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Abstract

Newspaper sports journalists training to enter the field will be asked to know different skills from their predecessors. Also, newspaper editors are concerned about the journalistic skills of their future employees. This research investigated job skills desired of the next generation of sports journalists within newspaper organizations. Through a factor analysis, four underlying dimensions were found: broadcasting skills, editing skills, reporting skills and sports knowledge. Mean scores showed reporting skills having the most importance.

Introduction

Print journalism practices in the United States have evolved over time, keeping up with technological, societal, and industry changes. It could be argued that the most recent evolution incorporating new media technology via the Internet is perhaps the most significant in the medium's history. Referred to as convergence (or multimedia) journalism, Deuze (2004) defined the term as both "the presentation of a news story on a website using two or more media formats" and "the integrated (but not necessarily simultaneous) presentation of a news story through different media" (p.141). Formats commonly utilized on websites include (a) text, (b) video, (c) audio, (d) still images, and (e) graphic animations (Deuze, 2004). Blogging, as well as participating in social media sites like Twitter, has also created greater interaction between reporters and [End Page 65] their audience. As a result, websites are allowing newspapers to provide more content beyond the traditional daily paper. An industry observer noted the rush to convergence has signaled the start of an era where the Internet will eventually be the place where people primarily go for news and commentary (Wasserman, 2006). Convergence may be particularly important in attracting the loyalty of the next generation of news consumers. One study of news consumption habits of college students found one of every two respondents went to the Internet daily for news coverage. Follow-up focus groups revealed interactive features such as slide shows made online news more appealing than traditional newspaper text (Rollins, 2010).

In the early 2000s, the continuum of convergence in newspaper operations ranged from nonexistent to fully engaged (Deuze, 2004). Sports was one editorial section on newspaper websites where convergence appeared to already be taking hold. For example, the authors examined newspaper websites for the top 10 sports sections as recognized in 2008 by the Associated Press and found video sports content on each site. Such content included (a) interviews with players, (b) news conferences with coaches, and (c) commentary provided by the newspaper's sports staff. On one of these sites (Oklahoma City-based newsok.com), much of the sports video content (e.g., commentary and video highlights) featured branded sponsorship, comparable to what sports fans are used to seeing on ESPN programs. In addition to multimedia coverage, most of the sites provided visitors to the site an opportunity to read reporter blogs and twittered messages.

Although some websites may be ahead of their competitors in regards to convergence in their sports coverage, the trend suggests most newspapers are moving to this model. As a result, it is likely new sports journalists preparing to enter the field will be asked to know different skills from their predecessors. At the same time, editors are concerned about future employees and their journalistic skills. This research investigated [End Page 66] future job skills desired of the next generation in of sports journalists within newspaper organizations in the age of convergence. Based on a survey of sports editors from around the country, this study focused on professional attitudes and expectations within the industry. The survey included nearly 120 current newspaper sports editors from around the country. The research project, while revealing the attitudes of the sports editors surveyed, will also help inform educators engaged in the training of future sports journalists as to how curricula must evolve to meet industry demands.

Literature Review

Transition from Print to Print and Video

For decades, people have looked forward to reading the newspaper columns of people who covered their favorite sports; from legendary early writers such as Grantland Rice and Bat Masterson at the start of the 20th century to prominent writers of today like Mike Lupica and John Feinstein. But by the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st print journalists were beginning to engage with electronic media, particularly television. Brent Musburger, whose professional career has been defined by his television work for CBS and later ESPN/ABC, started as a newspaper writer for the Chicago American (O'Donnell, 2010). Musburger's ascension from newspaper writer to studio host and play-by-play announcer is the exception to the rule. Most writers have ended up with the label of "insider," the beat reporter who could get the scoop on what was happening behind the scenes in the sport they covered. Boston Globe reporter Will McDonough was among the first to add a network job to his print reporting duties as the "insider" for CBS's NflToday pregame show (McDonough later moved to NBC's pregame show) ("Will McDonough," 2003). Other one-time print exclusive reporters like Peter Gammons (major league baseball) and Peter [End Page 67] Vescey (professional basketball) moonlighted on network sports telecasts in the guise of information experts ("Bob Ferry," 1990; "Gammons leaving," 2009).

