8 de septiembre de 2003

El Debate or sport as exercice to learn to write

Por Jesús Castañón Rodríguez

El Debate or sport as exercice to learn to write

Jesús Castañón Rodríguez

The history of the sports journalists’ concern about the proper use of the language has consisted of several phases: the use of sport as a way to learn how to write, the substitution of foreign words, the creation of lexical indexes, style books and normative and descriptive reflections about how these ways use language.

The first specialized journalism

Journalism in the first third of the 20th century paid special attention to modern life with its changes and observed international life.

One of its displays was sport and numerous generations of journalists developed a social dissemination language for it.

At the beginning, the pioneering labour of the newspaper El Debate was important, and under the management of Cardenal Herrera, it incorporated specialized journalism based on economy and sports into the general information dailies in his eagerness to understand newspapers as a labour of ideas, culture and formation. He developed the leadership of Information, together with Francisco de Luis (from Gijón) at the head, and above all a School of Journalism after the development which between 1910 and 1920 got its teaching thanks to Robert Lee, Joe Medill , Lord Northcliffe or Joseph Pulitzer.

Manuel Graña, «Eugenio», studied his systems in 1919 and paid attention to the style of the University of Columbia because of its approach used for training good journalists, giving the profession resources to use this knowledge in favour of the public well-being and learning to write in an industrial way and without artistic aims, as a way to go more deeply into facts and their meanings.

Sport as an editorial exercise

In this context, El Debate and its school were pioneers in considering modern sport as an element to learn to write in a journalistic way and as a specialized field. So, out of the 80 topics of exercises of the four courses its educational plan was divided, the 34 one was about how to write about a football match and besides, specific guidelines were set out in the 2nd course including the sports section into the forms of special writing.

Centres of interest for sports information

It established five centres of interest: rites and ceremonies, ordinary notions of sport and the fact of observing the crowd with its flows and flow backs, motions, attitudes, movements, rumours and violence. It was a sports section where its editors’ aims were objectivity and emotive description in six sections: main figures, goals and the response of the spectators, comparison of actions, comments of the crowd or the experts, social or picturesque details, chronological narration of the event.

The necessity of raising the linguistic level

And for language it was very critical with a style it wanted to raise to be more comprehensible. It wanted to describe in a different way not only to be more suitable for the ones who are well up on jargon, giving the information beauty and interest and showing effects by means of a special typographical presentation and other printing resources. And at the same time, to put an end to its «galimatías antiestético, jerigonza exotica y chabacana su locución» , that is, an ugly gibberish, exotic silly things and vulgar expressions as well as to the «aluvión de palabras exóticas, vulgarísimas, ininteligibles, además de ser completamente innecesarias», that is, the stream of exotic, very vulgar and unintelligible words as well as absolutely unnecessary ones.


Therefore, El Debate has been key mass media because it has considered sport as a specialized field, it has given methods to its teaching in the schools of journalism, it has emphasized its value to learn to write in an industrial way and it has tried to look for new resources which will raise the cultural level in the use of the language.


CASTAÑÓN RODRÍGUEZ, Jesús: «Formación y recursos para la redacción deportiva», en Máster de Periodismo de Agencia. Madrid: Agencia Efe, 5 de febrero de 2003.
– «Magia y fiesta del lenguaje deportivo», en Curso de Periodismo Deportivo Fútbol es fútbol. Villena, Alicante: Universidad Cardenal Herrera, 8 de julio de 2003.
GARCÍA ESCUDERO, José María: El pensamiento de «El Debate». Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1983.
GRAÑA GONZÁLEZ, Manuel: La escuela de periodismo: programas y métodos. Madrid: Compañía Iberoamericana de Publicaciones SA, 1930.
GUASCH BORRAT, Juan María: «El Debate» y la crisis de la restauración. Pamplona: Ediciones de la Universidad de Navarra, 1986.
LERCHUNDI, Alberto: La Gaceta del Norte, 83 años de historia. Bilbao: Universidad del País Vasco, 1985.
MARTÍNEZ OLMEDILLA, Augusto: Periódicos de Madrid. Madrid: Aumarol, 1956.
MONTERO, Mercedes: Historia de la Asociación Católica Nacional de Propagandistas. La construcción del Estado Confesional, 1936-1945. Pamplona: Ediciones de la Universidad de Navarra, 1993.
ORDOVÁS, José Manuel: Historia de la Asociación Católica Nacional de Propagandistas. De la dictadura a la Segunda República, 1923-1936. Pamplona: Ediciones de la Universidad de Navarra, 1993.