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Guide to Sports Journalism From the Al Jazeera Media Institute

Khadija Boufous Khadija Boufous
1st December 2022
Guide to Sports Journalism From the Al Jazeera Media Institute
Al Jazeera's Sports Journalism Guide (Al Jazeera)

Sports journalism methods are essential for media outlets covering the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. On this occasion, Al Jazeera Media Institute released its first Sports Journalism Guidebook.

According to research conducted by the American Journalism Institute, sports form the most consumed news topic for 25% of people, followed by political news.

“Despite this major expansion in the field of sports journalism, it is often still considered to be separated from the professional rules of journalism and is treated as a form of entertainment journalism that does not require a commitment to professional standards,” reads the guidebook’s introduction.

The guidebook aims to promote sports journalism by deconstructing the nature of sports journalists' work, explaining technical requirements, and offering advice on covering major sporting events.

The guidebook defines sports journalism and contains seven other chapters that cover a variety of topics such as sports journalism types, sources, writing, and professional ethics.

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“Sports journalists must take extra care with accuracy in each news piece they produce as well as being on the constant lookout for other angles,” the guidebook affirms.

Verification and Sports Journalism

According to Muhammad Al Khamaiseh, co-editor of the guidebook, the document is a resource for journalists and journalism students interested in launching a career in sports journalism or covering specific sporting events such as the World Cup.

He explained to Misbar that the manual can be useful for both sports specialists and general news reporters.

Mr. Al Khamaiseh told Misbar, "The guidebook provides tips and pointers for building a newsworthy sports story, including how to verify facts and form relationships with trusted and credible sources."

According to Mr. Al Khamaiseh, verification and trusted sources are especially important for sports journalists who write and present news to audiences who have a strong emotional attachment to their subject.

“The theme of combating fake news runs throughout all branches of journalism...It is a subject that was addressed in our previous publications: 'Finding the Truth Amongst the fakes' and 'Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting,'” he clarified, as there was no chapter devoted to verification in sports journalism on this new publication.

Journalism struggles in the age of misinformation and faces real challenges concerning reporting facts. According to Mr. Al Khamaiseh, “ the priority has become focusing on controversial coverage to win clicks on social media.”

For our interviewee, journalists need to re-evaluate the concept of newsworthiness to balance the media coverage of events. “Misinformation may meet what scientists call a ‘confirmation bias,’ when some audiences believe anything conforms to their own biases rather than seeking out and understanding the facts.”

Sources and Professional Ethics

The manual includes a whole chapter on sources because sports journalism necessitates particular journalistic techniques and sources intersectionality. "Sources can range from athletes, coaches, and agents to anyone else active in the sports industry, such as lawyers and analysts," the document states.

"These are all sources from which sports journalists can get story ideas, background information, and even gossip," according to the manual.

The remainder of the chapter provides advice and guidelines for strengthening a journalist's source network while working in the field. Other sections of the guidebook concentrated on narrative skills related to writing sports articles.

Meanwhile, sections of the document were devoted to sports as a specialism requiring specific skills and knowledge.

However, the final chapter of the guidebook addresses the theme of professional ethics in sports journalism, specifically how a lack of balance and impartiality in news reporting can lead to professional mistakes, defamation, or even misinformation, confusing the audience about the facts.

Misbar’s Sources

Al Jazeera Media Institute