Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Communication, Health and Science

First Advisor

Douglas White

Abstract

Sport is important to Australians and, by extension, sports writing is also important. Print sports journalists now operate in a professional and social environment that has assumed a new complexion in recent years. The emergence of the print media provided a rapid means of informing the public about the happenings in sport, and thus, it can be argued, that sport flourished. This study proposes to examine the role of the print media in their coverage of sporting controversies by exploring the way the print media handled three recent sporting conflicts. This critical inquiry of the media focuses on ethical issues of privacy and sensationalism, the influence and bias of the media, and the specific role of the media in sporting conflicts. The media's role in such cases is often difficult to define. However, the results suggest that there is room for improvement in various aspects of the print media in its coverage of sporting controversies. A qualitative interview technique and content analysis was employed to explore the role of the print media in covering sporting controversies. Data was inductively analysed into categories which focused on the research questions. The 12 subjects interviewed for the study were divided into three categories - athletes, sporting administrators and sporting journalists. In addition to the interviews, research was undertaken in newspapers, periodicals, academic journals, texts and the electronic media to reach a common theme. The major theme to emerge is that the print media has the potential to be extremely influential and has the potential to generate conflicts into issues which may not necessarily deserve the bold headlines which the press often affords the stories. However, there are many times when the print media may be unfairly criticised for their reporting of sporting conflicts. There is a strong argument that sports writing in Australia will need to improve. Given the enormous public interest in sport in this country, it is quite extraordinary that most have made no serious attempt to treat the subject on an intelligent basis in the media. A case can be made that greater accuracy, far more disclosure of sources, less appearance of conflict, a less predictable pattern of partisan bias and crisper writing should be expected of the sportswriter. Many stories in these case studies were reported in a similar vein, which could indicate that a large number of this country's journalists have a pack mentality and will follow each other in both topics and writing styles. This can lead to distortion and inaccuracies. This nation's newspapers play a major role in the culture of Australians, who are obsessed with sport and will no doubt continue their obsession. Given that this study used a small sample, further study about the role of the print media in the coverage of sporting controversies is recommended to clarify the veracity of the present study's findings.

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