Sports Media Toolkit

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.

Jump to:
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!

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.

Everything We Know About NIL

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State-by-State Guide to NIL

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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:

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:

Freedom of the Press Foundation

Preparing for online harassment


Radio Television Digital News Association