Bibliography of Finnish Sports Journalism: A Review

Veera Ehrlén
Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä

The bibliography of Finnish sports journalism is a freely accessible peer-reviewed Finnish-language website and databank that brings together a comprehensive collection of scholarly and popular publications on sports media and journalism. The bibliography, launched in February 2023 by Antti Laine, Joakim Särkivuori and Toni Tourunen, is an outcome of a project carried out in the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä. The publications on the bibliography are organised thematically and classified according to the publication type. The authors have done a tremendous job in compiling this tool and presenting the databank of more than 2,200 publications in a logically organised, searchable, and user-friendly format. My appreciation is also directed to the meta-text accompanying the databank, which contains a precise description of the methods and delimitations used to construct the thematic bibliography.

In addition to the databank, the site contains descriptive introductions to each of the thematic entities and general information on the key concepts and characteristics of sports media and journalism. Additionally, the site provides a detailed account of the history of sports journalism in Finland. Taken as a whole, these popularised entries present a wide-ranging and, in places, critical examination of the topic, and they are of particular value to the reader new to the field of sports journalism. At the level of detail, however, I want to raise some remarks that I hope will challenge both the authors and us readers to think about how we understand sports journalism in relation to journalists, athletes, audience, and researchers.

As a reader, I am left wondering whether the exclusion of women from the writing of history and their relegation to a sub-topic perpetuates their invisibility and thus their irrelevance in the field of sports journalism.

What strikes me the most is the invisibility of female journalists especially in the history section. Female journalists have been reserved a place of their own in the bibliography: They form a subtheme under the thematic entity “sports journalists and their work.” It is praiseworthy that the authors pay attention to female journalists, even though their path to the newsrooms and broadcast studios has been a difficult and long one, and even though there has been little research on them in Finland. However, not a single woman is mentioned in the historical account of Finnish sports journalism reaching from the end of the 1800s towards the end of the 1900s, even though for example Anni Collan, as mentioned in the other section, had been active on the field already in the beginning of the 1900s. The historical account ends just before the time when the first women gained stronger foothold in sports journalism in Finland (1970s onwards). As a reader, I am left wondering whether the exclusion of women from the writing of history and their relegation to a sub-topic perpetuates their invisibility and thus their irrelevance in the field of sports journalism.

Although there is a gap in academic research on gender and sports journalism in Finland, international research shows that the reinforcement of historical gender order is reflected in sports newsrooms and in the work of sports journalists (e.g., Schoch, 2022; Whiteside & Hardin, 2012). Furthermore, scholars such as Schmidt (2018, p. 67) argue that “as long as female sports writers are disadvantaged, any significant increase in the coverage of women’s sports is unlikely.” Internationally, inequality in sports reporting has been shown to exist not just in relation to the quantity but also to the quality of sports coverage (Bernstein, 2020), which in turn affects how the audience and those involved in sports view different genders in the world of sports. These points are acknowledged in the section that covers the main characteristics of Finnish sports journalism, but under the theme “sports journalism as a creator of images” the authors, citing their own work, state how “many studies on gender in sports journalism have either been conducted from an overly feminist perspective or have interpreted the research data according to a preconceived script, reinforcing previously held stereotypes.” It would have been interesting to read more reasoning behind this claim. Are we talking about a (Finnish or Nordic) change in the coverage of female athletes? And if so, who or what are the drivers behind this change?

On the subject of changes, another issue that caught my attention was how the authors, drawing on existing literature, display Finnish sports journalists as being rather uninterested in reporting about grievances of sports. The authors explain that this stems from the historical lack of criticism in reporting about the national heroes of competitive sports. However, particularly the sports press coverage of recent years shows that Finnish sports journalists are increasingly taking an active role in reporting and raising awareness about societal problems through sports. Both the public service media and commercial newspapers have published several news stories for example on human right violations and on gender-based and sexual harassment in sports. This is an indication of the changing face of Finnish sports journalism and within it an ambition to move from entertainment and performance reporting, from the so-called toy department of media houses to serious journalism.

I believe that this time when sports journalists are partly broadening their gaze away from a fixed focus on sports is also an opportune time for us as researchers to examine and reflect on our own position in the field of media and journalism studies. In the bibliography section that conceptualises sports journalism and its related key terms and concepts, sports journalism as an academic subject and field of study is briefly defined in just one sentence, belonging under the category of journalism studies. Reading this definition makes me ask: How does the study of sports journalism more specifically relate to journalism studies and connect with wider societal and cultural issues? Are there (not) any characteristics that make sports journalism research unique? Are we, as researchers, keeping ourselves invisible if we cannot articulate our position?

That said, the bibliography as a whole, the resources and effort invested in it, and the coverage it has received in the Finnish media show that there is a wider interest in sports journalism as a discipline and as a subject area. All in all, the authors have succeeded in realizing their aim “to provide easily accessible research information to a wide range of users.” As an excellent summary, the authors present a figure that pulls together the characteristics of Finnish sports journalism based on the numerous sources in the bibliography. According to the authors, Finnish sports journalism perceives and communicates sports as nationalistic, ethnocentric, masculine, entertaining, commercial and success-focused, among other things. In the future, it would be interesting to see a similar synthesis of scientific and popular texts from other Nordic countries and find out how these characteristics are mirrored in research and texts about sports media and journalism elsewhere.

Copyright © Veera Ehrlén 2023


Bernstein, A. (2020). Women, media, and sport. In The International Encyclopedia of Gender, Media, and Communication (Karen Ross, et al., eds., Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell 2020) pp.1–9.
Schmidt, H. C. (2018). Forgotten athletes and token reporters: Analyzing the gender bias in sports journalism. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 26(1), pp 59–74.
Schoch, L. (2022). The gender of sports news: Horizontal segregation and marginalization of female journalists in the Swiss press. Communication & Sport, 10(4), pp. 746–766.
Whiteside, E., & Hardin, M. (2012). On Being a “good sport” in the workplace: Women, the glass ceiling, and negotiated resignation in sports information. International Journal of Sport Communication, 5(1), pp. 51–68.

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