Originally published by the now defunct UK site Byline in December 2011.
Match reports have always been the cornerstone in sport sections of daily newspapers. They have always been there. Accounts of football matches, in particular, take up plenty of space in the print media, providing copious amounts of copy on a weekly – and, in the modern sporting age, daily – basis.
There are issues here, though. With professional and non-professional websites continually pumping out match reports within minutes of the final whistle, is there really an appetite for reading a narrative report of a match over 15 hours since the game finished? With highlights and commentary readily available on TV and online, these kinds of match reports are surely redundant in the print media in the digital age.
They are, at least, going to be redundant. As generations move on and the young people of today become the main media consumers, the media – as is anticipated – will have to go fully online to survive. Reporting news in newspapers isn’t enough anymore, due to the ever-increasing speed at which information is circulated.
A match report has two primary target audiences: those who weren’t at the game and therefore want a vivid, descriptive account of the match and those who were there but want to relive the experience or fill in missing gaps. Match reports can provide other perspectives and reactions to things that are impossible to either see or analyse effectively from the stands.
By the time newspapers have hit the newsstands, blogs will have given a full run-down of events in the match, Twitter will be a-buzz with everything that happened, news channels will have informed viewers of the major talking points, and television highlights will have been shown, with added comment and discussion too.
So a match report that runs through what happens in a match that everyone has heard about seems slightly behind the times.
Of course, if the report was well-measured and beautifully written, it would still be worth reading, but quite often they’re not. Due to journalists having to file copy minutes after the final whistle, the report is often rushed. This then leads to bland, generic reports, detailing what happened with a few paragraphs running through some context. This information is barely relevant by the time the public flick through their morning paper.
What is needed, then, is more comment pieces. This is the way more newspapers are going now: commenting on and analysing news instead of breaking it. These would be much more valuable to the reader rather than a run-down of a match.
Certain newspapers (The Independent and The Times in particular) have realised this already and now provide analytical pieces on matches – or issues surrounding a game – instead of a report that is merely a sequence of events of something that most people have already seen or heard about.
Of course, many readers still enjoy match reports – not everyone is privy to Twitter, or the multitude of blogs out there, or even highlight shows – so match reports shouldn’t be merely killed off straight away.
But that generation of non-digital media consumers will disappear soon enough. In ten to twenty years time, everyone will be tweeting, everyone will be getting information instantly, not waiting until the next morning to visit their local newsagents.
Newspapers need to prepare for that. The end of the narrative-based match report needs to be nigh.