“Citizen journalists preparing to get the unofficial Olympic scoop” CP Article re: TNMH and Olympics

Note:

This version of the CP article “Citizen journalists preparing to get the unofficial Olympic scoop” by Tamsyn Burgman was harvested and posted for archival purposes via a cached version of Guelph Mercury Press– all other CP syndicated version including Metronews, CTV, Yahoo etc. have “expired” the article so it longer appears online. It seems the articles were all removed a day later and all trace obliterated. The “permalinks” are broken and i only have an excerpt of the article at this point via Winnipeg Free Press.

Ms. Burgmann’s article shares one of my fave Olympic-related stories about the first ever Nepali winter Olympian and gives an overview of what we (at the time) planning for grassroots coverage through the True North Media House project. Also includes comments from Michael Tippet of Now Public.

Artifacts from the anecdotes :

“Citizen journalists preparing to get the unofficial Olympic scoop”

TAMSYN BURGMANN, THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER, B.C. – When Nepal’s first winter Olympian donned skis to rocket across the Salt Lake City cross-country course in 2002, there were no big-shot broadcasters to memorialize the event.

The proud moment for his nation – despite lack of victory hardware – might never have seen the light of day aside from on-site spectators.

Yet owing to an early digital camera and an enterprising spirit, a 10-second video clip of the feat was viewed by tens of thousands some 12,000 kilometres away in Jay Khadka’s home town.

“This was the only vid they got to see of their athlete in the Olympics because of course, it wasn’t on any kind of TV coverage,” said Vancouverite Dave Olson, who personally captured the footage and posted it online.

Airing preliminary rounds of competition is like watching paint dry for the mainstream media, he said.

“I really started to see that there was an importance there to tell these people these stories they weren’t getting through the traditional outlets.”

Olson plans to be in the thick of the rising contingent of so-called citizen journalists at the Vancouver Games who will dig up and share on-the-ground stories that might otherwise go untold, even as 10,000 accredited journalists from around the world roll into the city to work from the main media centre.

Armed with digital gear, social networking tools and the seemingly limitless bounds of the Internet, the scribbling underdogs will bark from mountain tops even without the same privileges as professional media.

“It has the potential to be huge. A lot will depend on the events that will unfold and who is there to cover it,” said Michael Tippett, a founder of Vancouver-based NowPublic, a pioneering citizen journalism site.

“Numbers favour the amateurs’ side of the house, because if something happens, chances will be someone with a camera phone will be there – even in the context of the Olympics, which will be a media circus.”

The caveat to what will likely be the largest social media experiment the Olympics has ever seen is that the International Olympic Committee doesn’t grant unaccredited media access to official events and venues.

Holding tickets to sporting events doesn’t help because under the conditions imposed by Olympic organizers the public – and therefore citizen reporters – are prohibited from publishing photos, audio or video online on blogs, or elsewhere. Posting snapshots to Facebook and Flickr is OK as long as it’s not used commercially, but posting video to YouTube is a no-no.

The fact is that it will be difficult for Olympic organizers to act with the speed of the Internet to stop citizen journalists, but at the Beijing Games an unaccredited photographer found himself facing legal action from the IOC after the Games were over.

Acknowledging they can’t compete with HDTV anyhow, Olson and others are saddling up to instead get scoops from festivals, parties and any event outside an official venue.

“If you’re not winning a gold medal, involved in a scandal or particularly attractive, the mainstream media doesn’t cover those stories,” said Olson, who with Vancouver-based collaborators in Turin and Beijing also helped alternatively document the Games. “On-the-ground is very different from what you see on TV.”

To make it happen, several social media advocacy groups are offering mentoring, work space and resources for bloggers and online correspondents.

True North Media House, which Olson helped found, will be churning out content and setting best practices for grassroots reporting during Olympic Games. Funded only by cash from their own pockets, they’ve created an online social reporter toolbox, will host walking tours during the big events and aim to connect roving reporters from across the globe.

And NowPublic expects hundreds of contributors. Its staff of six will also use technology they developed to scan social media being posted elsewhere to find trends in what visitors are talking – or tweeting – about.

Space is also available to citizen journalists at city locales including Building Opportunities with Business and The Network Hub, and it’s likely more unofficial gathering spots will take root in WiFi cafes.

The province has also set up an unaccredited media centre, which features space for about 30 bloggers, but will still mostly cater to hundreds of mainstream reporters.

If citizen storytellers do in fact show in force – and then push the limits of the strict control of Olympic organizers-advocates predict they have the potential to turn the page on how Games are covered.

“(Olympic organizers) may become overwhelmed,” said Tippett. “If tens of thousands of people doing it becomes untenable, it could forever change (organizers’) relationship around the property they presume to own.”

Whatcha think?