Sport fans are addicted to sports. There is little else in the world that influences people to wear a group’s or organization’s logo on their clothing or to tattoo it to their skin like a sports team does. It is that influence on society that sports journalist Morgan Campbell attempts to capture with his Sports Prism series for The Toronto Star. It isn’t always flattering what Campbell writes, but it is incredibly interesting and insightful.
Campbell doesn’t just want to write about sport or an athlete and their trials, tribulations and redemption. Those stories are cliched and don’t necessarily hit the mark. Campbell focuses his Sports Prism series on deeper issues with athletes and their pasts under the microscope.
Breaking into the Business
The sports writer nearly never got his shot at being a sports writer. After graduating from Northwestern University with a journalism degree, Campbell sought a job as a sports journalist. He quickly found a problem with his desire to be a sports journalist, however. Recruiters didn’t want him as he hadn’t trained in sports journalism despite having first-hand experience playing top level collegiate athletics.
Campbell’s own trials and tribulations led him to a job with the Toronto Star where he found a job in the newsroom working on scoreboards at the very back of the sports page. His role gave him a foot in the door and it was supposed to lead into other areas in the sport department. Yet, year after year, Campbell was overlooked for promotion time and again.
However, Campbell’s promotion opportunities changed when he began working on an in-depth article on a local Toronto basketball team. Campbell worked on his article during the day while completing his role writing the scoreboards at night. The writer’s work on the story led to an eight-part series. He was nominated for a national award for it. Then, his nomination led to the promotion.
The Birth of Sports Prism
Campbell’s motivation to write in-depth sports articles on athletes is partly influenced by a desire to provide something more to readers. Campbell claims sports writers need to find something different to separate themselves and their work from others. That is why he focuses on off-field issues. He knows many of the stories he writes for Sports Prism do not receive the heavy traffic other articles do. Compared to articles about a recent Toronto Raptors’ game or player, Campbell knows his work is niche in the sports world.
“My articles may not get a lot of traffic. But they get a lot of traffic from people interested in those topics.”
While it took Campbell years to get prompted as a sports journalist, it took very little time for him to get the okay for his Sports Prism column. According to the journalist, he sat down with his bosses in 2018 and pitched the idea for Sports Prism. It took them just a few minutes to agree to the column and to provide the Toronto Star something wholly unique.
Since the column’s debut, it has explored a variety of sports and society topics including the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death and Canadian boxer Adonis Stevenson’s sordid past. It was the latter that raised eyebrows as Campbell delved into the boxer’s history of serving time for prostitution.
Campbell claims sports are a great way to view social issues. The two areas fit together and paint a picture of the world we live in. Campbell doesn’t believe everyone who studies sport management or sports journalism will be interested in sociology. But in some ways, sport and society come together.
Creating puff pieces on sports stars and athletes would be a disservice to the world and to the fans. It is Campbell’s desire to meet these stories head on and deliver a column to those interested in the sociology side of sports. It may not be for everyone but Sports Prism does have its niche.