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World Sports Journalists Day

Why sports journalists struggle to reach media's top tier

Mahbub  Sarkar

Mahbub Sarkar

Tue, 2 Jul 24

In a conversation in 2007, I heard Shafik Rehman say, "Many of you may not know, but I was once a sports journalist." The former editor of Jaijaidin newspaper had a chapter in sports journalism that I hadn't learned much about. It is known that in Bangladesh, there aren't many examples of rising from sports journalism to the top tier of the media industry. Mustafa Mamun, the editor of Desh Rupantor, was once a prominent sports journalist. Similarly, it has been noted at times that Matiur Rahman, the editor of Manabzamin, also had a background in sports journalism. Whether there are still any examples of people climbing the ladder from sports journalism to the highest level in the media today is unclear. On the occasion of World Sports Journalists Day, efforts were made to understand why the rate of advancement from sports journalism to the top tier of the media is lower compared to sub-editors or specialized reporters in other fields.

Discussions with various sports journalists sought to understand how established the profession of sports journalism has become in this country. Senior sports journalist Aghor Mondol, who has experience across newspapers, television, and radio, commented, "Renowned journalists like Kamruzzaman, A.B.M. Musa, Wahidul Haq, and Enayetullah Khan expanded their careers starting from sports journalism. Over time, the number of media outlets has increased; however, unfortunately, the quality of sports journalism has not kept pace with the quantity. Perhaps that is why there are fewer examples of people rising to the top tier from sports journalism nowadays."

Aghor Mandol believes that the quality of sports journalism has declined in the new century. He said, "This could be due to the trend of chasing after athletes instead of focusing on the game itself. A sports journalist needs to have knowledge of all branches of journalism. They need to understand crime reporting due to issues like match-fixing, medical reporting due to incidents like doping, and business reporting due to sports commerce and branding. To be clear on various branches of journalism, there is no alternative to studying. Compared to the past, the tendency of current journalists to study has decreased significantly."

Ziauddin Saimum, a former sports journalist now working as a freelancer for various media outlets, responded to the question of how established sports journalism has become as a profession in this country by saying, "Journalism as a profession is not established in Bangladesh at all. It is being called a profession out of emotional attachment. Consequently, sports journalism has not been able to become an established profession in this country either." As a member of the Bangladesh Sports Press Association (BSPA) involved with the sports sector, Ziauddin Saimum added, "A handful of journalists receive a salary according to the scale, but it is announced in Parliament that the ninth wage board recommendations have been implemented in 88 news outlets. Such a situation has been created that journalists cannot protest against this falsehood despite knowing the reality."

Journalists uncover information on irregularities and corruption in various sectors. Their investigative work continues despite facing regular irregularities in their workplaces. In this regard, sports journalists in Bangladesh are no exception. Except for a few select media outlets, the same situation prevails everywhere. In most cases, journalists' salaries and benefits do not align with market conditions, which is also contrary to labor laws. This discrepancy is cited as a reason why media personnel are drawn into unethical practices to take advantage of various opportunities. Needless to say, journalism, like various other professions in the country, is afflicted by corruption. There is no survey on this, so understanding the true picture is difficult; however, the general perception of journalism among the public is quite negative. Some argue that journalism is even more corrupt than other sectors in the country! The number of journalists based on YouTube and various social media platforms is increasing day by day, and there is a lack of control in some cases. Many are venturing into the field with smartphones and microphones, posing as journalists. Due to the lack of proper control, some media outlets themselves push their employees toward various irregularities—an old accusation. It has been revealed at times, and still comes to light, that some journalists are involved in various irregularities across sectors. Various organizations allegedly exploit these unethical acts by their employees. Irregularities on one hand and the tendency of organizations to exploit on the other—media and journalists operate on a basis of compromise. These issues are perceived as barriers to establishing journalism as a profession.

 , a former sports journalist who has worked in various roles in top media outlets in the country and is now working for Germany-based Deutsche Welle, responded to the question of how established journalism has become as a profession in Bangladesh by saying, "Even when I was doing sports journalism in Bangladesh, I felt that this profession would not provide long-term security. Therefore, I did not confine myself to sports journalism. I have also engaged myself in other branches of journalism, and in continuation, I am currently working in Germany." He further mentioned, "While the number of media outlets in the country has increased, none of the branches of journalism have been established accordingly. Job security for journalists has not increased either. In such a situation, sports journalism cannot be considered established at all." Describing the lives of journalists as similar to that of film actors, Ashish Chakraborty added, "Sports journalists now have glamour. In some cases, people appreciate their work; however, in real life, many of them are on the brink of starvation! Their condition is somewhat like that of film actress Rani Sarkar! Given the current situation, I cannot say that 10% of sports journalists in Bangladesh have the assurance of receiving their salaries at the end of the month. I cannot call this an established profession."

On July 2, 1924, World Sports Journalists Day was inaugurated in France. Since then, this day has been celebrated in various countries around the world. Similarly, the day is observed in Bangladesh as well, though the activities related to it are not very extensive. There are three organizations for sports journalists in the country, one of which is the Bangladesh Sports Press Association (BSPA). This organization, a member of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS), undertakes a few activities to mark World Sports Journalists Day. The day is formally celebrated by cutting a cake, and, in addition to this, several senior sports journalists in the country are honored every year as part of the celebration.

To understand how secure or established sports journalism has become as a profession in Bangladesh, Anisur Rahman, General Secretary of the Bangladesh Sports Journalists Association (BSJA) and senior sports journalist of The Daily Star, was asked. This experienced sports journalist replied, "Sports journalism is a beat or branch of journalism. In the context of Bangladesh, at one time, sports journalism was not an important branch in the newspaper industry. As a result, instead of full-time journalists, most institutions relied on part-time staff to cover sports news. However, over time, the media has expanded.

The international scope of sports has increased. With the rise in reader demand, revenue has also grown. Sports journalism has been established as a separate department. In that regard, sports journalism has become an important part of media organizations, like other branches; but the reality is that there are still deficiencies in standards, opportunities, proper remuneration, and other aspects." Anisur Rahman's words make it clear that while sports journalism has become an important part of the media, it has not yet become fully established as a profession.

Mahbub Sarkar: Sports Journalist and Analyst

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