The newspaper sports columnist's role as opinion leader was also expanded by television during the late 20th century. The Sportswriters on TV might have been the first such show, making its debut on Chicago cable in 1985 with longtime sports writers Bill Jauss and Bill Gleason sitting at a table in a smoke-filled room with two other sports writers, often Bill Bentley and Rick Telander. Cable sports networks like ESPN began creating news segments and later entire programs around prominent newspaper sports reporters and columnists discussing issues of the day. One such example was programming like The Sports Reporters, which went on the air in 1988. The show's format, which attracted writers like Lupica and Feinstein to appear on the program's panel, can be compared to Washington Week in Review in both style and tone. Such discussion programs were taken to an entirely differently level with young males as the target audience in the 2000s. Two ESPN shows (Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn) promoted the idea of "competitive" debate, with timed segments pitting columnists against each other (e.g., Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon) that sometimes devolved into shouting matches. This made-for-television hysteria whipped up by newspaper columnists caused noted sportscaster Al Michaels to derisively refer to the program genre as "gasbags on parade" (Bernstein & Greenburg, 2008). Despite such criticism, more print sports writers and reporters are working on multiple media platforms than ever.

Researching Journalism Skills

Educators have frequently surveyed professionals to gain a better understanding for shaping curricula to help future journalists to be successful in the field. While such studies have often focused on newspapers, other studies have examined skill sets [End Page 68] desired of television reporters (Cleary, 2006) and magazine writers (Lepre & Breske, 2005). Such studies have also typically addressed the idea of journalism as a whole, rather than identifying desired skills for journalists entered a distinct area of reporting (e.g., business reporters, sports reporters). For this study, the researchers concentrated on studies examining desired journalism skills done since 1998, when such surveys began asking about convergence issues (Huang et al., 2006a).

Three major points have emerged from reviewing recent studies concerning desired print journalism skills in the emerging convergence era, including (a) the continuing emphasis on good writing beyond all other journalistic skills, (b) training new journalists as specialists or generalists, and (c) the role of circulation size in convergence adaptation. Researchers examining the question of desired skills of future print journalists have found a philosophical divide between educators and journalism professionals. Journalism professionals (particularly reporters) have traditionally favored curricula demanding students master professional skills (e.g., developing writing and editing skills and learning how to conduct interviews) while educators have favored balancing such journalism courses with ones developing critical thinking skills, (e.g., ethics and theories of journalism). The convergence era has now added technical skills (e.g., computer-assisted reporting, video editing) that have further complicated the effort to find the right mix of courses to best train new journalists for the day they hit the job market.

There have already been several studies in the 2000s asking about desired skills of future journalists in which convergence is taken into consideration. Across most of the studies, one primary desired skill emerged: The ability to be a good writer. Huang et al. (2006b) found good writing to be the top priority of journalism professionals they surveyed (including newspaper reporters and editors). Studies of newspaper editors done by Pierce and Miller (2007) and Adams (2008) reached the same conclusion about the importance of a new journalist being able to [End Page 69] write a good story. Even Fahmy's (2008) survey of online journalists revealed writing as the most important skill to master for the next wave of new journalists working exclusively on the Web. While Callaghan and McManus (2010) identified the ability to learn as the top attribute desired of Australian editors and news professionals, basics skills such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation ranked second in their study.

While finding new journalists with good writing skills has remained the top concern for journalism professionals, results from the same studies differ about the importance of teaching technical skills, particularly those related to websites. Huang et al. (2006b) found that the editors and reporters they surveyed identified multimedia production as the second most important skill (reporters in the same study placed working with new technology as the third most important skill while editors identified critical thinking (e.g., ethical decision making) as their third highest priority). Pierce and Miller (2007) replicated a 1990 study of members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors about necessary journalism skills. While that 1990 study ranked computer and online skills last in terms of importance, the Pierce and Miller study found editors now placed computer knowledge among the top six skills that a new journalist should possess.

