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Thematic issue n° 62 “The sports journalist: an actor in a changing society”

Dossier thématique n° 62 « Le journaliste de sport : un acteur de société en mutation »

Coordination: Fabien Wille (GERiiCO, Université de Lille) and Lucie Schoch (LACCUS, Université de Lausanne)

The 2024 Olympic Games in Paris are likely to receive massive media coverage, in print, radio, television and the web, both locally and globally. In line with the nature of the relationship that historically binds sport to the media (Wille, 2003), this mega sport-event will most probably bring technological and societal transformations that challenge journalists’ professional norms and constraints. Based on the premise that their function is to “make sense” and to co-construct a vision of the world (Tétu, 1999), journalists are social actors and not passive witnesses-mediators on the side-lines of society (Delforce, 1996).

However, this question is rarely asked in relation to sport, which is driven by social discourses that tend to present it through “mythical” values, and as answering ipso facto to certain current societal problems such as public health, well-being, but also the safety of populations or the integration of minorities. Nevertheless, sport is also a field where problems emerge that contradict this model, e.g. issues of violence, incivilities, racism in stadiums, homophobia, discrimination linked to sex, gender or disability, or more recently questions of human rights violations and sustainable development that mega sports events have raised. The mediatised sports spectacle is therefore a contemporary witness to the societal issues that run through it. Often presented as a mirror of our societies, it is also a place of emotional outbursts, it exacerbates passions, it is by nature competitive and hierarchical (Marchetti et al., 2015), it stigmatises differences within a public space that is increasingly inclusive and which, as a result, shows the current limits of the instrumentalisation of high-level sport in the service of social engineering strategies (Wille et al., 2018).

The sports journalist very often assumes the role of defender and guardian of democratic values and the virtues of sport (Wille and Blion, 2013), from which he or she derives part of his or her legitimacy (Souanef, 2013). However, if specialised journalism is indicative of the weak autonomy of the journalistic field with regard to the social worlds they report on (Dargelos and Marchetti, 2000), this is particularly salient in sports journalism, which can appear as a dominated journalistic speciality (Schoch and Ohl, 2021). At the same time, the economies of media and sports are historically strongly intertwined and their stakes have intensified considerably in recent decades, disrupting routines and imposing specific constraints (new temporalities, access to information, proximity to the economic-sporting world, etc.).

To this context, we can add the irruption of digital technologies. The diversification and multiplication of information distribution channels and the appearance of differentiated modes of expression (blogs, social networks, etc.), leading to the development of “fast info”, are changing the relationship with the consumer. Sports fans (bloggers, streamers or influencers) and the media and public relations teams of sports organisations are adopting many of the roles and tasks historically attributed to sports journalism, blurring the boundaries of sports journalism for the public (Nölleke and Birkner, 2019). Journalists are also confronted with direct interpellations from viewers whose feedbacks (e.g. tweets) interfere with practices and discourses (Oelrichs, 2020), requiring a mastery of more complex communication situations (Montañola et al., 2015; Papa, 2013). This high degree of interactivity, interconnectivity and mobility that now characterises the mediatisation of sport, and particularly that of major events (Schutz et al., 2010) leads to a new organisation of work and calls for new professional skills and routines (Mirabito et al., 2022). The conditions of the information produced by sports journalists are being transformed and the whole profession is being shaken up (Hardin and Billings, 2022).

Furthermore, it is a social fact that sport constitutes the journalist as a social actor in his way of looking at things, thinking about them and talking about them, at the confluence of professional, sporting and social norms, and that the sports journalist evolves in a normed, constrained and socio-constructed universe. But in the face of changes, whether sporting, societal or professional, what are these explicit and/or implicit norms? To what extent do they interfere with journalistic practices and the discourses produced?

This special issue invites to interrogate the way in which sports journalists participate in the construction of the “public space” (Habermas, 1961), with sports stories understood as a social and political representation of the world around us. Particular attention will be paid to recent changes in the production of sports information news, which are particularly salient during large-scale sports events. The contributions will focus on identifying discursive processes (Schaeffer, 1989), which are structured, on the one hand, by a communicative act that is elaborated on the basis of enunciation processes and, on the other hand, by the act carried out, the mediatised sports spectacle thus being apprehended as a place of co-construction of the public world (Rabatel and Koren, 2008).

Thus, the proposals will explore: On the one hand, the contexts of enunciation through the analysis of the conditions for exercising a profession, particularly:

  • Professional, sporting and social norms and constraints that weigh (or not) on professional practices and their effects on the journalistic narrative:

    • Gender in sports journalism: mechanisms of feminisation, gendered professional practices and journalistic style

    • The consequences of the impact of COVID-19 in sports journalism…

  • The impact of digital media on information and communication processes in sport 

    • The use of social media and the reshaping of the sports news agenda

    • New technologies, new job profiles and new practices in (digital) sports newsrooms

  • The professionalism in sports journalism (training - recruitment)

On the other hand, narratives, which leads to think of the sports journalists as a bearer of a public voice, a co-constructor of the public space:

  • The nature of the sports story, its organisation (semio-technical devices): between information, entertainment and fiction

  • The mediatised sports spectacle: public good or product of media positioning?

