Media Mania: Social media's impact on sports journalism (2023)

Berry Tramel doesn’t typically break news. But this one was substantial.

Tramel, a columnist for The Oklahoman, “lucked into” the news of legendary Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops’ retirement on June 7, 2017. When he found out, he called the office, wrote up a breaking news piece and promptly tweeted it out.

“I was stunned,” Tramel said. “Within four minutes of me tweeting that out, the Paul Finebaum show called me. They said, ‘Can you come on?’ So I went on. Literally, within 10 minutes of calling the office and saying, ‘Bob Stoops retired,’ I was on the Paul Finebaum show. That shows you the speed of everything these days.”

Social media stands entrenched in people’s everyday lives, and the sports journalism world is no different. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 48% of U.S. adults get their news from social media “often” or “sometimes.”

Once consumed on just a mere piece of paper, the dissemination of sports news has — and continues to — evolve in unprecedented ways.

Social media has brought legitimate boons to the sports journalism field. But it’s also produced a myriad of daunting pitfalls sports writers must circumvent.

Still, readers consume news on the digital stratosphere at an exorbitant rate, and it’s only trending upward.

“Twitter and social media are powerful tools if you use them right,” Tramel said. “But if you don't use them right, they create a mess, and social media creates a bunch of messes.”

The glass half full perspective

George Stoia, who covered football for the OU Daily, planned to write a story on Kyler Murray. So as part of his research, he scrolled down Murray’s Instagram all the way to the bottom.

He found pictures dating all the way back to Murray’s freshman year of high school. So Stoia began messaging people in those pictures.

One answered back, who happened to be one of Murray’s best friends. Stoia interviewed him and got another 20 numbers of guys who knew Murray in high school.

“It sounds weird, but I like to stalk these athletes and stuff,” Stoia said. “To be able to find people that were in their lives that can tell me a different story that hasn't been told before.”

Social media provides a canvas of potential sources for sports writers to splurge on at no cost.

Stoia is now a writer for the Denver Gazette covering the Denver Broncos, but his tactics remain identical.

He maintains several Twitter lists: media members, players, even one with diehard fans, which is employed by a whopping 300 people. But the approach is fruitful in finding stories. Not just from the posts themselves, but even as a means to gain a pulse on what the fanbase is feeling and thinking.

For fan reaction stories, it becomes significantly easier to accrue a sizeable number of responses in a brief period of time.

“What's your job as a reporter?” said Royce Young, former ESPN NBA writer and OKC Thunder Basketball operations content lead. “It's to give fans the most insightful information they could possibly get.”

In practical terms: sports reporters serve as a bridge from team to fan.

Social media provides sports reporters a better feel of what fans want answered, which helps deliver that end goal.

The interesting thing is, unlike decades ago the scope isn’t limited to a certain region. With the infinite range and immediacy of the internet, the potential audience is boundless. A Golden State Warriors fan in Rhode Island can keep up at the same rate as the one who lives in San Francisco.

(Video) How the media shapes the way we view the world - BBC REEL

Unlike before, when the audience was limited by a newspaper and the eyes bestowed upon it, popular articles garnish likes/retweets exponentially, a positive aspect of the wildfire nature of social media.

“I'm a big believer in great stories are everywhere,” Stoia said.

It was once an abundant necessity to be at a top-tier journalism school with a recognizable student-run paper. And while that still has its merits, the digital resources in today’s day and age help talented writers emerge into the spotlight irrespective of their medium.

Young launched Daily Thunder, a blog on the OKC Thunder, in 2008 as a means to provide coverage to Thunder fans.

He would write blogs and post them on Twitter. Soon, his website and following began to grow. His social media following and brand became a serious asset. It aided him in his quest to join CBS in 2010, ESPN in 2014 and his current role in September 2021.

The kicker? He never interviewed for any of those jobs.

Social media presents a plateau where big-time articles have the opportunity to garnish popularity at a rapid rate, in turn boosting a journalist’s desirability.

