent national leagues. rugby league and soccer. The research also found that a small but significant proportion of contemporary Australian sport journalists have previously been paid to play sport in a professional capacity. 1999. More research is required to confirm the nature of this important change within the sport journalism industry. it is unclear whether this change has been gradual over the last twenty years. for example). account for more than half. This may be due in part to cost-cutting experienced by all metropolitan and regional television newsrooms around the country.

It remains for future research to further examine in greater details through both quantitative and qualitative methods of inquiry the significance of the changing practices of sport journalists in Australia. ‘Who are sport journalists’ is an important question. but also the place of sport journalists within a rapidly evolving mediascape. it is far less easy to understand the role of the people who make the sport news.less predictable (Este et al. inferences and indeed the impact of sport media texts. while it is relatively easy to speculate about the meaning. Contemporary sport journalists are similar yet different to their predecessors of twenty years ago. on the other hand. 2010). and what this means for not only sport journalism specifically. But. the educational profile of sport journalists and the growing range of media in which they work suggests that as a career in sport journalism is at once becoming more professional and . however.. particularly the proportion of male and Australian-born sport journalists. An insight into who these people are is an important first step in further exploring their role in news production and selection.determine whether the allocation of sport journalists to specific football codes and leagues leads to particular styles and types of reporting. or to comment on the impact of new broadcast rights deals or regulations. 23 . The similarities. and the way in which their attitudes. traditional and entrenched in its ways. suggest that sport journalism is very conservative. This article has revisited the seminal work of Henningham (1995) in order to provide a new profile of Australian sport journalists. views and agendas shape the ways in which sport is consumed. and has reported a dichotomous set of findings. The quantity of sport coverage across a range of media forms is such that its influence cannot be ignored.as it is for other media workers .

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1 63.3 57.Table 1: Judgements on Difficulties Faced by Women Yes No Current Study.9 Henningham. Male (n=97) 36. 1995.4 29 . 2011 Male (n=117) 17. 2011 Female (n=16) 68.7 Current Study.1 75. 1995.2 Henningham. Female (n=13) 84.6 15.9 82.8 31. 2011 (n=133) 24. 1995 (n=111) 42.9 Henningham.1 Current Study.

Henningham.8 Provide analysis and interpretation of complex problems 68.4 Stay away from stories where factual content cannot be verified 42.Table 2: Importance of news media functions (percentage saying ‘extremely important’) Current Study.3 Be an adversary of public officials by being constantly sceptical of 17.5 Provide entertainment and relaxation 28.4 46. Media Function 2011 (n=132) 1995 (n=116) Get information to the public quickly 78.7 29.8 36.4 44.4 18.8 Discuss national policy while it is still being developed 30.5 Concentrate on news of interest to the widest possible audience 39.8 82.1 15.3 37.9 16.2 59.1 Develop intellectual and cultural interests of the public 22.8 72.4 their actions Be an adversary of business by being constantly sceptical of their actions 30 .2 Investigate claims and statements made by the government 50.

0 Secondary Education 30. Masters or Postgraduate Diploma) 6.1 Other 2.Table 3: Highest level of education completed Education level % (n=166) Postgraduate degree (PhD.4 31 .6 Bachelor Degree 54.8 Advanced Diploma or Diploma (TAFE) 6.

7 Television 15 14.6 1.7 Online 16 - Wire Service - 4.3 Newspaper 48 - Magazine 12. 2011 Henningham. 1995 (n=116) (n=153) Print - 79.3 32 .3 - Radio 8.Table 4: Distribution of Journalists across Media (%) Current Study.

4 Basketball 2. Sailing.2 Soccer 11.Table 5: Percentage of sport journalists allocated to specific sports (n=132) Sport Allocation (%) AFL 25.0 Hockey.9) 33 .1 Netball 2.9 Golf 4.8 Other (including Gymnastics. Boxing. Rowing. Triathlon. Water Polo. Volleyball. Lawn Bowls. Athletics.8 Rugby league 13. 7.1-0.9 Horse Racing 8.6 Cricket 10.4 Tennis 2.0 Rugby union 5. Surfing. Diving.9 Cycling 4.0 Motorsport 1. Baseball. Touch. Greyhound Racing and Surf Lifesaving) (range: 0.