Is sports journalism just fandom or more than that?

Sports journalists from various mediums sit together to discuss trends and changes in the profession which is thought to be more placid than political journalism.

Jaipur, 20 September 2019 – “Shall we separate the man from the art”. These were the starting words of Mihir Vasavda, a sportswriter with The Indian Express. It left the audience in “Avi” hall on the first day of Talk Journalism 2019 clueless. He went on to narrate about his job interview experience 11 years ago, where he was told that sports journalists are “reporters with typewriters”. He ended with “there is no change in the perception regarding sports journalism in India”.

The session, post this, proceeded on a jovial note with every panelist (Mr. Vasavda, senior journalist Ayaz Memon, ESPNCricinfo Senior Editor Sharda Ugra and freelance journalist Navneet Mundhra) sharing their experiences about their time in sports journalism and what it taught them. There were some bitter truths about how sportspersons, while interviewing them, to talking about the struggle of how it’s tough to report when personal stories and criticisms are discovered. It moved on to how the access to sportspersons is denied due to the lack of transparency between a sports journalist and a sportsperson.

Ms. Ugra quipped “Sports journalism is no more about fandom. It is about working on real quick tips and predicting things before they happen. But as you grow in the profession, you abandon fandom for individuals and get more inclined towards the sport. It’s about how you make the audience stay attached to your article and give a proper analysis of how you can bring in those points which will give a new insight”.

Mr. Vasavda, through his recent experiences, gave all the budding journalists in the hall his advice that “it is not easy to handle athletes while interviewing, sometimes you have to understand their mood”.

Mr. Memon initially began on acknowledging the role of Ms. Ugra being a pioneer for women in taking up sports journalism as a career and how women were having an interest in sports from early times but kept quiet. The addition of new avenues, like social media, has opened doors for women to express their views on sporting events. He remarked that there are different sections in every newspaper from editorials to Op-ed which have creatively written stories with an angle of journalism included. Sports journalism falls on similar lines and covers the same things from different angles. He ended by saying that “A sports journalist is both a writer and a reporter”.

Ms. Ugra highlighted the early interests one should demonstrate for being a sports journalist. ” Every sports journalist needs to have passion and interest in sports because it is the loveliest job you can do.” She even highlighted how social media and management companies has broadened the distance between a journalist and a sportsperson. Mr. Menon was in full agreement with this and added that “technology has redefined relationships and made them more fragile”.

Mr. Mundhra talked about the over-lapping of beats when a sports story is mixed with another domain like law and crime. He cited the example of MS Dhoni and his association with Amrapali group. He cited that interview styles of these beats are different.

It was a very interactive and knowledgeable session for all the budding sports journalists who wish to establish their careers in this field and evolve with the ever-changing trends.

Text : Snigdha Sony & Nikita Baid | Copy Edit : Niharika Raina | Photo : Niharika Raina | Photo Desk: Sagar Samuel | Editorial Coordination: Rupali Soni & Niharika Raina