domingo, 22 de octubre de 2017

Tom Bradshaw: "Sports journalism has its ethical dilemmas and tensions, but these aren't properly acknowledged, either within or outside the profession"

Far from traditional consideration as the “little brother” of the profession, sports journalism plays a key role in the new information ecosystem and has a huge impact in society. Therefore, sports journalists must gain awareness of their accountability in order to counteract the widespread deficiencies that have not only challenged the normative standards of the profession but that have also eroded their credibility. Those include the blurring of the frontiers between comment and facts; the pervasiveness of rumour; sensationalism; the use of warlike language; the inequalities in relation to gender, race and impairment; or the lack of variation in the sources used. 

"Sports content is a crucial aspect of many media organisations’ output. But while the ethical issues surrounding news journalism are closely scrutinised, the ethical dilemmas facing sports journalism are often neglected, or even unacknowledged", state the organisers of the this year’s annual conference at the Institute of Communication Ethics (ICE). The event, entitled 'Sports Journalism: ethical vacuum or ethical minefield', will take place at Frontline Club in London on 27th October and it is the UK's first academic conference on ethics in sports journalism and the second after the one organised by the Center for Journalism Ethics of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, in April 2015.

Scholars from the United Kingdom, Australia and Spain will discuss about a wide range of ethical issues in sports communications including women in sports journalism, the impact of clickbait in football reporting, the digital sports media landscape in Australian sport, diversity in sports journalism, sports media relations, the ethics of self-censorship and sports journalism in ethical codes.

To know more details on this event, we contacted Tom Bradshaw, a sports journalist and a senior lecturer and academic course leader in Sports Journalism at the University of Gloucestershire. He is co-organising the ICE annual conference along with Daragh Minogue, founder and course leader of masters degrees in Sports Journalism at St. Mary's University in London.

- Why did the ICE decide to devote the annual conference to sports journalism?
- The Institute of Communication Ethics' annual conference last year included two papers delivered by two sports journalism academics - myself and Daragh Minogue from the University of St Mary's in London. The papers went down well, and the ICE committee decided to invite Dr Minogue and me to run the following year's conference so that there could be a special focus on ethical issues in sports journalism. We were very happy to receive the invitation and to co-organise this year's conference as we feel strongly that ethical issues in sports journalism do not currently receive the attention they deserve. We believe that this is the first international conference focusing on this topic.

- What issues will be presented and discussed on 27th October in London?
- A wide range of ethical issues in sports journalism will be discussed, ranging from the issues of clickbait and codes of practice to the issues of self-censorship and sports journalists' relationships with their sources. What is exciting is that the conference has a truly international flavour, with academics and sports journalists from Australia, Spain and the United Kingdom all delivering papers. The keynote address will be made by Andy Cairns, executive editor of Sky Sports News.

- Is sports journalism in fact an ethical vacuum or an ethical minefield, as the title of the conference states? Why?
- My personal view is that sports journalism - like any industry - has its ethical dilemmas and tensions, but that these dilemmas and tensions aren't properly acknowledged, either within the profession or outside of it. I am a practising sports journalist myself and during the course of my work I have been confronted by a number of ethical issues, ranging from disagreements with editors around issues of sensationalism and issues of representation to potential complicity with sources. I am particularly interested in the extent to which sports journalists - consciously or not - self-censor, whether out of a fear of alienating contacts or for other reasons. There is no shortage of ethical trip-wires for the thoughtful sports journalist to negotiate.

"As sport becomes more powerful, it is essential that sports journalists perform a watchdog function that holds the powerful institutions and people involved in sport to account"

- Is sports journalism a field where journalists should become more aware of their high responsability when they realise sports content has great impact on society?
- I think a distinction needs to be drawn between the 'on-diary' activities of sports journalists - such as attending matches and press conferences - and what might be termed 'off-diary', issues-based sports journalism. The practitioners of both have their responsibilities, but I think sports journalism can too often be fixated on the on-diary at the expense of the deeper journalism provided through the latter. I term this "ball watching" - by literally focusing on where the literal ball is on the field, journalists can metaphorically "take their eye off the ball" in terms of monitoring the deeper issues affecting the sport they are covering. It is the off-diary activities that provide the stories that have the most powerful effect on society. In my own country, the journalism of David Walsh (in pursuing the doping cyclist Lance Armstrong) and Andrew Jennings (in exposing corruption at FIFA) are two strong examples. As sport becomes more powerful, both in terms of economic power and cultural dominance, it is essential that sports journalists perform a watchdog function that holds the powerful institutions and people involved in sport to account. There is certainly no excuse for sports journalists to see themselves - or to be seen by others - as "fans with typewriters", which is the old caricature of sports writers.

- Do you think a new specific code comprising most frequent ethical issues within the field could be helpful in order to raise awareness among professionals of the social relevance of acting responsibly in the sports field?
- The issue of a bespoke code of practice for sports journalists is an interesting one, and one which I believe will receive more attention over the coming years as sport's cultural and economic power continues to grow. There are some code articles that should apply to any journalist regardless of the field they are working in - news, business, sport, entertainment - such as the commitment to accuracy. But there is potentially scope for articles that are specific to sports journalism, such as a section that could seek to codify ethically acceptable interactions with the sports media relations executives of professional clubs. Privacy is an interesting concept, too. With elite sportspeople, and clubs, portraying themselves in certain ways in order to market products, there is potentially a case for them having a different expectation of privacy to ordinary members of the public if their private life is at odds with their lucrative public persona. 

- Because sports journalists are first of all journalists, should they follow the baseline codes of the profession first rather than the specific ones?
- There are key principles that sports journalists should adhere to in common with other journalists, but there is also scope for more detailed principles that are connected to the nuances of the profession, as outlined above.

Programme of the Conference

‘Sports Journalism: ethical vacuum or ethical minefield'

Frontline Club, London, Friday 27th October 2017 

. 10:00-11:00am Session One:

Jonathan Cable, University of Cardiff.
‘Can I click it? Yes you can: Football Journalism, Twitter, and Clickbait’

Tracie Edmundson, Charles Sturt University, Australia.
‘Digital Media and Professional Sport in Australia’

. 11:15am-11:50am Session Two:

Suzanne Franks, City University.
'Sports writing in national newspapers: Where are all the women?'

. 11:50pm-12:30pm: Andy Cairns Executive Editor, Sky Sports News, Keynote Address. 

. 1:15pm-1:50pm Session Three

Simon McEnnis, University of Brighton.
'Comparing ethical codes in print and broadcasting'

. 1:50pm-2:25pm Session Four

David Randles, University of Chester.

. 2:30pm-3:10pm Session Five

Tom Bradshaw, University of Gloucester.
’Riding High? Cycling, the Pursuit of Truth, and Self-Censorship in Sports Journalism’

. 3:25pm-4:00pm Session Six 

José Luis Rojas, Universidad de Sevilla & Xavier Ramon, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain.

Text in Spanish

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