The world of sports journalism has changed. That presents new opportunities for you to achieve your own goals to see and report on sports. Houston Astros Examiner Stephen Goff was one of the first independent online journalists to be accredited by a major league sports team. Los Angeles Lakers Examiner Ryan Ward became accredited by this championship NBA team after demonstrating the broad appeal of the Examiner.com format.
Los Angeles Kings Examiner Charles Smith Junior has taken a different route to accreditation by major league sports that many others have followed. Smith covers the Kings in multiple media to reach a wide audience, consolidated on a custom web site called “Inside Sports.”
The 20th Century approach to sports journalism accreditation ended with the start of the 21st Century. There have been four major changes.
- Mass circulation daily newspapers like the Seattle Times have reduced their traditional staff journalist coverage and added extensive coverage from local experts on “Partner Pages.”
- More readers get most of their news from news feeds on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites that did not exist a decade ago. So a sports journalist’s personal network is often more important than newsstand distribution.
- Search engines show who the top writers in individual subjects are. The Google powered search engine on the Examiner.com site ranked seven of my articles in the top ten search results for “sports sponsorships.”
- Many more readers are college graduates. Currently, over one third of Americans aged 25 to 29 have a college degree, and most of these appreciate the insights of more detailed expert coverage.
Most sports organizations have responded by introducing ways for independent journalists to qualify for press credentials, rather than only distribute credentials to publishers who then assign them to staff as in the past. And just like sports itself, media accreditation is very competitive and practice makes perfect.
This slideshow introduces good examples of my sports journalism accreditation with helpful advice on approaches you can take to prepare to apply and succeed. As you can see, most leagues include a personal photograph as part of the selection process. A professional appearance and engaging smile can make an important difference in getting an invitation.
- 2009 International Olympic Congress. Over one-hundred thousand journalists apply to report on Olympic sports events and conferences. Only a small fraction are accepted. While sports expertise is valuable, multiple language abilities can set applicants apart from the crowd. Both English and French are official languages of the International Olympic Committee and many participants do not speak English at all. So speaking French and at least one other foreign language greatly improves chances for Olympic accreditation and helps Olympic organizations achieve their goals of inclusiveness and diversity.
- 2010 Winter Olympics. It has become common for major sports events to work together with local business organizations to reach out to wider audiences. The Whistler Media House at the 2010 Winter Olympics is a classic success story. The province of British Columbia syndicated sponsorships from many businesses to enhance coverage that spotlighted the important roles that sponsors play in sports. Sponsor Acer also supplied a state-of-the art media room to make it easy and the local staff scheduled press events several times a day to make it easier to interview many of the most interesting personalities of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
- 2010 Canadian Olympic team event accreditation. Tactics help you achieve your goals in sports. Tactics also help you achieve your goals in sports journalism. Examiner.com is ranked in the top 350 web sites in Canada. That is actually higher than the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), a bastion of the 20th Century media. The special accreditation for this kind of event helps open doors. It is a day pass for a specific event. It was much easier to obtain than full accreditation, but qualifies successful candidates for future applications. And day pass media received the same detailed media guide and directory as the fully accredited media.
- 2010 European Water Polo Championships. Multitasking has changed the way the world works. Journalists who excel at both writing and sports photography have an edge in accreditation at smaller sports events like this league championship, where the press conference space capacity was limited to 20. Language ability also helps. Many of the press conferences were in Italian or German.
- 2011 US Skiing Alpine Championships. This kind of single sport championship is ideal for building contacts with sports sponsors. Each sponsor had an information and hospitality booth with senior sports marketing staff available for interviews. This type of event is a good stepping stone to international accreditation. Many U.S. sports leagues like US Skiing and USA Swimming let foreign athletes who train in the United States compete in national championships. So this is also a good way to build a portfolio of interviews with foreign star athletes.
- 2011 California State Bar Association Annual Meeting. Do you want excellent contacts with many of America’s top sports agents and top sports attorneys? You will get much more “quality time” with them at Bar Association events for lawyers than at sports events where the press are typically assigned to a “mixed zone” and athletes and their agents are in separate VIP areas. The key to accreditation for this prestigious event is similar to media accreditation by many trade associations. The more often you publish articles quoting their dues paying members and enhancing their reputations as industry experts, the more the media relations staff will consider your publishing to have value.
- 2011 Pan American Games. Having a different angle can often get you past your competitors in clinching sports accreditation. Host city Guadalajara wanted to showcase its architecture and facilities for major sports events. A good portfolio of coverage in this subject area and regular readership among influential members of social media sites is an advantage.
- 2012 London Olympics Media Center. Can covering one event open doors for media accreditation at another event? Yes. In May 2012, the U.S Olympic Committee held a 4 day media summit in Dallas, Texas, with a policy address by First Lady Michelle Obama and press conferences with over 100 athletes and coaches. London Media Center Executive Director Mark Howell visited the event to prepare North American journalists to get the most out of London 2012 coverage and take additional applications. The London 2012 media team scheduled many events covering the Athlete’s Villages, sports science and sports medicine, international houses and other infrastructure and favored applicants who also covered these topics. Popularity helps, too. Over 500 “Likes” on Facebook for sports science features commands attention with this specialized, affluent audience.
- 2012 Swiss Olympic Team Accreditation. Contacting a foreign embassy can often help get an invitation that leads to accreditation. The Swiss Embassy in London has a full time staff person working as liaison for sports and culture. Her V.I.P introduction made it much easier to be accredited for the Swiss Olympic Team’s press conferences.
- 2013 ATP Tennis Federation. Sports federations get many more applications from sports journalists than they have places for. Leading tennis events with international stars like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic can typically accommodate only a quarter of those who apply. Journalists have a large advantage when they demonstrate that their coverage will benefit sponsors. It also helps to reach readers in different geographic areas than other media covering the event.
- 2013 FINA World Aquatic Championships. Building relationships the way many business people learn to in sales training can also help accreditation at highly selective events with global sports stars like Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin. The 2013 FINA World Aquatic Championships media center only had capacity for 110 journalists. Only two from California received full accreditation. Both of us did this by covering aquatic sports with behind the scenes coverage all year long, not just during the world championships.