“If you write great stories and have great work, people will find you,” Stoia said.

Social media is a virtual must in today’s ever-changing sports journalism world. For all, young or old, it’s an arduous task to succeed without it.

“I joke with people all the time,” Stoia said. “I love Twitter, but if I could delete it, I definitely would.”

It’s not all so pretty

It’s a little eerie how authentic many of these social media accounts appear.

Some parody accounts post official-looking graphics with big block lettering and present it as the real deal. And on top of that, the accounts often have large followings, which make them appear legitimate.

Their posts could touch a wide range. It could be breaking news on trade rumors, free agency signings, coaching hires or even retirements.

Except it’s all made up.

But it’s not just fans who are falling for the fake reports. National names are fooled by these unfettered social media accounts.

ESPN personality Stephen A Smith, who has been duped multiple times in similar situations, cited a report by a Twitter account called “Ballsack Sports” on First Take on April 4. The “report” claimed Kyrie Irving and James Harden got into a “brief” altercation after Irving called Harden “washed.” And Smith presented it as credible info in a debate.

Kyrie Irving and James Harden got into “brief” physical altercation after Kyrie called the 32 year-old superstar “Washed” during one scrimmage.

— Ballsack Sports ®  (@BallsackSports) February 11, 2022

“People are falling for it,” Young said. “That is the frustrating thing of like, ‘How do people not do their homework and recognize how to appropriately follow news?’ That's the frustrating thing for me.”

This brings up the issue of media literacy: people’s ability to absorb and analyze news while being able to decipher what’s accurate.

In a world where people swipe and scroll at an electric pace, taking only a second or two to read, react and consume information, media literacy is often neglected.

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“In the last decade or so, my eyes have been open to how lacking media literacy is in this country,” said Jenni Carlson, a columnist for The Oklahoman.

It presents another obstacle sports journalists must outmaneuver as they strive to do their job. A job that requires the utmost integrity.

“It's better to be right than to be first,” Young said. “That's always been the case. It's always been a journalism tent pole.”

It’s a sentiment stressed to all journalists. Despite that, a blanket of complacency has set in for many reporters. The time-sensitive nature of social media changes the dynamic of how news is broken.

In the past, when a reporter had a scoop, they had time to confirm it with multiple sources and properly vet it before it was placed in the newspaper for the next day’s edition.

Nowadays, things are instantaneously broken on Twitter and blow up within minutes.

“That sort of complacency, that word is a good one, because people can compromise quality for speed, and I've never liked that,” Young said.

With that, the term fake news emerges and is used as ammunition by fans to sling crude insults at sports reporters.

That’s always been a thing reporters deal with, but it’s typically been in the form of emails, phone calls, letters, etc. Now, it’s with the click of a button from hotheaded fans who can hide behind a screen and spew off whatever insults they choose.

“It can be pretty difficult,” Young said.

As Young did, journalists often say they get used to the rampant voices catapulting crude insults their way, but it still takes a considerable mental health toll on some.

“There's been some pretty ugly things that have happened to some in the sports media realm,” Carlson said.

Social media’s effect on sports PR

For communication departments, the sole method of getting their message out to fans lone relied on traditional media outlets, advertising, etc.

While that’s still an important aspect, social media has revolutionized the scope of how sports PR departments get their message out to the public.

It all started around 2004 when Facebook was launched.

“You re-evaluated everything about how a communications office worked in sports,” said Stephen Howard, assistant athletic director/digital strategy and former OSU men’s basketball sports information director.

Through social media or email campaigns, Howard said that’s how 80% of tickets are sold now. It’s how they communicate almost everything from parking instructions to everything fans need to know about a new student-athlete.

The digital world modified its approach. On game days, there are consistent score updates, graphics, pictures, videos, etc. released by the department during the sporting events.

It provides a gateway for athletic departments to enrich fans with valuable information on the teams. The methodology has altered over time, but the job remains the same. It’s just in a different form.

