With COVID suspending sporting events across the world, sports journalism has been directly affected by it. Let’s get an inside look into how people in the industry and those aspiring to be in it are dealing with it, writes, Uzair Firdausi.
O.P. Jindal Global University suspended classes due to the coronavirus pandemic in the second week of March. Amitesh Prasad, a third-year International Relations student, though disappointed, looked forward to being at home and catching up on major sporting events. The subsequent lockdowns and suspension of almost all major sporting events across the globe left a major sports shape hole in Amitesh’s life. He filled that hole by reading about sports and keeping up with updates about the resumption of sporting events.
Sports being suspended for a considerable duration had its externalities; its effects were felt by those directly reliant on sports for their livelihood; sports journalists. Across the industry, there have been adaptations to the suspension of sports as well as the resumption with various stipulations and precautions with the pandemic in mind. “We looked into doing more human-interest stories,” said Moushumi Dutta, a senior sports journalist for The Times of India. “We couldn’t do on the ground stories, and still can’t, but we’ve worked around that” she added.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is an extremely busy period, but with it being postponed and being set to start in September, there is a respite for publications. The lack of live sports led to a reduction in space that sports stories got in the newspaper. “With the IPL around the corner we are hopeful that we will reclaim the space in the paper,” said Dutta hopefully, “but with people’s internet usage increasing with the pandemic, we had success with the stories that were uploaded online exclusively.”
Sharda Ugra, a former senior journalist and editor at Cricinfo, looked at the bright side of the pandemic, “the pandemic forced us to think outside the box and be more creative as sports writing during tournaments can become formulaic. So, this was a good change.”
The pandemic has caused an increasing strain on sportspersons financially, especially when it comes to women. Women’s sports are also seen as secondary importance when it comes to the order of resumption of live sports. Sharda Ugra said, “As a publication, we also did stories on sportswomen, but sports representation in media is extremely public based, as it is based on profitability and those stories did not do well.”
Amitesh Prasad found respite from the monotony of life during lockdown by reading the creative stories that the media houses were putting out. Amitesh, inspired by this, started his own sports publication with a few of his classmates. “Something was missing in my daily life; the thrill of watching a game could not be replaced. So, I thought writing about it would somewhat quench my craving for live sport, and it has to some extent helped.” Prasad spoke about spreading his love for the sport with their blog. “Sports means so much to me, and by maintaining a blog, it is a tangible manifestation of my love, and through it, I can share it with other people as well.” Prasad also said, “I think this was the perfect time to start a sports blog as sports (persons) have started getting political lately. For example, Le Bron James speaking about boycotting the NBA and Lewis Hamilton asking for more representation of people from different communities in Formula 1. These stories were great to cover” he added.
Edited by Sahil Shah and Bhavya Vemulapalli