Department of journalism adds new curriculum track for sports reporters

Adrienne Burch

The UA Department of Journalism has announced the addition of a new sports news and information track for undergraduate majors.

Students choosing this new track learn basic journalistic skills but take more sports-focused courses.

“The industry demand for people specializing in sports news and information is at an all-time high,” Jennifer Greer, chair of the UA Department of Journalism, said. “We felt the need to meet this demand.”

The UA Department of Journalism has trained students in sports journalism since its conception in the 1920s, but they’ve never formally called it that until now, Greer said.

Students on this new sports news and information track will take most of the basic journalism classes, but there will be a few key exceptions.

Following JN 311, News Writing and Reporting, sports students will enter a JN 318 course that focuses on the beginning of sports reporting taught by Tuscaloosa News sports reporter Aaron Suttles. This course will be offered for the first time in the fall of 2013.

Students in this new track will also take an advanced sports writing course that has previously been taught as an elective but will now be required for those with this concentration.

Sports students are also required to have sports-focused internships at news outlets like the Tuscaloosa News.

Current freshmen and sophomores can add this concentration easily without affecting their graduation date, Greer said. She hopes many will consider this option.

For years, students interested in sports have chosen to follow the public relations track because of the stigma of journalism, Greer said.

“Some students are afraid of the news,” Greer said. “They think it’s all about covering war, crime and disasters.”

She said that through this new concentration in sports, the department hopes students will begin to understand that there is much more to journalism than covering the murder down the street.

“We want people to realize how much you can do with a journalism degree,” Greer said. “It’s one of the broadest degrees out there.”

Freshman journalism major Hamilton Bromhead said he personally is not a fan of what he calls “plain newspaper journalism,” but instead prefers to cover subjects like sports.

“This new focus on sports writing will expand people’s opinion of journalism,” Bromhead said. “There will be more of a distinction between a ‘news’ writer and a ‘sports’ writer.”

Bromhead said students interested in sports writing can now take a different path than those whose interests are elsewhere.

In adding this new concentration, the Department of Journalism is joining the rest of the College of Communication and Information Sciences in a recent push to expose students to a sports-geared field of communications.

This fall, the college also founded the University of Alabama Program in Sports Communication (ASPC), which is aimed at bringing all the different sports communication programs at the University under one name.

“It’s one-stop shopping for people interested in sports communication in all of its forms,” Andrew Billings, director of the ASPC, said.

The ASPC is responsible for bringing sports communication events to campus, including guest speaker ESPN President George Bodenheimer, who will speak on campus Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. in the Ferguson Theater.