“What we essentially want to do is to create a platform for our fans to share our stories and to collaborate and be a part of that,” Howard said.

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As time has passed, what sports PR jobs encompass has shifted dramatically. Job candidates who are well-versed in a plethora of skills — writing, video, editing, photo, graphic design, etc. — are highly sought after.

Ten years ago, Howard said it would be ideal to have a candidate proficient in just one of those traits. It’s a different dynamic today.

“I've got eight or nine interns right now that are better than the creatives from five years ago,” Howard said.

Social media has created a shift in how communications departments operate.

It opens a new avenue to possibilities for these PR departments, but it also opens up a free line of criticism from fans.

It’s a strenuous task for sports journalists to deal with it, but the backlash for the sports PR departments is arguably worse.

If Spencer Sanders throws an interception or the Cowboys don’t convert a third down, many fans will instantly turn against the team and rifle off harsh language into the Twitterverse.

“There are people who are going to cross lines or fans who are gonna be inappropriate on Twitter, but it does get taxing sometimes to go through a tough, long season,” Howard said.

It’s a different world nowadays

Perhaps the best examples to sum up how journalism has evolved lies with guys like Adam Shefter, Shams Charania, Adrian Wojnarowski and others.

These news breakers have defined the market in a different light. They don’t need to write articles on breaking news reports for ESPN or any other site, they can just put out a tweet and watch it explode.

“Their livelihood is the social media, and that's where people get their news, where they break it, and so it's obviously grown in that form,” Stoia said.

It’s a differing set of standards from the past decade, but it’s what sports journalists face as the norm in today’s world.

Twitter spaces have opened new opportunities for professionals to voice their thoughts to the public in proper channels. Live-tweeting during games provides a path for reporters to inform fans of things they couldn’t read on a stat sheet or see on TV.

For better or worse, social media provides a different formula to gauge success.

“I’d write a story that I thought was really, really good, and it's like, ‘Oh, it only got 52 retweets, but I thought it was better than that,’” Young said. “Then you write something else, and it would get 480 and you’d be like, ‘OK, I guess I was good.’ So we kind of sometimes self-evaluate, and I think sometimes that was a negative, honestly.”

Not every journalist adopts that approach. A rare few simply refuse to engage in the social media world and prefer to let their work speak for itself.

That approach is typically from well-recognized and established sports writers who can still thrive without the social media boost.

Most don’t fit into that category. The majority entrench in social media. Whether they engage heavily or not, it’s a transit station to portray their work.

“Twitter is sort of the modern-day newspaper,” Young said.

Social media provides people the luxury of choosing what they want to read and from whom they wish to.

(Video) Impact of social media and technology on literacy and learning

As Young puts it, people can curate their “newspaper” sections how they see fit and consume news in whatever form they choose.

Former ESPN and The Athletic writer Ethan Strauss wrote an article on how Wojanowski would send out PowerPoints to agents and NBA team employees to try to persuade them to break news with him because of his prodigious social media following.

Yeah. It’s a peculiar world out there.

“I think I first got Twitter in 2011, and it was obviously totally different then,” Carlson said. “Not as many people were on it as it is now. But the impact is tremendous, and I expect it's gonna continue to be huge and only increase and obviously change. I think it's always evolving.”

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What is the impact of social media on sports? ›

In summary, social media helps sports organizations:

Keep fans updated on team news like new signings, contracts, announcements and events. Foster fan engagement with original content from leagues, teams, coaches, and players. Promote events or teams.

How did social media cause a crisis in journalism? ›

Journalists say social-media platforms have hurt their industry, contributing to inaccurate and one-sided news accounts by exerting too much control over the mix of news that people see, according to a recent survey.

How does social media relate to journalism? ›

Among journalists who use social media for their jobs, nearly nine-in-ten (87%) say it has a very or somewhat positive impact on their ability to promote stories, while about eight-in-ten say it helps their ability to connect with their audience and find sources for stories (79% each).

