Covering Sports in the Social Media Age

With an increasing number of athletes and sports teams communicating through social media, sports journalists are adapting to cover stories in the new media age. Breaking sports stories have changed, with athletes and teams using social media channels to distribute news to fans rather than contacting sports reporters. Because of this, sports journalists are increasingly following teams and athletes on social media trying to be the first reporter to break a story. Sports reporters are also using this as a way to speculate and infer future news stories based on what athletes change on their social media channels.

Sports journalists use social media as a way to speculate and discuss players, leading to headlines like the one above by ESPN. (Source: Screenshot by Israel Gonzalez, Content by ESPN)

Social media has also allowed sports journalists to cover stories from new angles. Even small things like seeing whether an athlete follows a new team, likes certain posts or even deletes content can give sports journalists material to speculate and write about. Stories covering these small changes, like the one pictured above by ESPN about Julio Jones deleting Falcons pictures, are becoming more and more prevalent.

Unfortunately, this has also created a problem with sports reporting. Often times, stories focused on what small things athletes change on their channels can lead to nothing. Julio Jones posted pictures of the Falcons and the team just days after the ESPN story broke. In other words, it was a sensationalized story at worse or a non-story at best.

This can even be seen currently with NFL running back Le’Veon Bell’s situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Reporters are fishing for any news they can get and any small change in Bell’s social media presence leads to a creation of a story, such as the one linked above where Bell changed the wording of his Twitter bio.

Athletes are also increasingly being some of the first sources to break the news. NFL wide receiver Dez Bryant posted videos of himself working out at around the time the New Orleans Saints were working him out. Golden Tate, now a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, was the first person to break the news of himself being traded. This was tweeted before any sports reporters broke the news, or even before the teams involved in the trade reported it.

Whether good or bad, sports teams and athletes will continue to use social media to communicate, avoiding sports reporters in the process. Sports reporters, needing to remain competitive and on top of the news, will likely continue to over-analyze any small changes found on social media by athletes and sports teams. Welcome to the new age of sports reporting, now time to go see what post Bell just liked on Twitter.