Journalism Study Examines the Burnout Effect on Sports Journalists

Columbia, Mo. (Sept. 12, 2005) — Ask any journalist and they would tell you that their job is highly stressful and that people in their profession are susceptible to burnout. For sports journalists in particular, extended travel away from their families, late-night deadlines, long workdays that include nights, weekends and holidays, and competition from 24-hour television, radio and Internet media may compound the amount of stress and burnout. A new study by a Missouri School of Journalism doctoral student examined this stress and burnout of these specific journalists and found that the younger individuals who worked at smaller papers were experiencing the greatest stress.

Scott Reinardy
Scott Reinardy

“For sports journalists there is no longer an off-season,” said Scott Reinardy, a doctoral student and a former sports editor at the Columbia Missourian. “With the advent of women’s sports, additional professional sports leagues and hot-stove activity, a beat writer’s work is never done. Meanwhile, with the cut in newspaper staff in recent years, sports journalists are asked to do more with less.”

Reinardy conducted a survey of 249 sports journalists, including sports editors, writers, copy editors and page designers, working on newspapers with circulations ranging from 10,000 to more than 200,000 throughout the United States. The survey, called the Maslach Burnout Inventory, examined three areas: emotional exhaustion (depletion of emotional resources); depersonalization (negative, cynical attitudes toward clients) and personal accomplishment (people who are unhappy with themselves and their job accomplishments).

Reinardy found that sports journalists demonstrated a moderate rate of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization while reaching a high level of personal accomplishment. Sports editors suffered from a higher rate of burnout than anyone else, while the copy editors and page designers fared the best. The younger journalists (40 and under) had higher rates of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization than older journalists, and those working at papers with a circulation of 200,000 or less showed higher levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization.

Reinardy, though, is cautious to say that sports journalism is as stressful as the work of a “news” journalist.

“With diminished necessity for serious news, sports writing is a low-risk, high-reward form of journalism where controversial stories can easily be avoided if one chooses to do so,” Reinardy said. “While dispelling the myth of athletic heroes can certainly warrant a host of criticism and create stress, sports journalists are traditionally not expected to carry the onus of watch-dog journalism that news reporters carry.

“Regardless of sports journalism’s stressors, the individuals who choose this as a profession enjoy their work and the people they work with.”

Updated: April 7, 2020

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