The impact of social media on sports journalism

Lisa Johnson
AFC South AFC East Reporter

By Lisa Johnson // @LJ1303

As we prepare for the new NFL league year, which officially starts March 17, the league will continue to follow the current Covid-19 protocols put into place in 2020, holding all NFL team meetings and press conferences virtually. Beat writers and major network journalists are limited to virtual interviews only, bringing the importance of social media platforms to a whole new level.

As we continue to face challenges due to the 2020 pandemic, the one thing that has become crystal clear is every sports super fan has started a sports podcast and sports page. So what (if any) impact does this have on those that spent their lives working and earning sports journalist degrees?  I reached out to two sports journalists and asked them each the same question. One is from the good old print-only days, while the other is a little younger but can still remember newspapers.

First up is Alain Poupart publisher of AllDolphins for Sports Illustrated, and editor of Dolphin Digest.

Lisa Johnson: “When you first started out in sports journalism. Was it 100% print?”

Alain Poupart: “You’re going to make me age myself here, aren’t you? LOL. Actually, it was so long ago when I started out in sports journalism, I don’t even remember the landscape. I kid, I started out at the now-defunct Miami News in 1983 and it was strictly print.”

LJ: “As social media grew over the years. Was it something you embraced and just learned to adapt to?”

AP: “There are aspects of social media I enjoy, but like everything, there is bad to it as well. I can’t deal with the disrespect you often see out there and, at the risk of sounding snobbish, I have an issue also with folks throwing out unsolicited opinions about something.”

“They’ll write and talk like they’re scouts or something and my researched opinions have no merit because they don’t fit their narrative. Mind you, I have no issue with anybody disagreeing with something I write or tweet, but it needs to be done without emotion. If you can’t talk objectively about a player, then don’t talk about him in a public forum.”

LJ: “What is the hardest part of social media today?”

AP: “Yeah, it’s pretty much what I touched on in the previous answer. We’re getting a lot of that this offseason with Tua Tagovailoa and the whole Deshaun Watson (and now Russell Wilson) situation. To hear some fans, it’s like beat writers who talk about the possibility of acquiring Watson are betraying Tua or insulting him when there’s nothing personal about it. And if I take a position on the issue, I don’t necessarily need to be told I’m an idiot and I have a personal vendetta against Tua.”

“It’s crazy to me how personal some fans take things. I also see too many “hot takes” that feel reactionary to me, as opposed to being researched and thought out. But that’s not everybody, and there is a lot of interaction I enjoy on social media, even somewhere someone will disagree with something I said or wrote.”

I then talked to Antwan Staley, to get his thoughts on the same three questions. Antwan is a professional Sports Journalist who earned degrees from ECU and Syracuse University.

Regarding the first question, I already knew Antwan was too young to remember print-only media reporting.

AS: “No, I got into journalism in 2008 as I didn’t start in sports right away. But it was already a 50/50 split with the online element. Over time as we know, it has become mostly online, and the print element has become more phased out. But some people, including myself, like to get the old school newspaper.”

On learning to adapt…

AS: “I think any journalist had to adapt to social media. I remember when I first started my Twitter in 2009, I thought it was something no one would use. Come to find out, it has been the best thing for my personal and professional life. Not only have I found stories online, but I have also even found jobs through social media. But no, I didn’t adapt to social media until about 2011 or so.”

And lastly, the hardest part of social media…

AS: “I’m not sure because this is a vague question. I guess from a branding standpoint, it puts you accountable. So you have to be extra careful about things you tweet or even like because people can take it out of
context. So just being aware of what image you portray is probably the hardest part for me.”

While most will agree, there is always some good and bad when it comes to sports social media. Many reporters have to brace for immediate feedback, either critical or positive. One thing I have always stood by is this. I would rather have quality over quantity. So many sites rely on clicks and views regardless of the quality of the content.

I want to thank Alain and Antwan. Two professionals that are well worth a follow and read.

Talk football with Lisa on Twitter // @LJ1303

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