What will sports reporting be like in say, 15 or 20 years?

The coverage of sporting events was a practice that remained largely unchanged for nearly 100 years. Starting about 10 years ago, things have been changing rapidly. Laptops, internet access, cellular telephones, cable and satellite television and even blogs have changed the way that sports reporters do their jobs in so many different ways.

The nature of stories has changed as well. In the days before cable television and even before teams were broadcasting all their games locally the focus of stories that appeared in the morning paper was to recap the games for the reader. There would be large sections of play-by-play included in the game stories. The focus was all on the game; with perhaps some post game quotes added from the players and coaches involved. The role of the columnist has remained pretty consistent throughout the changes of the recent years.

Since most fans have now seen the game with their own eyes, there is less need to recap the action and more of a call to analyze and even critique the play and decisions made on the field. Opinion is emphasized more and more as the line between reporter and columnist becomes blurred.

Nowadays as soon as reporters arrive at the site of a game, they’re uploading blog entries to set the scene of the game, hours before it starts. The writers are on their cell phones, not only conducting interviews for their own stories, but also being interviewed for various radio and TV shows not just in their local area, but all around the country. The blogging continues right up and through game time, with lineups being posted, recaps of action, and anecdotal and historical notes being passed along in almost real time. Newspapers are asking their reporters to do more than ever, including upload podcasts (Like the Herald‘s Red Sox Radio) to the internet site.

What will it be like in the future?

There is no doubt that technology will continue to dictate progress and play a large role in sports reporting as the years go by.

I’ve spoken a number of times about one idea I see for the future…the credentialed, freelance sports reporter who is entirely his own entity. This reporter does not work for the Globe or the Herald, but rather for himself. This reporter is able to arrive at the event, take video, conduct interviews for both audio and print, upload both audio and video reports, blog during the game and write feature articles which are instantly published to his website, which is then distributed to readers, who either come directly to the site, or who have subscribed to the content and get it pushed directly to their personal viewing schedule for their news reading device.

This actually isn’t all that far away. All of that technology is available today; consider what I can do on my own Motorola Q phone:

  • Make and receive phone calls
  • Receive, read and respond to emails
  • Compose documents on the QWERTY keyboard
  • Post to the Internet
  • Take photos with the 1.3 MP digital camera
  • Take digital video with sound.
  • Store files on the 1 GB mini SD drive
  • Record interviews with the voice recorder
  • Watch Television with the help of my Slingbox.
  • Listen to the online streams of WEEI and 890 ESPN Boston
  • Access all of my RSS subscriptions and keep up with them anywhere.

And all of this is in a small lightweight handheld device. Imagine what the technology is going to be like 10, 15, 20 years from now. There probably won’t be bulky laptops, large TV cameras and recording equipment.

The reporter of the future is going to be required to be comfortable with all aspects of media, print, audio and video. Young ones growing up today are being exposed to the new technologies everyday and are going to easily work with all that will be required of the new generation of sports coverage. During the last 10 years, we’ve seen the sports media of today really getting into all aspects of coverage, and that is only going to continue. Right now, it is an option to do some of these other things, (like appear on sports radio or TV shows) in the future it will be required.

I see newspapers transforming into news organizations. You’re seeing that today, but it is going to just keep growing. The Boston Globe has moved from just a newspaper, to a newspaper and a website. Now they’ve gotten involved with NESN TV programming, with several of their own themed shows on that network. What’s next..the Boston Globe Sports Radio?

“Citizen Journalism” is a common buzzword these days, and while you’re going to continue to see fan sites and blogs popping up, and even internet radio and video shows being produced by fans, I still think the sports reporters are safe. Unlike news events which happen out in the public…streets, public areas…sports events are held in confined areas. Only a certain amount of people can attend the games in person, and only a very tiny number have access to the participants of the events. That credentialed access is going to have to continue, as the locker rooms and clubhouses can only fit so many people at one time. While sports teams might grant access to the occasional blogger or fan site, it’s not going to become a widespread, common practice.

Sports reporting has seen many changes over the last 10 years. The next 10 years promise to bring many more changes in technology and organization. However, I think that the job of the sports reporter is something that will continue to be in demand for as long as there are sports to cover.

See also: How the Local Newsroom of the Future Might Operate by Mark Glaser.