The professionalisation of sports journalism, c1850 to 1939, with particular reference to the career of James Catton

Tate, Stephen (2007) The professionalisation of sports journalism, c1850 to 1939, with particular reference to the career of James Catton. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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There has been a considerable growth in research in recent years into the history of both journalism and sport, two hugely influential areas of popular culture. The two fields cover a wide spectrum of interests and there is much ground that is common to both. However, studies of journalism and the growth of the newspaper industry have largely ignored the role of the sports journalist and the place of sport within a developing press. Moreover, studies of the expansion of commercial sport and the games-playing habit, whilst touching on the place of the press in their development, and utilising newspapers as primary source material, have paid little or no attention to the place of the sports reporter in the promotion and recording of the sporting sub-culture. This thesis aims to address the shortcoming in current research with a study centring on the growth of the occupation of sports reporting from the mid-Victorian era to the inter-war years. The thesis notes the adoption of sport as a circulation aid by the popular press, considers the type of recruit attracted to sports reporting, the job's practical aspects, the position of the sports journalist within the editorial hierarchy, and the acceptance of sports reporting as a legitimate specialism within a widening editorial agenda. The career of journalist James Catton is introduced to the study to examine in detail the manner in which occupational trends impacted upon the individual reporter, and in order to trace the manner in which sports reporting could be said to have adopted a 'professional' outlook during the period of this study.

The thesis reveals the uncertain standing of the sports journalist within the newspaper industry, the part-time nature of much sports reporting, with sport regarded as an occupational rite of passage for the young and the trainee, and the struggle to rid the occupation of a reputation sullied by a perception of hackneyed journalism. The biographical section of the thesis introduces a contemporary voice, that of James Catton, to let it speak to an experience that might otherwise prove difficult to capture. Catton's working life highlights the possibilities and the demands of a career in sports journalism, and the success that the adoption of a 'professional' approach to the work could secure.

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