How can social media be used impact a sport and its performers negatively? ›

In studies, college athletes report losing sleep because of their phones and researchers find that when athletes use social media and video games before and during competitions it leads to impaired performance.

What are the effects of media on sports coverage? ›

This puts pressure on performers, teams and management. Media coverage of inappropriate behaviour of athletes can affect the sport, audiences and the performer themselves. On-field behaviour - Inappropriate actions, such as swearing, unsporting behaviour and violent conduct.

What are the disadvantages of social media in sports? ›

The Cons: Potential for Error and Offense

Many athletes have been reprimanded or shunned by fans who do not agree with their views, or find their content offensive. Some players have even suspended for things they post or share on social media.

What is the biggest challenge facing journalism today? ›

What managers and staff members think are the biggest challenges facing journalism today
ManagersStaff members
The public doesn't care about quality journalism27%34%
Media owners today don't believe quality will sell26%31%
Journalism education isn't preparing the journalists of the future14%11%
6 more rows

What are the biggest challenges facing journalism? ›

According to the report, journalists' biggest challenge is maintaining credibility as a trusted news source (32%) and combating accusations of "fake news." A close second, journalists cite the impact that smaller staffs and fewer resources are having on their workloads.

In what ways do social media impact news and information? ›

Relationship Between Need for News and Social Media News Filtering. The emergence of social media has provided an opportunity for people to gain news from multiple sources which has increased their need for news (Gordon et al., 2022).

How social media has impacted the journalism ethics? ›

Among the ethical problems of social media platforms is the use of hyperlinks that allow journalists to feed their stories with a wealth of information [56], and while enriching the news, it makes it difficult to identify the responsible person in case of ethics violation [57].

What are the advantages of social media on journalism? ›

Social media helps journalists build a reputation

As a source of information and knowledge for your followers, you can regularly share your pieces and build a following of loyal readers along the way. After all, most publications have writer profiles that include their social media @ handles these days anyway.

What is the impact of Internet on journalism? ›

The internet has enabled journalists to reach out to their audience 24 hours a day. This accessibility also enables the audiences to give their feedback and or contribute to media content at any time in any day thus allowing free flow of information. Journalism has also benefitted from the impact of the internet.

What are 5 negative effects of social media? ›

Social media harms

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.

What is the most negative effect of social media? ›

The more time spent on social media can lead to cyberbullying, social anxiety, depression, and exposure to content that is not age appropriate. Social Media is addicting. When you're playing a game or accomplishing a task, you seek to do it as well as you can.

What is the role of journalism in sports? ›

Basically, the primary objective of sports journalism is not to know about the environment of games or sports, but to present the facts. A sports enthusiast's first concern is the statistics related to a sporting event.

Why is journalism important in sports? ›

Since its conception, sports journalism has provided a way for Americans to have national conversations about pressing social issues. While some think athletes should “shut up and dribble,” the truth is that sports have always been profoundly political. Of course, this goes beyond The News-Letter.

What are social barriers in sport? ›

Lack of accessible facilities, such as gymnasiums and buildings. Limited accessible transportation. Limiting psychological and sociological factors including attitudes towards disability of parents, coaches, teachers and even people with disabilities themselves.

What are the risks and benefits of social media? ›

Social media benefits include connection, learning and creativity. Risks include exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and privacy and data breaches. Written guidelines can help pre-teens and teenagers get benefits while using social media responsibly, respectfully and safely.

What new challenges do sports journalists face today? ›

The Challenges In Sports Journalism
  • The role of advertisers. In India, many people think that Sports Journalism tends to focus only on cricket, much to the detriment of other sports. ...
  • The “experts” ...
  • Political Clouts in Sports Federations.

What are the challenges being faced by journalism in the social media age? ›

In the digital age, members of the public act as eyewitnesses, publishers, authors and, increasingly, the breakers of news stories. This shift is challenging accepted journalistic notions of factual reporting, accuracy and balance. The so-called 'news' provided by social media may not present the full picture.