These surveys have minimized the importance of training future print journalists in many video and audio performance skills that may be required in the convergence era. Huang et al. (2006b) found on-camera exposure ranked last out of nine desired skills discussed by newspaper editors and reporters. Adams (2008) had similar outcomes, with skills such as doing television packages and doing live television being ranked near the bottom of desired skills.

Current journalism professionals have also discussed what can be classified as attributes being sought in news journalists, such as having passion for the vocation they will enter one day (Huang et al., 2006a; Callaghan & McManus, 2010). Huang et al. [End Page 70] (2006a) noted future journalists will need to prepare themselves to be able to work in a team situation where cooperation and collaboration are keys to successful convergence journalism. At the same time, journalism and mass communication students interested in entering the field should become better news consumers to combat what one group of researchers identified as a lack of knowledge about the world around them (Callaghan & McManus, 2010).

Some of the studies examining desired skills for future print journalists considered the question of whether they should be trained as generalists (possessing knowledge of professional, critical and technical skills) or whether these future professionals are better served by specializing in a particular area of convergence journalism. Russial (2009), for example, studied implementation of multimedia (or convergence) journalism at U.S. newspapers and found specialization in reporting responsibilities increasing and decreasing. He cited newspapers creating online news units as an example of increased specialization, with some of these operations separate from the print newsroom and not responsible to the print editor. An example of decreased specialization (or generalization) at some newspapers was where still photographers were now also being tasked to shoot and edit news videos. From his study, Russial concluded specialization would remain the primary ways of organizing labor tasks within newspaper operations, even in an era of convergence (2009). Huang et al. (2006a) found 63% of news editors and news professionals they surveyed desired workers with a demonstrated expertise in at least one area (e.g., the ability to write).

Although some studies pointed the way for educators to emphasize specialization, arguments were still being made to give future journalists a wide range of skills. Kraeplin and Criado (2005) warned that as convergence takes greater hold in the journalism industry, "young journalists' careers will be less stable and less predictable than in the past" (p. 49). As a result, Kraeplin and Criado supported future journalism professionals being [End Page 71] trained in a way to ensure long-term success in a rapidly changing work environment. Callaghan and McManus (2010) argued that journalism schools must provide students with the ability to be adaptable, able to serve in whatever function is needed in a newsroom.

Determining the needed skills for future journalists may be influenced by the size of newspaper operation that he or she will work for. Russial's newspaper study (2009) found the amount of multimedia (or convergence) journalism that print operations engaged in was related to circulation levels. Larger newspapers were more likely to have multimedia content on their websites (e.g., video interviews) than newspapers with smaller circulations. Deuze (2004) noted factors such as budget and organizational commitment tended to influence decisions regarding the implementation of these new practices.

Colleges and universities with programs training future journalists have already engaged in curriculum changes to address convergence. Becker, Vlad, and McLean (2007) suggested 70% of all journalism school or mass communication programs had made changes in curricula to adapt online media. Even as these changes are occurring, educators are also determining the best pedagogical approach for teaching these new skills. Kraeplin and Criado (2005) in particular called for educators to move toward an interdisciplinary approach in teaching convergence (combining professional, critical thinking and technical skills in the same courses) rather than a multidisciplinary approach where such skills are taught in isolation (e.g., a student taking one course on reporting, a separate course in video editing). Kraeplin and Criado's approach supports the idea of training journalists as generalists in convergence journalism rather than developing a unique specialty. Kraeplin and Criado cite complexity theory as the basis for their arguments: The theory states that as there are complicated, multifaceted phenomena in the world (i.e., dealing with multiple platforms in convergence journalism), approaches to such phenomena must also be [End Page 72] multifaceted. As a result, Kraeplin and Criado cited the holistic nature of interdisciplinary education as the way to go. Deuze (2004) also called upon educators to have continual engagement with both news professionals and their students in refining approaches taken to educating future journalists.

