29 November 2022
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Of the many outstanding components of her game, Serena Williams may best be known for her commanding serve.

Those serves, unleashed over the course of a 27-year professional career, arguably heightened the power and intensity of the women’s game, forcing her opponents to game plan for each wicked volley.

To those chronicling her exploits as one of the world’s best tennis players, Williams served up a different challenge.

As a scholar of sports journalism, I have observed how its practitioners have struggled to find their footing when it comes to establishing consensus about what exactly constitutes good sports journalism.

Williams’ presence as a Black woman in a historically white, patriarchal sport, her commitment to activism and her willingness to bare her personal challenges to the public forced sports journalists to reevaluate professional norms that urged them to focus only on what happened between the lines.

Apolitical origins

Sports journalism emerged in the late 19th century and fully established itself as a distinct journalism genre when newspaper publishers, in an effort to attract wider audiences, moved away from being partisan party organs. Sports quickly became a lucrative way to sell newspapers.

Those apolitical origins shaped its future trajectory. Success often depended on access to players and front office personnel, as well as cozy relationships with league officials. Chief among the outcomes of that arrangement…

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Abdul Gh Lone

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