What is social issues journalism? ›

Issues of diversity, poverty, racial difference, sexual orientation, and developmental, psychological and physical abilities are among those that require reporting that is sensitive to historical and social contexts while not verging into advocacy positions.

What are three challenges faced by the mass media today? ›

  • Lack of Transparency.
  • Compliance with laws/regulations.
  • Challenges with respect to taxation.
  • Threat to media channels.
  • Hurt and life threats to people working in the industry.
  • Concern relating to Data Privacy.
  • Licensing requirements.
  • Copyright and piracy issues.
26 Jan 2021

What are the 5 core principles of journalism? ›

Five Principles of Ethical Journalism: Implications for Media Representations of Autism Treatment
  • Truth and Accuracy. “Journalists cannot always guarantee 'truth' but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. ...
  • Independence. ...
  • Fairness and Impartiality. ...
  • Humanity. ...
  • Accountability.

How new media influenced journalism today? ›

It also shows the daily trends of news being discussed all over the world, which helps the journalists in decision making about stories to be covered. Social media sites especially Twitter and Facebook, indeed, have revolutionized journalism by changing the way news is gathered and stories are found.

What are the major impact of social media give some examples? ›

Social Media is relatively a newer technology, hence, it is a little difficult to establish its long-term good and bad consequences. However, multiple researchers have concluded a strong relationship between heavy use of social media platforms with an increase in risk of depression, self-harm, anxiety, and loneliness.

What are the impact of social media and communication? ›

Social media's influence has given rise to a different genre of communication, where conversations are quick and information is easily relayed. Due to its widespread impact, employers are seeking professionals who are well-versed in social media platforms to take on important roles within an organization.

What are the 3 ethical principles in journalism? ›

"Truth", "accuracy", and "objectivity" are cornerstones of journalism ethics.

What is media ethics in journalism? ›

Media ethics is the subdivision dealing with the specific ethical principles and standards of media, including broadcast media, film, theatre, the arts, print media and the internet. The field covers many varied and highly controversial topics, ranging from war journalism to Benetton ad campaigns.

How digital media has affected investigative journalism? ›

Social media applications, such as Twitter and Facebook, have led to consumers of news no longer being passive viewers or listeners of news, but rather having an opportunity to voice their opinions, provide feedback and share information that influences investigations.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of social journalism? ›

Top 10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media
Pros of Social MediaCons of Social Media
People Can Connect Through Social MediaReduces Face-to-face Communication Skills
Good Source of Up-to-Date InformationFake News
Social Media Is Beneficial to EducationPeople's Addiction to Social Media
7 more rows
14 Jun 2022

What are 5 benefits of social media advertising? ›

Top 5 Benefits of Social Media Marketing
  • Brand Awareness. Companies of all sizes and industries want to get their names out there. ...
  • Increased Revenue. ...
  • Improved SEO. ...
  • Better Customer Service. ...
  • Retargeting Opportunities. ...
  • Learn More About Social Media Marketing.
20 Jul 2021

How did technology affect journalism and media? ›

The last decades a revolutionary technological change has been occurred in Journalism sector. It has been rapidly growth globally. As a result it is so much easier to collect different formats of news and relevant docs. Also massive changes have been brought in disseminating news items.

How does technology affect journalism? ›

Technological change affects: (1) the way journalists do their job; (2) the nature of news content; (3) the structure and organization of the newsroom and the news industry; and (4) the nature of the relationships be- tween and among news organizations, journalists and their many publics, in- cluding audiences, ...

Why journalism had a big impact in our society? ›

Without journalism, the world would be ignorant. Journalism is important because it gives current and relevant information and news to the public. Benjamin Franklin said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by judging the freeness of speech.”

What are 3 dangers of social media? ›

The risks you need to be aware of are: cyberbullying (bullying using digital technology) invasion of privacy. identity theft.