Research Questions and Methodology

Based on previous research and the changing landscape of media, we posed the following research questions:

RQ1: Are there underlying dimensions in the newspaper sports editors' preferences for skills in new hires?

RQ2: What are the job skills or attributes desired of future sports journalists?

For this research study, participation was sought from individuals who had top management positions within newspaper sports departments (e.g., sports editor). Researchers collected data in two ways. First, a member of the research team attended the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) annual meeting held in June 2009 and solicited 15 subjects to complete surveys. The rest of the data collected came from an online version of the survey presented at the APSE meeting. A roster of newspaper sports editors in the United States (n=544) was used to send out the survey (along with messages inviting participation). An additional 102 survey responses were received for total participation of 117. The surveys were identical and though some were solicited in different manners, the respondents were of the same group. When based on the mailing list available to the researchers, participation was 21.5%. Dillman (2000) suggests that average response rate for surveys is around 21%. In recent years,

The survey included a series of Likert-type questions as well as several open-ended questions for subjects to provide additional opinions about specific concerns related to skills needed [End Page 73] of future sports journalists. In the first question, respondents were asked whether they thought new hires in recent years had the needed, desired skills or attributes. A follow-up question offered the chance to describe desired new skills or attributes being sought. The next set of questions asked about specific tasks required of current newspaper sports department employees. The next section of the survey began with Likert-type questions (7 to 1 scale with 7 used as the highest measure) concerning several of skills and attributes that sports editors may desire of future hires. These skills and attributes included examples of (a) traditional print sports coverage skills (e.g., ability to write, interviewing), (b) skills associated with new media (e.g., blogging, editing copy for the Web), and (c) skills associated with creating and appearing in video and audio content (e.g., appearance on camera, annunciation skills). The final section asked respondents to provide demographic information, including their level of professional experience.

A report of descriptive statistics from the data collected was produced using SPSS 17 software. Data were screened for missing responses and the assumptions of factor analysis. Mean substitution was used in cases when missing data were from 5 % to 15% (Mertler & Vanatta, 2009). An exploratory principal components factor analysis was also conducted to determine whether the 25 questions concerning hiring skills contained underlying dimensions that newspaper sports editors sought in new hires. The sample size of 117 exceeded the recommended minimum of 100 (Gorsuch, 1983; Hatcher, 1994; Kline, 1979). Moreover, further analyses were conducted to assure the data were factorable. First, more than half of the bivariate correlations in the correlation matrix exceeded .30, meeting Tabachnick and Fidell's (1996) requirement that several correlations surpass that threshold for factor analysis to be feasible. Second, the value of the Kaiser-Meyer-Oklin Test, which measures whether the sample represents the population, was .762, exceeding the standard of .60 or greater (Tabachnick & Fidell). In addition, all Sum of Squared [End Page 74] Correlations on the diagonal of the Anti-Image Matrix, which reflect the sampling adequacy of each variable, exceeded .05 or greater (Schwab, 2007). Third, Bartlett's Test of Sphericity was significant at the .0001 level. Thus, all analyses indicated the data were appropriate for factor analysis.

Next, a principal components factor analysis was conducted using Varimax rotation. Four criteria were used for factor extraction: (1) factors must have an eignvalue of 1.0 or greater (Kaiser, 1960; Guttman, 1956); (2) factors had to appear on a scree plot before it leveled off (Cattell, 1966); (3) variables had to have loadings of at least .50 (Schwab, 2007; Horvath, 2004) on one variable and less than .40 on all other variables in this exploratory factor analysis (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; Horvath, 2004; Schwab, 2007); and (4) at least two variables must load at .50 or higher on each factor (Schwab, 2007).

