Sports media has grown from being what was considered “the toy department” of local newspapers to what funds them. Media are typically treated well — catered lunches, assigned seats and routine planned access to players, coaches and events. However, athletic departments and teams impose a blurred line of expectations when journalists look deeper, ask questions and are critical. They may be treated poorly, stonewalled from asking questions or lose their press pass — which means their access, ability to work their beat and potentially their livelihood is gone.
Just like anything else, social justice is baked into sports. Many large-scale social justice movements started with athletes using their platform. Think Colin Kaepernick kneeling, the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s equal pay fight, the 2021 March Madness tournaments’ gender discrepancies and USA Gymnastics’ cover-up of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse. There’s so many local stories on campuses like your own with similar issues.
Athletes depend on us to tell their stories. Being a sports journalist isn’t just covering games. It’s understanding what’s going on in the locker room and back offices.
On this page, we’ve assembled resources and guides high school and collegiate sports reporters need to enhance their reporting and get their stories published.
• Newsgathering, getting access & dealing with censorship
• Are you self-censoring?
• Understanding NIL
• Other helpful resources
• More from SPLC’s partners
News gathering, getting access & dealing with censorship
Knowing your rights, the law and how to identify wrongdoing and censorship will elevate you as a reporter to be better prepared to handle and get around roadblocks. SPLC developed resources and censorship guides so you know how to tackle your next lede, deal with censorship or find your next story idea!
- A Sports Media Guide to Newsgathering Off the Court or Field - This guide provides tips for finding and using public information, including records, in your sports reporting.
- How to Recognize & Fight Censorship as a Sports Reporter - This guide provides some time-tested strategies for sports journalists to fight — and win — a censorship battle.
- A Sports Reporter’s Guide to FERPA & Public Records - This guide is a sports-centric roadmap to work around FERPA and retrieve the records you need for your sports stories.
- 25 public records sports reporters can and should request - Here’s are some documents and public information sports reporters may want to submit a public records request for.
- Between unclear state policies and privacy laws, finding concussion data can be a headache for reporters -
School officials often deny requests for generalized concussion data, incorrectly citing privacy laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Sometimes concussion information isn't being tracked in the first place.
- Access to college and university athletic program information -
As college athletics become an ever-bigger enterprise at many schools, the student media has an ever-growing obligation to monitor their programs. The following guide should provide you with valuable tools for obtaining the information you need to do your job.
- Access to student athletic events -
Student media guide concerning the legal issues related to access and coverage of school-sponsored athletic events.
Are you self-censoring?
One form of censorship of self-censorship. This is the act of excluding newsworthy stories or topics from your coverage based on either an actual or perceived threat.
Do you write stories trying not to “rock the boat?” Do you not ask certain questions at press conferences worried you will not be invited back? Are you not chasing a lede in fear it might cost you your access? Are you worried a story you write will hurt the team you are covering or the university you go to? Are you shying away from a newsworthy story?
Take the SPLC’s quiz to help yourself better understand this idea:
Understanding NIL, the legalities & what’s next
It’s a new age for college athletics, and Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) law and policy is a concept largely shrouded in the unknown. SPLC has answers to your need-to-know NIL questions: check out our guide to understanding NIL and a state-by-state breakdown of the laws on the books.
Other helpful resources
There’s often a divide between news and sports reporters since the jobs can be so different. But, here are a few guides that apply to ALL journalists:
- Guide to broadcast press freedom for student journalists
- Guide to student press freedom at public colleges
- Access to university foundation records
- State-by-state guide to the reporter’s privilege for student media
- Student media guide to protecting sources and information
- Legal protections for journalists’ sources and information
Guides, resources & other materials from SPLC’s partners
Each year for Student Press Freedom Day, we partner with several First Amendment, educational, legal and journalistic organizations who help us celebrate, educate and bring awareness to student press freedom issues. Here are a few sports-centric or applicable resources from a few of our partners: