‘The era of the sausage factory of sports coverage is now over’ says Tracey Holmes

The age of the sausage factory where people sat at desks reporting sports highlights, scores and comparative statistics are over, ABC senior reporter and presenter, Tracey Holmes believes.

Commenting on the future of sports journalism, Holmes said sports fans and audiences now want more.

Holmes presenting at a lunch session at Mumbrella’s Sports Marketing Summit

“The era of the sausage factory of sports coverage is now over because that can be provided by technology,” she said.

“Highlights, scores, comparative statistics, all of that stuff can be done by computer or robot.

“The audience wants more. They want those people to be able to add something, the audience has become far more savvy, so we have moved into that era of value adding.”

The comments come as redundancies continue across major publishers, with voluntary redundancy programs at News Corp and Fairfax currently underway.

Earlier this week, Pacific Magazines announced it would be looking to outsource its subeditors, with 11 redundancies already taking effect and the potential of more to come.

Holmes, who described sports journalism as two-fold, with technology and the journalist as the two components, said it was time for the “professional storytellers” to grow up in the area of sports.

“The platforms for sports reporting have grown up incredibly quick in the past two or three decades and now it’s time for the professional storytellers to do the same.

“The sports journalist of tomorrow is one that not only understands technology, but has to be a master storyteller, harnessing an understanding of the business of sport, understanding the sporting public, understanding how to relate to the fans, understanding what the fans want, knowing how PR and marketing functions inside that sports sphere,” she said.

“The sports journalists of tomorrow can do far more than read a results sheet, they’ll be marketers, scientists, they’ll be accountants, historians. They’ll bring with them expertise from all of these other fields.

“It is time the highest standards are applied to journalists who work in sport in the same way they are in other fields.”

Holmes spoke of sports journalism as a “major pull factor” for mainstream media throughout the session, arguing it was one of the few spaces journalism was on the rise.

She offered the example of the rise in journalists sent to the Olympics Games over the past 17 years.

“In the early 2000s, 134 countries sent journalists to cover the Olympic Games. In Rio last year, there were 195 countries that sent journalists to cover the Olympic Games. It isn’t getting less, it’s getting more.”

“There are more media delegates requesting accreditation to the Games than ever before, in fact media staff or media personnel at the Olympic Games, outnumber athletes three to one. It’s actually a media games, not an athletes’ games.”

She added: “Sport is one predominately positive news story that continues to attract large audiences and extend beyond boundaries.

“Sports journalism is actually two parallel lines like a train track. One track is the technology, the typewriter in days gone by, the microphone, the video, the Twitter feeds, the Snapchat.

“Running parallel to that is the journalist, essentially a storyteller with the skills the knowledge the experience and an ability to craft a story from what is unfolding in front of them.”


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