Results

Of subjects (n=117) responding to the survey question concerning gender, the overwhelming majority was male (91%). Responses for this study came from all regions of the country. Respondents were distributed across six regional locations, with the Southeast most represented (25%). Of subjects who reported their job title, nearly two-thirds (62%) identified themselves as sports editor with the remaining respondents (38%) citing some other sports-related title, such as assistant sports editor. Nearly half of the subjects (45%) reported working for newspapers with circulations of greater than 100,000, followed by those working at newspapers with circulations of less than 40,000 (27%). While more than two-thirds of the respondents (70%) had more than 15 years of experience in professional journalism, 50% had been in their current job for five years or less.

Asked about their general feelings about convergence (or multimedia) journalism, subjects (n=117) were found to be positive (on a Likert scale of 1 to 7 where 7 represented the most positive [End Page 75] value, M=5.37). Subjects also reported that management has been supportive (M=5.32) about the development of convergence journalism within the sports department. Despite these positive attitudes, respondents noted they personally lacked experience in the area of convergence journalism (M=3.88). Respondents were generally neutral in other responses concerning the acceptance of convergence training by longtime employees [15 or more years] (M=3.69), the level of training offered to sports department employees in convergence (M=3.6) and the effectiveness of such training (M=3.40).

Overall, subjects (n=117) agreed that the skills or attributes needed in people hired for sports departments had changed in the three preceding years to taking the survey (M=5.06). Yet in answering RQ2 about the skills desired of future sports journalists, respondents placed the highest priority on the traditional skills desired of candidates for reporting jobs. The top five desired skills and attributes desired in their future employees included (a) [ability to] meet deadlines (M=6.88), (b) develop contacts and sources (M=6.79), (c) [having an] ability to write (M=6.7), (d) ability to tell a story in print (M=6.65), and (e) knowledge of sports (M=6.41) as the five most-desired skills (see Table 1). Of the 25 desired skills or attributes desired of future sports department hires, subjects rated having an athletic background (M=2.12) as the least important. Other attributes and skills deemed by respondents as the five least important included (a) the ability to take photos (M=2.95), (b) the ability to edit video (M=3.01), (c) appearance on camera (M=3.03), and (d) voice quality (M=3.10).

The initial principal components extraction yielded seven factors with eigenvalues of 1.0 or more. An examination of the scree plot indicated three factors in the area of sharpest decline and up to four more before the line clearly leveled off (see Table 2). Consequently, Varimax rotation was conducted to clarify the factors. Four factors emerged with at least two variables loading at .50 or higher and after confounded variables and variables [End Page 76] that did not load higher than .50 on any factor were removed. These four factors accounted for 64.73% of the variance, exceeding Schwab's (2007a) standard of 60%.

Table 1. Descriptive statistics for desired job skills in new sports hires
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Table 1.

Descriptive statistics for desired job skills in new sports hires

As Table 2 indicates, all factors had three or more loadings of .50 or higher except Factor 4, which had two high loadings of .78 and .85. Both variables measured a similar concept, knowledge of sports, which was important to the study. Tabachnick [End Page 77] and Fidell (1996) note factors with two variables with loadings of .70 or greater may be reliable. Reliability analysis was conducted next using Cronbach's alpha to assess the internal consistency of the factors. Schwab (2007) notes values of .60 or higher are acceptable for factors in exploratory factor analysis. As expected, Factor 1 had the highest alpha (.915), followed by Factor 2 (.718), Factor 4 (.645) and Factor 3 (.602). All factors met or exceeded the .60 standard.

Table 2. Factor loadings for exploratory factor analysis with Varimax rotation of desired job skills for new sports hires
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Table 2.

