Chapter 55: Sport in different media

This is the last of three chapters on the coverage of sport. In the previous chapters, we looked at how to plan for good sports coverage in your newspaper, radio or television station and how to gather information, then how to present sports news and results. In this chapter we examine the challenges of reporting sport in different media.

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All the media can cover sport, but they need to do so in different ways. Radio and television have the advantage of speed - they can tell you about the event while it is happening - while newspapers and magazines have the advantage of being able to present lots of tabulated information - results, league tables and so on for people to read at leisure.

Each of the media needs to concentrate on its advantages in planning its sports service. Let us consider each in turn.

Newspapers and magazines

Newspapers and magazines cannot hope to be the first medium to give the result of a big match. Anybody who is really interested will probably get the result from radio or television before a newspaper or magazine can be printed.

What the print media lack in speed, though, they make up for in other ways. The advantages of newspapers and magazines include the following:

Detailed information

Newspapers and magazines can publish the full results of a wide variety of sports, league tables, fixtures (details of matches to be played in the future), race cards, statistics and a lot of other detailed information.

This can be printed in small type, because it is not designed to be read continuously. Readers will search for the information they want, and read those few words. Using small type allows you to fit much more information on the page.

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Minority sports

Newspapers can devote some space to sports even if they have only a few followers. It will not annoy other readers, who can ignore that small report and read something else instead.

This is a big advantage over radio and television, where everybody has to watch or listen to the same thing at the same time.

Pictures

Radio is fast, but it cannot carry pictures. Newspapers and magazines can give good sports coverage by using plenty of sports photographs. Television, of course, does give pictures; but even when people have seen the moving image on television, they like to see again the crucial moment of the game captured in a still image in the newspaper.

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Radio and television

Many of the things we have already said about reporting sport apply equally to radio and television as they do to newspapers. You need to understand your audience, and which sports you need to cover. You must provide previews, match reports and results, which we will talk about in more detail shortly. You can report sport both as news and as features or documentaries. You need the same reporting skills of speed, accuracy and attention to detail. The people who listen to sports programs will be just as critical as the readers of sports pages. They are usually the same people.

Like newspapers, most big radio and television stations have their own sports staff, reporting for the news or for sports programs. The subject is too large and complicated to discuss in detail here, but the following is some general advice.

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Speed

One of the main advantages radio and television have over the print media is their ability to bring reports quickly. Radio in particular can bring instant reports of sporting events. With satellite technology, television stations can now get live reports instantly without having to lay special cables to the sports grounds. Do not waste that advantage. People want to know results as soon as possible.

For major sporting events, especially those which might interest general listeners and viewers, not just the sports fans, you should treat results as news. Give them as soon as possible. Do not save them for your once-a-week sports programme. You can always provide a longer report for your sports programme, together with some background detail and analysis of the event.

For minor sporting events, especially those which only interest the participants, the results can be saved for a regular slot in your sports programs. For example, the results of the regular tennis competition can be given at the same time each week.

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Live commentary

Nowhere is the speed of broadcasting more obvious than in live reports of sporting events, for example football matches or racing. People at home or listening to a radio in their car can get a second-by-second report. A good live commentary can make the listener or viewer feel that they are at the event itself. Do not waste the advantage.

Your commentary must be clear and informed. You must know the rules of the sport and be able to identify instantly all the people taking part. You must speak confidently enough to report the fast action at the goal line as well as to fill in the empty minutes while a coach tends an injured player in the centre of the field. On television, you do not need to describe what the viewers can see themselves, but you need to tell them who the players on the screen are and describe any action which the viewers might have missed.

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Sports specials

Sports programs are the equivalent of the newspapers sports pages. Such programs are broadcast regularly, perhaps on Saturday or Sunday afternoons while sport is taking place, or on Friday evenings to preview the weekend's sport or Monday evenings to look back on it.

You usually need to cover all the sports being played at the time, but focus on a few of the most important events, perhaps with live commentary from a match or race meeting. As with newspapers, you need reporters or stringers at all the events, to send reports and results as they happen. Reporters need to know beforehand how long their report should be, and not exceed that time limit.

Sports program presenters need to be articulate, able to speak clearly, brightly and continuously without a script. It often helps if they have at least one guest in the studio, someone who can answer questions or speak knowledgeably on a topic while the presenter takes a breath.

The program producer must be able to work quickly and logically under stress. They must be able to find instant solutions to unexpected problems, such as a sudden gap in the program because a report has not arrived. It is useful if they have competent assistants to whom they can assign some of the tasks, such as making phone calls or recording reports. It helps if everyone involved in the program is a sports enthusiast, able to understand the needs of the listeners or viewers.

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Fixtures, previews and results

Radio is not a good medium in which to give long lists, of coming fixtures or results. Although television can cope better with them by putting information on the screen, this alone will not help people who are too busy to concentrate or who cannot read; so special care must be taken in reading out tables.

Do not read out long league tables or lists of fixtures. It is better to get someone into the studio to discuss them in a knowledgeable way with the presenter, highlighting the most important or significant matches, performances or changes in the league. You should avoid lists where possible, but if you do present them, do it in a regular, consistent order, usually in order of importance.

You must read at a steady pace, with pauses between matches, games or events. You should establish a rhythm of delivering your words to reflect what you are saying. For example, raise the pitch of your voice slightly when reading the winners, lower it slightly for the losers or contestants down the place order. (Pitch is the high or low tone of your voice. It is not the volume or loudness of it.)

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Recording events

Your listeners or viewers want to hear or see the highlights of events - the goals, the final seconds of a race or the knockout punch. These can be recorded and replayed, perhaps several times if they are especially important or interesting.

Television camera crews should be reminded of this whenever they film a match or race. It is best to have several cameras at the event, to capture the best moments from different angles. If this is not possible, one camera crew at least must attend the match for long enough to record the highlights. It is no good sending a camera crew to a football match unless they film the goals. It is no good sending them to a marathon unless they film the finish (and preferably the start as well).

TO SUMMARISE:

Find out which sports are popular in your country, and try to cover those

Arrange for expert correspondents

Get the right balance of results, reports, previews, sports news and sports features for your media

Give the results clearly

Concentrate on the advantages of your media:

  • For print, the ability to give details, cover minority sports and use pictures

  • For radio, the speed at which you can bring live commentary and results

  • For television, the speed of live coverage and the ability to show the moving highlights

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>>go to the next chapter

 

 
Index to Chapter 55
  1. Newspapers and magazines
  2. Detailed information
  3. Minority sports
  4. Pictures
  5. Radio and television
  6. Speed
  7. Live commentary
  8. Sports specials
  9. Fixtures, previews and results
  10. Recording events
  11. To summarise
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