What is the impact of social media essay? ›

Positive Impacts of Social Media-

It can create awareness for many social issues. There is a fast transfer of information online so that the users can stay well informed. It can also be used as a news medium. There are a few social benefits like communication with long-distance friends and relatives.

How does social media impact privacy? ›

However, as social media has grown over the years, so has the risk of data breaches. As more and more information gets placed online, there is an increased danger of hackers, companies, and malicious interlopers mining your data in ways that undermine personal privacy. And in some cases, your data is outright stolen.

What is the most toxic social media platform? ›

You're not alone, and according to a new study from SimpleTexting, the micro-blogging platform tops the list of "most toxic apps." Some 38.1 percent of respondents said that Twitter had the most trolls, compared with 26.9 percent who said trolling was a problem on Facebook, and 14.8 percent on Reddit.

Has social media been a positive or negative influence on society? ›

Social media can often harm one's mental health. It can cause depression and anxiety and can lower self-esteem. In teens alone, depression rates range from 13-66% with increased social networking usage. With over three billion users, social media is likely to continue to play a huge role in our society.

How has digital media impacted the role of journalism? ›

Social media offers journalists increased access to content. Thanks to social media, journalists have unprecedented access to their audience, putting them closer than ever to the content and story ideas that their readers/listeners care about.

What major reasons caused the decline of newspaper journalism? ›

Television's arrival in the 1950s began the decline of newspapers as most people's source of daily news. But the explosion of the Internet in the 1990s increased the range of media choices available to the average reader while further cutting into newspapers' dominance as the source of news.

How does social media affect crisis communication? ›

During a crisis, social media can help brands: Communicate updates to your audience; Support people who need help or information; Listen and learn about current events and what people need from your brand.

What are the impacts of internet on journalism? ›

The internet has enabled journalists to reach out to their audience 24 hours a day. This accessibility also enables the audiences to give their feedback and or contribute to media content at any time in any day thus allowing free flow of information. Journalism has also benefitted from the impact of the internet.

How did technology change the field of journalism? ›

Technology has altered the information ecosystem by displacing media and journalists from the exclusive role of editorial mediation. The Internet and social networks have given audiences and media sources the power to become media themselves.

What causes bias in journalism? ›

Market forces may also cause bias. Examples include bias introduced by the ownership of media, including a concentration of media ownership, the subjective selection of staff, or the perceived preferences of an intended audience.

What are the causes of conflict of interest in journalism? ›

There are many different kinds of conflicts of interest, from reporting on close friends or family to receiving free copies of books, films and games to review. Conflicts also arise when reporters take positions on political or social issues.

What are the three main factors that affect news coverage? ›

  • Consumers. Among the three major factors affecting news coverage are politicians, journalists, and. ...
  • right of rebuttal. ...
  • Fairness Doctrine. ...
  • Consumers. ...
  • politicians. ...
  • tends to be dominated by conservatives. ...
  • a news leak. ...
  • they are really an industry.

What are the types of social media crisis? ›

5 Types of Social Media Crisis
  1. Multi-Channel. A multi-channel crisis is the most dangerous category to fall into because it can quickly go viral and negatively affect your brand. ...
  2. Emerging. An emerging crisis is one looming but not yet full-blown. ...
  3. Industry. ...
  4. Fake News and Misinformation. ...
  5. Social Activism.
24 Nov 2021

What is the media's role in crisis? ›

Mass media play a special role in providing information and making people aware of the situation during crisis situations. The media can calm the populace and encourage them to do positive actions, and vice versa, terrorized the populace and create chaos.

What are the 5 C's of crisis communication? ›

I call these the 5Cs of Crisis Communications: Care, Commitment, Competency, Community, and Continuity.

What are the 5 biggest problems with social media? ›

Cons: Why is social media bad?
  • Online vs Reality. Social media itself is not the problem. ...
  • Increased usage. The more time spent on social media can lead to cyberbullying, social anxiety, depression, and exposure to content that is not age appropriate.
  • Social Media is addicting. ...
  • Fear of Missing Out. ...
  • Self-image issues.


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