In the wake of Callum Baird’s brilliantly written report on a 0-0 bore draw between Airdrieonians and Morton earlier this week, I have been contemplating where we stand in the discipline of match reporting. For years, the simple match report has been the bedrock of newspaper back pages with often entire pull-outs dedicated to a series of simple analysis of the match from the previous day. In more recent times, in the digital age, match reports have still continued online in their traditional form.
However, something is happening in the world of sports journalism. The match report, as we know it, it dying. It is not that people aren’t as interested in sport as they once were. Far from it, it is simply that sports viewers are consuming media in an all together different way. On a personal level, it is simply impossible for me to imagine watching the Manchester Derby, the Ashes or the Ryder Cup for example, without Twitter open alongside me. Its instant nature allows you to engage in immediate debate with like-minded (and not so like-minded!) people, in this sense social media can be seen as a useful complimentary tool to the usual match report.
But that’s not where it’s influence stops. Many fans who can’t catch their teams match will no longer avoid the score all day and settle down for Match of the Day in the evening or read the report in the Sunday paper. It is easy to keep up to date with games every minute via social media, and within seconds you can be sure that somebody has posted a Vine of the latest thronking goal.
The prevalence and popularity of social media is undoubtedly pulling people away from the traditional match report. Another point to consider is the explosion in the number and range of sports available to view on TV. Admittedly free-to-air sport is in decline but even the casual sports viewer will likely have a Sky sports subscription these days. With the smorgasbord of sports that’s available now and the 24 hours Sky Sports News to boot, it is not surprising that the match report is suffering as a consequence
While it may seem that I am lamenting the fall of the match report, I am in fact very positive about the future of the medium. As Callum Baird’s sensational report in the Scottish Herald shows, there is still room for an erudite engaging writer to pen works of art. For that is what the match report will need to become to survive. In the social media age, people will not read a match report without having already seen all the major incidents replayed at least 10 times. For that reason, reading a match report will take on a new form, it will no longer be a necessity it will become a form of art to be enjoyed.
If this means that we will weed out the plethora of uninteresting and mind bogglingly boring match reports, then I’m all for it. Perhaps it will even lead to a return back to the glorious styles of Alan Gibson and Neville Cardus. Paul Edwards has gained immense popularity and plaudits this summer for his wonderfully crafted domestic cricket reports with Cricinfo and if his style is indicative of where we are heading then I’m all for it. We are already seeing the birth of a new style of journalism; many sites now publish ‘the match in tweets’ for example. This sort of article can sometimes be seen as a lazy journalism, however it is reflective of the power of social media within sport nowadays. If the slow suffocation of the match report means fewer high class sports journalists then so be it. As a reader, I would rather have the highest-class writers penning interesting original articles than a group of scribes churning out 50 match reports. The increasing prevalence of opinion based, statistical, historical and analytical articles can only benefit the reader and is making sports journalism a more accomplished and varied discipline.
Here is the Callum Baird article I mention…