Presented by Dr Stijn Knuts, Catholic University, Leuven, Belgium – at the SpLeisH Colloquium 2017

The role of the press in modern sports has already received considerable attention. The majority of studies, however, see this sports press as a source of factual information or engage in critical analyses of its discourse as it relates to gender, class or identity. The actual cultural dynamics of the sports press’ news production has seen far less study. Making a start of filling this gap and understanding the practice of sports journalism, this paper analyses the Belgian sports paper Sportwereld through keyword searches of the digitalized volumes of its first two years of publication (1912-1914). A pioneer of Belgium’s Dutch-language (Flemish) sports journalism, Sportwereld’s analysis provides important clues to how its staff gathered sporting information, why they did so, and how they presented their paper and themselves to readers. It shows, firstly, how Sportwereld’s contributors attached great importance to their techniques of information gathering – on the spot reporting, fast cable and telephone connections, an extensive network of local correspondents – in the paper’s discourse, thus illuminating the inner workings of a Belle Époque sporting paper. This was especially done in regular polemics with its main competitor, Sportvriend, the latter being constructed as an antithesis of solid sports journalism. Secondly, Sportwereld’s emphasis on its originality and reliability was accompanied by regular claims to the paper’s popularity among Flemish sports fans and high circulation numbers. Just as much as being reliable, boasting how the paper gave readers exactly what they wanted was a key strategy in positioning Sportwereld as a journalistic enterprise.