I’m just learning about all the new ways to try and connect with readers and colleagues online – whether it is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social and professional networking sites. I’m a bit of a babe in the woods compared to some of my journalism colleagues for whom this comes so easily.
But I get the whole idea behind the growing importance of online media. So do many of the journalists who cover the Olympics. A week ago today the International Olympic Committee’s press commission – which includes colleagues from major news agencies and publications – held a robust discussion in Vancouver after Associated Press chief executive Tom Curley opened debate by suggesting there needs to be a fundamental rethink about how the Games are covered.
So it was a bit surprising to discover that the Vancouver Organizing Committee seems reluctant to include some types of online reporters in its planning for the 2010 Games. On Thursday Vanoc was asked in an open letter from Dave Olson, an online writer with Raincity Studios, to allow some of his colleagues to attend the World Press Briefing.
They didn’t get an answer. But on Sunday, Renee Smith-Valade, a.spokeswoman for Vanoc, sent the following hopeful email to me.
[Note: numerous spelling /typographical errors corrected from original email from Renee Smith-Valade – see original]
“Undoubtedly online media and the Internet as a news source and forum for discourse continues to grow phenomenally. That’s why we have spent considerable resources to make our website our number one source of information and why we will continue to look for ways to make it a platform for discussion as well as information and purchasing. We welcome online media interest from all sources and were encouraged to see online media representatives registered for the recent World Press Briefing.
“The IOC is the ultimate arbiter on the representation on the Press Commission, and each country’s National Olympic Committee determines which media get accredited for the Games. As the Organizing Committee we can and will encourage both entities to recognize and facilitate the immense growth of online media, however ultimately decisions for press commission membership and Games accreditation lie with them. We have not yet responded to the open letter from the social media group but will do so in the coming days.
“Overall, we were extremely pleased with the World Press briefing. Tours of the sport venues, press facilities and accommodations were well received, our tourism partners really stepped up with warm hospitality and Mother Nature even helped show off Vancouver and Whistler at their finest in the sunshine. There was healthy discussion on a range of logistical issues and topics, none of which came as a surprise: accommodation rates, travel and how the major media centers will work, to name just three. We have more work to do to build on our solid progress to date to get ready for the arrival of the world press. They all seemed to leave satisfied with the work we’re doing to make sure they will be able to do their job to take the 2010 Games stories to the world.”
It will be interesting to see how willing Vanoc and the IOC will be to adopting new forms of journalism. One of those I’ve also interviewed for a story running today in The Vancouver Sun is former Los Angeles Times sports editor Dave Morgan, who is now chief executive of Yahoo Sports, and who told me that Yahoo’s solid presence in Beijing in August drew more than 32 million unique visitors to their micro Olympics site.
You can read the complete story on our Road to 2010 page.
Thanks for the excellent journalism Jeff – i think the social web media and “traditional” media have a lot to learn from each other.
Ultimately it comes down to providing more than “one size fits all” coverage and allowing a more diverse variety of viewpoints and delivery methods so interested readers can experience the stories of the Game that they care about personally.
No matter the delivery method, insightful writing and high-quality photography/audio/video always floats to the top regardless of the credentials of the creator.
Looking forward to hearing back from VANOC and continuing the conversation for the joint benefit of media makers, worldwide audiences and even the IOC and rights-holders.
November 24, 2008 3:57 PM
The decision to exclude the likes of the Raincity gang is quite puzzling, even without a social media strategy in place.
In Dave’s full letter, he highlights the history of the fan-based, non-intrusive coverage they’ve done at previous Olympic Games, and it’s clear that this kind of participation only benefits the host city, the Games and even the holders of exclusive broadcast rights.
I’m holding out hope that Vanoc (and our Canadian Olympic committee, apparently) will take great strides, not only to appear to appease social media creators, but instead fully embrace the concept and help to redefine citizen journalism’s role in Games coverage. With some creativity, they should be able to do so inside of the confines of the above-mentioned (archaic in these times, if you ask me) broadcast rights.
November 24, 2008 8:02 PM
Interesting article. I think VANOC is looking at this the wrong way. Promotion of your own website as the only source of information is counter-productive to embracing social media. Social media is about getting your message out to where people already are vs. fighting to bring them in to you. What would be productive is finding those champions who want to rally and bring all those sources together via social networks; like the team at Raincity, for instance.
November 25, 2008, 2:00 PM
A social media strategy is essential to any major worldwide event in the 21st century. By the time the Olympics get here there will have been even more exponential growth in social media adoption and its hybridization with mainstream media. It’s a no-brainer for VANOC to now consider major Vancouver social media players as the press. Raincity, Miss604, et al are more than hyper-local citizen journalists. Their audience is world-wide, and I believe they have the experience and savvy to respectfully help solve any potential media rights issues. This IS the nature of journalism now.
November 25, 2008, 9:16 PM
Fantastic work by DaveO and Jeff in bringing this issue to light for many.
“No matter the delivery method, insightful writing and high-quality photography/audio/video always floats to the top regardless of the credentials of the creator.”
I know I’ll be covering it for my site regardless come 2010.
November 25, 2008, 9:58 PM
Great points, Dave, but I’d make one addition: “…the joint benefit of media makers, worldwide audiences and even the IOC and rights-holders.”
And athletes, of course.
November 26, 2008, 1:54 AM
Indeed Derek, there was been controversy about whether or not athletes can blog and what they can talk about. At the Opening ceremonies of recent Olympics, many athletes are taking photos, making video, live phone calls, etc.
What are they allowed to do with the footage they create? What happens if an athlete live-streams their experience from a camera phone (ask Roland how ;-))? Does it matter if they are streaming live to “just the folks back home”? Whose jurisdiction is this to enforce?
Remember many athletes performances’ never it make it to TV despite their best efforts, and many athletes’ families aren’t able to attend the Games and certainly want to feel part of the experience.
As Carol and Michelle point out, this “social” content is, by nature, made to be found by anyone, anywhere – and by an audience of enthusiasts who expect to interact with both the media and the makers.
When the Olympics call forth “the youth of the world to gather in four years …” in the closing ceremonies, they are also calling the youth as fans who aren’t reading newspapers nor be they want the plain ole’ TV coverage (which is geared to an older generation anyhow).
The youth expect a richer media choice and with diverse points of view. And they want coverage provided by people who they can relate to (like Rebecca ;-)), who are finding unique stories on the ground. Oh yeah, and they want it anytime they want.