Factor loadings for exploratory factor analysis with Varimax rotation of desired job skills for new sports hires

To further assess the consistency of the factors, factors scores [End Page 78] were generated and bivariate scatterplots of the factors were assessed. All scatterplots indicated most of the variables were clustered near the origin and the variables loading of the factor were clustered at the end of the axes, indicating simple structure for all factors (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996). In addition, factor scores in SPSS are z-scores, and factor scores of ±3.0 or more were considered outliers in solution (Schwab, 2007). Five outliers were detected on Factor 3 and one on Factor 4. Following Schwab's procedure, the analysis was conducted without the outlying cases to determine if they affected the results. No significant differences in the factor loadings or communalities were detected, so the outliers did not affect the results and were retained.

Finally, a split-half reliability analysis was conducted to assess the generalizability of the results (Schwab, 2007). SPSS was used to randomly divide the sample into two groups, and a separate analysis was conducted for each group. The groups had essentially the same factor loadings and communalities, so the results are generalizable. The loadings on each factor were then assessed to determine the underlying meaning of the factors. Four underlying dimensions were found: broadcasting skills, editing skills, reporting skills, and sports knowledge. These factors reflect the underlying skills that the sports editors are seeking in new hires in an age of media convergence. Average scales were created for each factor, and mean scores for each factor were generated to compare their importance for the sports editors (see Table 3). Reporting skills (M=6.63) had the highest mean score, followed by sports knowledge (M=5.85), editing skills (M=4.85), and broadcasting skills (M=3.31).

Factor 1, broadcasting skills, accounted for the most explained variance (30.31%), though subjects rated it last in importance. It includes production and performance skills in broadcasting. As Table 2 indicates, record and edit audio, operate video camera and shoot game footage, voice quality and appearance on camera were top loading variables. Factor 2, editing skills, accounted for the second-most explained variance [End Page 79] (12.07%). It focuses on editing skills, which includes designing pages. The variables in descending order by their loadings were design pages for print, edit copy for print, and write headlines for web. Interestingly, web skills are now considered part of the job. Factor 3, reporting skills, accounted for the third-most explained variance (11.94%), though sports editors rated it most important. It mainly includes traditional reporting and writing skills. The variables were tell story in print, develop contacts and sources, write in different forms for web and print, and ability to write. Factor 4, sports knowledge, accounted for the least explained variance (10.11%), though sports editors rated it second highest. It focuses on knowledge of sports. Its variables are knowledge of sports and knowledge of area teams.

Table 3. Descriptive statistics for averaged scales from factors and Cronbach's alpha
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Table 3.

Descriptive statistics for averaged scales from factors and Cronbach's alpha

Discussion

This study offered two research questions: Are there underlying dimensions in the newspaper sports editors' preferences for skills in new hires (RQ1)? And what job skills and attributes desired of future sports journalists (RQ2)? In answering the first research question, a factor analysis of the data collected was performed with four underlying dimensions discovered: (a) reporting skills, (b) sports knowledge, (c) editing skills and (d) broadcasting skills. Reporting skills was seen as the most important of these four factors, with broadcasting skills the least important. Although it was the lowest, broadcast skills accounted for the [End Page 80] most explained variance (30.3%) among the four factors, followed by editing skills, reporting skills, and sports knowledge.

The results strongly suggest that newspaper sports editors remain concerned first and foremost about the quality of their work product. This finding supports research on desired journalism job skills with news editors and professionals (e.g., Huang et al. 2006). From the open-ended question asking subjects to identify teaching priorities, many of these responses discussed the importance of being able to tell a story through good writing. Observations such as "the backbone of sports media continues to be good writing [and] story telling. Let's remember that" and "teaching students how to be journalists and tell a story by working sources, asking good questions—that's the training they need the most" were frequently expressed in the answers given. Noting that many sports journalism graduates will start with smaller newspapers, one respondent urged educators to continue emphasizing Associated Press writing and style rules because "nine times out of 10, the smaller papers they start out at are going to need this over anything else." Although there was acknowledgment of the changing nature of the sports reporter's job, one respondent cautioned against marginalizing the teaching of reporting skills or story structure in favor of technical instruction, saying "it's easy to teach technical skills; nuance is much harder." These types of comments reinforce the factor analysis that identified reporting skills (and writing skills in particular) as a continuing priority in educating future sports journalists.

