Local media need to improve sports reporting

The pervasive interest in sport in Tanzanian society today, along with the growth of television, radio, newspapers and magazines, has contributed to a proliferation of career opportunities in sports media.

The last decade has seen a substantial increase in sports coverage by the media, especially coverage of soccer. The mushrooming of Swahili newspapers specifically dealing with sports has been phenomenal. Now most print media companies have sport-specific publications that are circulated anywhere from one to three times a week.

Broadcast media has not been left out of the picture either. Almost all radio and television stations in the country have set aside a daily sports programme of not less than 15 minutes airtime.

Sports broadcasting is one career opportunity that has become increasingly popular among Tanzanian youths. Sports broadcasting opportunities may be found with radio and television stations scattered all over the country, on both the Mainland and the Isles. Keep in mind, though, that sports broadcasting requires not only knowledge of the game but also the ability to communicate in a clear, articulate fashion.

The explosion of print and electronic media has created a lot of employment opportunities, but the training of sportswriters and sportscasters has not been accorded appropriate attention.

Most colleges that train journalists have not taken enough trouble to establish and develop a specific curriculum for sportswriters and sportscasters.

This is why most of the sports writers are simply individuals with a talent for writing or those who have an interest in it. Lack of specific training for sportswriters and sportscasters have resulted in mediocre sports stories in newspapers and magazines and amateurish broadcasting in the various local radios and televisions.

Training in physical education and sports themselves would also be helpful for local sportswriters and sportscasters. Both sportswriters and sportscasters need to be knowledgeable about the skills, strategies, tactics and rules used in sport, including the techniques of officiating. A good background in physical education and sports will give sportswriters and sportscasters the authority to critique the skills used in competition and to be readily able to detect errors in an athlete’s performance.

Such knowledge will also provide the sportswriters and sportscasters with an understanding of the manner in which athletes train for competition, the physiological effects of performance and a psychological insight into the athlete’s actions. Sports reporters must be able to relate this information to the public in easily understood terms, providing the public with valuable insight into the nature of the competition and the essence of the athletes’ efforts.

Familiarity with a given sport enables the sports reporter to fluidly and accurately describe the play-by-play or moment-to-moment action and to present to the listening, watching or reading public a vibrant portrayal of the athletes’ actions. In the eyes of the public, the reporter is regarded as an expert on the sport he or she is covering, and reporters should have the knowledge and experience to back up that assumption.

It seems as though the editors and directors of most media companies are of the opinion that any Tom, Dick or Harry can fit in the shoes of a sports reporter, since most sportscasters and sportswriters in the local media are often those whose competence in journalism is questionable. This is why the line between sports writing and gossip writing in the local Swahili newspapers is becoming thinner and thinner as days go by.

Sportswriting is by nature nonfiction, and therefore relies heavily on appropriate interviews and careful observation. It is imperative that local sportswriters and sportscasters are properly trained so that the public can be properly informed and not misled by the media.

Syllersaid Mziray is a lecturer-cum-soccer coach

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN

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