No area of journalism has been as impacted by social media as football coverage. Under a model that naturally sees reporters advertising and declaring which team they support, pillars of journalistic practice were left aside by professionals who act as influencers.
Not even political coverage has been so influenced, although there are many similarities, such as the hyperbolic tone of statements made to end up in videos and viral posts that will be spread by algorithms. The more unreasonable the comment, the greater the repercussion, as usual.
Thus, it became common to see journalists who previously only reported what happened by issuing opinions. Many of them continue to provide relevant information, but the border between reporting and commentary is over. André Hernan is an example of this change. Former Globo, he left the broadcaster after more than a decade to migrate to NWB, a social media giant and career manager for several well-known YouTubers.
In his new home, he started to promote brands, and on his channel he advertises promotion coupons that sometimes bear his name. This, of course, is not exclusive to Hernan nor was it invented by him — Milton Neves has been using the same practice for decades, even though he is more of a presenter than a journalist. Either way, social media has intensified this behavior in ways never seen before.
The duo Arnaldo Ribeiro and Eduardo Tironi advertise all sorts of things, from baldness products to health insurance. At the end of 2023, journalists experienced a curious situation. At the time, they were sponsored by Sportsbet.io, then a sponsor of São Paulo, to which their channel is dedicated.
When the club began negotiating the change of sponsor — for another bet —, Arnaldo and Tironi experienced a conflict of interest, regardless of what they said or didn’t say.
Before, on ESPN, the channel where they worked, they commented on news about different teams, which they still do, but now most of the content they produce is about the club of which they are declared fans. Many see admission as a form of transparency, which has always been considered sacrilege in professional journalism, since taking on one’s favorite team is seen as synonymous with a lack of impartiality.
Again, there are cases prior to the popularization of networks, as evidenced by Corinthians Juca Kfouri, columnist for this Sheetbut just like in the case of advertisements, this stance has spread and today it seems to be the rule.
It can be transparency, yes, but it is also a way of identifying with the target audience, which is increasingly separated into niches and wants to feel represented by a journalist who thinks like the fan.
Faced with a media industry that is finding it difficult to stay afloat, this type of coverage far from professional guides is spreading, driven by the wave of podcasts in which former players have free reign to say whatever they want without being confronted and by channels of influencers in which players are invited to take on challenges, such as who hits the post the most shots.
Sports journalism has always had its share of entertainment and, not by chance, Globo removed its sports division from the journalism umbrella in 2017. Under the impact of networks, journalistic practice is increasingly becoming entertainment. And the reader/viewer/user must look to understand the difference.
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