Sports editors surveyed also suggested that knowledge of sports was an important attribute in people they hired for their staff. In the survey, this was asked as questions about both general knowledge of sports and knowledge of area teams in particular. One respondent suggested sports journalism educators should think about having their students spend more time covering high school events, and pending that, have students seek reporting opportunities: "A sports writer's first beat is often preps. I'd encourage a student to start stringing high school [End Page 81] football games. These games start at 7:30, end around 10:30 and a paper's deadline is around midnight." As several other respondents noted, nothing can replace experience before entering the field. As newspaper sports departments produce even more multimedia content, knowledge of sports could be expected to become an even more important attribute for future workers in the field. For example, many sports departments engaged in convergence journalism are producing "roundtable" type programs where national sports topics are addressed as often as those on the local level. Reporters must be capable of talking about sports on all levels, not just local. In addition to knowing sports basics, reporters should have a solid foundation of sports knowledge through a more general liberal arts education. Reporters must know much more than statistics; knowing the history of sport and its impact on society in financial and social areas are critical as well.

The desire for editing skills reflects the impact of the Internet on newspaper sports operations. Sports editors responding to the survey were concerned with editing skills related to daily print operations (e.g., being able to design pages for print and editing sports stories) as well the Internet (e.g., writing headlines for the web). Respondent comments calling for attention to be given to the "ability to edit copy and write a basic headline" and producing consistent copy is still the goal of this newspaper and I hope that is still the primary goal of college programs" were repeatedly expressed.

There was less agreement in the observations of the respondents about the state of web-based sports coverage by newspaper organizations. One respondent said the emphasis should be heavy on web skills because "most of our emphasis here has been on the website for the past 8-10 years. Print is important, but this industry has been on life support." Other respondents, however, noting the lack of a consistently profitable model for such Web operations pointed to the need for continued emphasis on the daily print product. [End Page 82]

Because the academy is responsible for preparing future sports journalists with the necessary skills to succeed in the professional world, it appears newspaper sports editors want such degree programs to remain focused on traditional journalistic skills while still recognizing changes in the industry. The changing work environment, however, is demonstrated by sports editors identifying the importance of traditional broadcast skills as one of the four main factors. One respondent described it by saying:

The deadline is "right now" and no one is writing primarily for the newspaper anymore. Editors [sic] tasks still are more divided along platform lines, but expect that to change, as well. Reporters will [emphasis original] appear on camera and do audio. Editors will [emphasis original] produce [and] edit audio and video, as well as text. Versatility is critical.

The findings in this study support those of Huang et al. (2006b) where multimedia production skills such as video editing ranked second in importance (behind only good writing). Although the research found greater acceptance among sports editors about future employees having traditional broadcast skills, such as the ability to shoot game highlights and video interviews, bias against other broadcast traits (e.g., having an appealing appearance on camera) appeared in the open-ended responses: "Storytelling and sourcing are still far more important than video appearances" and "Someone who is confident in their story and facts first, with training, will come off as such in front of a camera" were typical comments on this issue. Again, this is consistent with other research on convergence journalism, such Adams (2008) and Huang et al. (2006) that found on-camera exposure ranked last in desired skills.

For the colleges and universities training future sports journalists, the task of building a curricula that both develops reporting skills while providing experience in communicating [End Page 83] stories through video, audio, and new media will challenge educators and administrators alike in coming years. Sports journalism may be uniquely suited for multimedia presentation for many reasons, from its visual nature (e.g., showing game highlights and player interviews on a newspapers website) to the function of analysis by reporters and columnists before and after sporting events, which can be presented in text and on video. One respondent posed the task facing educators in this manner: "Talk like ESPN, write like SI, move it like AP." Addressing those multiple expectations, however, will require educators to determine (a) the best pedagogical approach to infusing students with a variety of skills, and (b) how (and who) will be teaching this material.

