The International Federation of Journalists and its European group, the European Federation of Journalists, today warned that journalists will be the big losers if they do not come to terms with the growing power of sports in media.
“The sports business is a powerful force in modern journalism exercising unprecedented influence over the media market, posing new challenges for investigative reporting, and is a key driver of global media developments,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary in a call to IFJ unions to support a major conference of journalists, sports researchers and sports leaders from all continents meeting in Copenhagen next month.
“Journalists need to better understand the nature of the big beast of sports in journalism,” he said. “It is a major challenge for editorial independence and public interest journalism given its influence on the commercial and marketing strategies of media. If we don’t raise awareness of what is at stake we may all be losers.”
The Play the Game conference in Copenhagen from November 6th to 10th directs the media spotlight onto the media itself with the presentation of results from the biggest international survey ever of sports journalism.
Key experts and practicing sports journalists will lead discussions on the crisis of corruption in sports, the nature of too-cosy relations between the sports business and media, the issue of reporting on doping controversies and, crucially, the question of openness and transparency in the administration of sports – both regionally and globally.
Among the 100 or so speakers is Michel Zen-Ruffinen who had to quit the highest administrative post in world football three years ago after a showdown with FIFA’s powerful president Sepp Blatter and who will focus on how international sports federations can become more transparent, responsible and honest. FIFA is only one of several international sports federations troubled by corruption and dubious economic conditions. The conference will look at the media’s role in reporting these issues and how to create a healthy and open culture in sports management and relations with media.
“This conference is a vital opportunity to continue a debate that was opened at the IFJ Congress in Athens last year a few weeks before the Olympic Games,” said White. “Sports coverage is a battering ram being used by media corporations to get into new markets and which can reinforce media monopolization, which is one concern behind the current European Union row with English soccer chiefs. Journalists and their unions need to understand better the problems we face and how we can work together to solve them. This conference will help.”
Among other speakers are a sports editor from Greece who was attacked by unknown men a year ago and who explains why sports journalism has become a dangerous occupation in Greece. There will also be a first hand account of how China’s sports journalists are training for the future, research findings about why television viewers want to watch sport, safety for sports journalists, and setting standards for news values in sports journalism.