Curmudgeons but Yet Adapters:
Impact of Web 2.0 and Twitter on
Newspaper Sports Journalists’
Jobs, Responsibilities and Routines
Edward (Ted) M. Kian, Ph.D.
Welch Bridgewater Chair of Sports Media and
Ray Murray, Associate Prof. of Sports Media/MMJ
Oklahoma State University
15th International Symposium for Online
Journalism. April 4-5, 2014, Austin, Texas
Demise of U.S. Newspapers
For more than two centuries, newspapers
were the dominant news source in the
world, with most U.S. newspapers
dedicating a portion of their content
exclusively to sports (Wanta, 2006).
However, corporate consolidation coupled
with drastic drops in circulation totals and
advertising revenue left many U.S. reporters
unemployed, with newspapers hit hardest
(McChesney & Nichols, 2011). Accordingly,
many top newspaper sports reporters took
jobs with online sites (Kian & Hardin, 2009).
The Advent of New Media
Internet played a large part in the decline
of traditional newspapers. New media are
changing the way sport news is gathered,
distributed, accessed, and consumed
(Hutchins & Rowe, 2009). Readers can now
be active– message boards, comments
sections, etc. (Schultz & Sheffer, 2010).
Internet readers tend to be younger than
other media consumers, whereas
newspaper readers are the oldest for all
major mediums (Pew Research, 2013).
Web 2.0 And Newspaper Sports Reporters
Web 2.0 is a term used to describe the
development of the WWW from stand-
alone screens with limited features to
more interconnected, interactive, and
accessible networks (Butler et al., 2013).
Sherwood & Nicholson (2012) exploratory
study on Australian newspaper
sportswriters’ showed Web 2.0 platforms
had greatly affected their jobs, with
Twitter having the greatest impact.
Twitter and Old-School Sport Media
Debuting in 2006, Twitter has over 645
million users worldwide. Although sports
account for only 1.2% of all U.S. TV
programming, 49.7% of all (global)
tweets are sports-related (Nielsen, 2014).
Exploratory surveys showed most sports
reporters use Twitter as a means to
gather and share information, with
younger journalists using it more often
and as a means of self-promotion (Schultz
& Sheffer, 2010; Sherwood & Nicholson, 2013).
Emergence of Convergence
Web 2.0 has also resulted in increased
sports media convergence, which (in this
sense) refers to news content delivered
through multiple mediums by the same
reporter and/or news organization (Boyle
& Whannel, 2010; Kian & Zimmerman, 2012).
Newspaper editors now want sports
reporters with skills beyond just writing;
e.g., blogging, broadcast, marketing/PR,
production, social media, etc. (Moore, 2010,
Murray et al., 2009; Reed & Hansen, 2013).
Purpose and Rationale
Although a couple of surveys have partially
broached these topics, little is known about
traditional sport journalists’ experiences and
attitudes on the advent of Web 2.0 and
Twitter on their jobs and profession.
This exploratory phenomenology examines
the experiences and attitudes of veteran
newspaper sports writers on the impact of
the Internet, social media, and Twitter (i.e.,
Web 2.0) on their jobs and work
Four broad, overriding research questions
guided this exploratory phenomenology:
RQ1: How has the advent of Web 2.0 impacted
the job duties and work routines of these
newspaper sports reporters?
RQ2: How has the advent of Web 2.0 impacted
the newspaper sports journalism profession?
RQ3: What Web 2.0 platforms do these
journalists use as part of their jobs?
RQ4: What experiences have these journalists
had with Twitter as part of their jobs?
Data Collection and Analysis
Purposeful sampling: Industry contacts
used to contact experienced, FT
newspaper sportswriters. Authors’ prior
Loose interview guide was designed based
on previous guides from research entailing
interviews with sport media (Hardin & Shain,
2005; Kian, 2007; Kian & Zimmerman, 2012).
Interviews were taped, transcribed, and
coded individually by researchers in search
for dominant themes (Glasser & Strauss, 1967).
Overall the 12 participants included 11 men
and one woman. This is similar to the gender
disparity in newspaper sports departments,
where men comprise 90.4% of editors, 90.2%
of columnists, and 88.3% of reporters (Lapchick,
2013). Similar global numbers (Bruce, 2013).
Subjects’ ages ranged from 31-64; each had at
least seven years of full-time experience in
sport media and had worked for at least two
newspapers in their careers; collectively they
were employed in six U.S. states, although they
had worked in 17 total states and at 23
Five dominant themes emerged from our
(1) The speed of Web 2.0 has changed
reporters’ jobs for better and worse.
(2) All journalists use Twitter for work, but
most do not like interacting on Twitter.
(3) Web 2.0 hurts newspaper industry sales,
but gives reporters individual power.
(4) You must now be a multimedia reporter.
(5) Bloggers are not journalists, but they
still hurt credibility of the profession.
Journalists noted multiple ways that Web
2.0 and Twitter made them better reporters,
especially in the news-gathering process.
However, most also said the rise of Twitter
hurt the overall quality of sports reporting
due to the desire of disseminating info first.
Whereas these reporters attributed many
newspaper job losses to the rise of the
Internet, they noted Web 2.0 had enabled
them to reach larger and wider audiences.
This research only interviewed 12 U.S.
newspaper sports writers.
Good mix of subjects, but purposeful
All subjects were full-time, veterans of
the newspaper industry, a field
increasingly comprised of more part-time
or freelance, and younger reporters.
All of these reporters write for their
newspapers’ print and online editions.