The findings in this study appear to support the idea that future sports journalists are best trained as "generalists," with educators offering courses utilizing an interdisciplinary approach (the combining of skills education within the same course) as recommended by Kraeplin and Criado (2005) and achieving the goal of making future journalists adaptable to an ever-changing newsroom environment (Callaghan & McManus, 2010). This runs contrary, however, to other studies that have supported the idea of new journalists specializing in a specific area of convergence journalism as suggested in Russial's study of newspaper editors (2009). Thus, journalism and mass communication departments must decide where to position their programs in the continuum between specialization and generalization in educating sports journalists. An interdisciplinary approach also means educators, many of whom up to now have been comfortable in teaching in their area of expertise, will need to further their knowledge base (e.g., a broadcast professional learning how to edit and evaluate a print story). Academic departments would benefit from educators that, just like their students, embrace learning new skills for a new era of journalism. Team teaching, where multiple faculty members combine their expertise in courses, would be another way academic departments may evolve to deliver more interdisciplinary instruction. Educators [End Page 84] who are already facing heavy curriculum and research demands may resist moving to this approach, however. It will fall upon academic administrators and faculty members to continue reviewing and revising department curricula to best prepare their students for a rapidly changing workplace.

The study's findings also suggest that as convergence journalism expands and matures in coming years, the need to for teaching multiple skill sets will only grow in importance. Consider that in the 1990s, similar studies on desired work skills downplayed the importance of working with computers. Professionals in the field now consider such skills to be vital to someone entering the business. So while broadcast skills, such as on-camera appearance, may have fared poorly in the current study, professionals in the field may feel differently in years to come.

Just as important may be the ability of students who are well versed in convergence sports journalism to become knowledge experts in the places they work. As with previous technological changes in the media (e.g., the transition from linear to nonlinear editing video for television), college graduates exposed to new knowledge and methods in convergence journalism can in turn share that knowledge with those already in the field. As Rogers' (1995) diffusion of information theory has suggested, those with knowledge of new innovations are often the ones who spur changes within organizations. This expertise may also prove crucial in attracting the future news audience: Rollins (2010) found young news consumers had greater interest in the presentation of stories when they go beyond just providing text. By implementing convergence journalism practices (in sports and other departments) at a faster pace, news organizations will be better positioned to start attracting the next generation of news consumers. In the process, it may become easier for these organizations to develop effective economic models for delivering convergence journalism.

Future research could examine how colleges and universities have updated courses in transitioning to a convergence curricula, [End Page 85] identifying both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches in the classroom. Such research could also study how graduates from fully converged sequences have fared in the professional world and whether they think their education properly prepared them for their first job. Another research approach could track how convergence sports journalists who have just entered the profession influenced multimedia reporting at the operation they work for. Future research about desired sports journalism skills could also include a larger sample, one of the limitations of this study. Even with the limited sample in this study, all regions of the country were represented.

Ray Murray

Ray Murray is an Associate Professor in the School of Media and Strategic Communications at Oklahoma State University. He was a sports writer, sports editor and sports copy editor for 20 years before becoming a professor. Murray's research interests include sports media and paparazzi.

John McGuire

John McGuire is an Associate Professor in the School of Media and Strategic Communications at Oklahoma State University. Dr. McGuire's research interests include sports media, political journalism and television genres.

Stan Ketterer

Stan Ketterer (Ph.D., University of Missouri-Columbia) is an associate professor in the multimedia journalism sequence at Oklahoma State University. He is also the writing and editing coach at the Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, and he specializes in computer-assisted reporting, including social science methods.

Mike Sowell

Mike Sowell is an Associate Professor in the School of Media and Strategic Communications at Oklahoma State University, where he has taught for 12 years. He worked more than 20 years as a sports writer and sports editor at newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma and later was editor of print and online college sports magazines for First Down Publications in Tulsa, Okla.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5073
Print ISSN
1558-4313
Pages
65-88
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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