Student guest post: Is sports reporting turning into tabloid journalism?

Students in MEJO 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the second of those posts. Travis Butler is a senior from Wilmington, North Carolina, who is majoring in journalism. He is an avid sports fan that hopes to have a career in sports writing and he can line-for-line quote most Will Ferrell movies. 

As an avid sports fan, I think I’ve finally had it with the TMZ-style reporting continuously used by ESPN and Bleacher Report. It’s almost as if sports media entities have begun to focus exclusively on whatever can get the most clicks, the most views or the most social media presence.

Obviously, ratings are absolutely crucial for sports networks, and gaining as many viewers as possible is key. However, both ESPN and Bleacher Report have become notorious for reporting on pointless behind-the-scenes drama to garner more clicks and more buzz on social media.

Quality reporting on the actual sporting event has dramatically decreased. Whenever I scroll through social media, I see articles and videos about the game itself, but it’s largely sports clickbait on my newsfeed.

I think online editors need to do a better job of vetting what gets posted and what doesn’t. I don’t want to know about players interacting on Twitter, getting in trouble with their spouses on Snapchat or criticizing one another on Instagram.

Most of my friends feel the same way. We want to know about how many points someone scored, if the game was well-coached and if the officiating was up to par. Legit sports fans want the details about things that actually affect the game.

Here are the headlines for two recent ESPN articles:

While these are not as bad as a lot that I’ve seen, they’re still TMZ-type articles. The former is about two NBA players getting into a Twitter argument. The latter is about Tom Brady’s father’s opinion of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Real sports fans care about neither. I don’t care that two solid players are arguing via social media. And I certainly don’t care what a quarterback’s dad has to say about anything.

ESPN just knows that people will click on drama or anything related to Deflategate.

Here are the headlines for two recent Bleacher Report articles:

Again, no one cares about a whiny football player defending another whiny player from the “unfair media.” Okay, maybe that is interesting but it’s still a drama story and not a sports one.

And personally, I believe that locker room drama like what is going on with the Bulls should be kept in-house. It should not be reported on as heavily as it is these days because it’s all just speculation.

Digital sports editors need to be better. They need to stop succumbing to tabloid journalism and clickbait and focus on the things that matter: the sports themselves.

I shouldn’t scroll down Facebook and see my newsfeed flooded with articles that, at first glance, look like they were written by TMZ reporters. Sports reporters need to go back to the basics:

  • Actually asking athletes about the game and their team.
  • Not spreading locker room rumors and drama.
  • Appealing to their core audience (actual fans) and not a broad social media audience.
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