Compared to bloggers, journalists go deeper to cover sports

July 20, 2011

When sports stories become linked with other social and business issues, professional journalists tend to offer deeper and broader coverage than sports bloggers, according to Penn State researchers.

In a study of the way mainstream columnists and popular bloggers covered conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh's involvement in a partnership attempting to buy a professional football team, the researchers showed that journalists were more likely to include issues such as race and business in their columns, said Marie Hardin, associate director of the John Curley Center for Journalism.

"We look at this as something that is encouraging," said Hardin. "In the past, sports journalists tended to shy away from the cultural aspects of a story, but now, compared to bloggers, professional journalists seem much more willing to show that there's more to the story than what's on the field."

Hardin, working with Erin Ash, a graduate student in communications, examined approximately 100 columns and blog posts mentioning Limbaugh's membership in an that was attempting to buy the St. Louis Rams in 2009. Limbaugh's participation in the group was controversial because of his conservative politics. He was also forced to resign in 2003 as an NFL commentator for after making racially charged comments about Donovan McNabb, a black quarterback who was then playing for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Hardin said they picked the Limbaugh story because the subject matter went beyond the confines of sports reporting.

"The Rush Limbaugh story was important because it went beyond sports," said Hardin. "It included cultural issues, like race, as well as political and business issues."

The researchers, who reported their findings in the current issue of Newspaper Research Journal, gathered columns from major newspapers, magazines and web sites, such as , the New York Times and They also selected posts from the top 25 general sports blogs and top 10 NFL blogs as ranked by The Sports Media Challenge, a firm that advises athletes and sports executives on media relations. The list of blogs included Deadspin and the Big Lead.

Journalists were significantly more likely to mention Limbaugh's past comments on race. They were also more likely to discuss the economics of professional football and the politics of team owners.

Hardin, an associate professor of journalism and associate dean for graduate and undergraduate education, said that the depth of coverage reflects the advantages professional journalists have over bloggers, including better training and more resources. Other research conducted by the center that compared blogs to other types of coverage has found similar results, Hardin said.

"Professionals have more time and better access to sources and background," said Hardin. "An amateur blogger working in their spare time just wouldn't have these types of resources."

Hardin also said the study reinforced the need for readers to use multiple sources. Blogs, while entertaining and often unconventional, cannot supplant more traditional forms of coverage.

"We would advise readers to get the big picture," said Hardin. "This study underscores the importance of getting information from multiple sources."

Explore further: E-activism: Analysis of black bloggers in the blogosphere

Related Stories

E-activism: Analysis of black bloggers in the blogosphere

April 9, 2007

In the first scholarly research examining the role of black bloggers in the blogosphere, Brown University researcher Antoinette Pole assessed how bloggers of color use their medium for purposes related to politics. She found ...

Recommended for you

Chimpanzees shed light on origins of human walking

October 6, 2015

A research team led by Stony Brook University investigating human and chimpanzee locomotion have uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking. The results, reported ...

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.