  • The sports journalist at the service of social engineering strategies, particularly during major sports events

  • The role of media discourses produced, particularly in relation to disability and women's sport, in the processes of social transformation.

Scientific Committee

Valérie Bonnet, Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III

Roxane Coche, University of Florida (USA)

Nicolas Delorme, Université de Bordeaux

Jean-François Diana, Université de Lorraine

Nicolas Kaciaf, Université de Lille

Florence Le Cam, Université libre de Bruxelles (Belgique)

Fabien Ohl, Université de Lausanne (Suisse)

Françoise Papa, Université Grenoble Alpes

Olivier Standaert, Université catholique de Louvain (Belgique)

Marilou Saint-Pierre, Université d’Ottawa (Canada)

Mickael Terrien, Université de Lausanne (Suisse)

Selection procedure for proposals

The selection of the contribution proposals will be done in two steps

  • submission of a 1500–2000-word abstract which should include a presentation of objectives and principle arguments, explain the originality of the paper and provide key bibliographical references;

  • for selected abstracts, a second evaluation will be carried on completed articles.

Instructions for authors, which must be strictly followed, are available on the journal's website:

The evaluation will be carried out anonymously by at least two readers of the committee.

Abstracts should be sent by 30 January 2023 at the latest, in .doc/.docx or .odt format, to the following two addresses:

Proposals for papers and final papers of up to 35,000 characters (including spaces, footnotes and bibliography) may be submitted in French or English. The final articles are published in French for the paper version of the journal, and in French (and, if applicable, English) for the electronic version. No commitment to publication can be made until the full text has been read.


  • 30 January 2023: Submission of summaries for evaluation

  • 1st April 2023: Notification of acceptance or rejection

  • 1st September 2023: Submission of full papers

  • 1st December 2023: Receipt of final versions of articles

  • June 2024: Publication of the dossier in issue 62 of Études de communication


Dargelos, B. et Marchetti, D. (2000). Les « professionnels » de l'information sportive entre exigences professionnelles et contraintes économiques. Regards Sociologiques, 20, 67-87.

Damian-Gaillard, B. et Montañola, S. (2014). Genre et information médiatique en SIC : une articulation à approfondir. Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication, 5.

Delforce B. (1996). La responsabilité sociale des journalistes : donner du sens. Les cahiers du journalisme, 2, 16-32.

Habermas, J. (1978 [1961]). L'espace public : archéologie de la publicité comme dimension constitutive de la société bourgeoise. Payot.

Hardin, M. et Billings, A. C. (2022). A Fracturing Profession on Shifting Terrain: Challenges and Directions for Sports Journalism. Communication & Sport, 10(3), 395–397.

Marchetti, D., Raséra, F., Schotté, M. et Souanef, K. (dir.) (2015). Classements sportifs [dossier]. Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 209(4).

Mirabito, T., Collett, J. et Pluchinsky, D. (2022). News Routines in the TV Sports Department: Shifting Expectations and Technology in an Increasingly Digital Landscape. Communication & Sport, 10(1), 143–167.

Nölleke, D. et Birkner, T. (2019). Bypassing traditional sports media? Why and how professional volleyball players use social networking sites. Studies in Communication and Media, 8(3), 287–310.

Oelrichs, I. (2020). Adoption of Innovations in Digital Sports Journalism: The Use of Twitter by German Sports Journalists. Communication & Sport, 216747952096178.

Papa, F. (2013). Entre experts et amateurs : le journaliste de sport 2.0, un professionnel en quête de légitimité. Les Cahiers du Journalisme, 5, 80-99.

Rabatel, A. et Koren, R. (2008). La responsabilité collective dans la presse. Question de communication, 13, 7-24.

Schaeffer, J.-M. (1989). Qu’est-ce qu’un genre littéraire. Seuil.

Schoch, L. et Ohl, F. (2021). “How can they like doing that?” The ambivalence towards the definition of the dirty work in sports journalism. Journalism studies, 22(3), 263-281.

Schultz, B. et Sheffer, M.-L. (2010). An Exploratory Study of How Twitter Is Affecting Sports Journalism. International Journal of Sport Communication, 3(2), 226-239.

Souanef, K. (2019). Le journalisme sportif. Sociologie d'une spécialité dominée. Presses universitaires de Rennes.

Tétu, J.-F. (1999). Introduction. Jamet C. et Jannet A.-M. (dir), La mise en scène de l’information. L’Harmattan, 1-13.

Wille, F. (2003). Le Tour de France : un modèle médiatique. Presses universitaires du Septentrion.

Wille, F. et Blion, R. (2013). Le programme MARS, Media Against Racism and Sport : une tentative de construction de la responsabilité sociale des médias de sport. Les cahiers du journalisme, 25, 118-139.

Wille, F., Papa, F., Montañola, S., Damian-Gaillard, B., Francony, J.-M. et Kervella, A. (2018). Question the social responsibility of sports journalists: is diversity taken into account and how in the mediatisation of major sport events? Reimagining Sustainability: Communication and Media Research in a Changing World. IAMCR 2018, 23-24.

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