Vancouver’s social media takes on Winter Olympics

Vancouver’s social media is up in arms after being shut out of the 2010 Winter Games.

Last week, more 215 international news organizations descended on Vancouver for the World Press Briefing prepared by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC). Along with print and broadcast media, news wire services and photo agencies were welcome. There were seven Internet news providers.

Requests from Vancouver social media were denied. Well, if by denied we mean ignored.

RaincityStudios.com has covered four Olympics, including the Beijing Games this summer with the crowd-sourcers at NowPublic.com. Their request to participate in last week’s briefing was not answered.

In an open letter to VANOC earlier this week, Dave Olsen, one of the brains behind Raincity Studios, wrote about his goals for a “conversation about how to allow fans and amateur media makers to document their Olympic experience”:

As a company and as individuals, we’ve produced extensive, non-accredited coverage of Beijing 2008, Torino 2006, SLC 2002, and Nagano 1998. With the next games literally in our neighborhood, we’ll be hosting an independent, international media centre at our Gastown loft office. As part of this, we’ll organize events like photo walks and aggregate fan-made content for the enjoyment of a worldwide audience. We’d like to work with you to do this for mutual benefit.

IOC accreditation gives media an open door on coverage, as well as other benefits and incentives.

Olsen’s letter has gotten a lot of support from social media networks, as well as more traditional news organizations.

At BeyondRobson.com, Ami Sanyal posted a not-so-subtle image about the frustration some Canadians have with the corporatization of the Games and wrote:

VANOC’s recognition of social media networks would be a large step in the right direction for a new model of news (which Beyond Robson is a part of). While we await VANOC’s official response to the open letter, please share your thoughts via comments and the poll after the jump.

We’re still waiting for the official response. But the 34 people who cast votes on the issue show that Ami’s readers are almost unanimously behind Raincity Studio’s request.

Jeff Lee, a reporter with the Vancouver Sun also recognizes that the IOC needs to adapt. Putting his money where his mouth is, Lee claimed the bold name OlympicReporter on Twitter and blogs on 2010 for the Sun.

Lee outlines why small-market social networkers face a difficult climb up Mount Olympus. In this online climate of new media, everyone is searching for the masses:

As traditional news organizations struggle with declining readership and cutting staff while trying to capture greater online presence, the Olympics is undergoing its own transformation. The change is also affecting broadcasters, who like the others, have not yet figured out how to fully monetize their Internet properties.

The traditional forms of media coverage—exclusive territorial contracts with broadcasters, appointment of news wire agencies by the IOC and press credentials parcelled out by national Olympic committees—are coming under pressure as people change the way they get their news.

Change is coming. This summer, Yahoo Sports sent 19 reporters to the 2008 Beijing Games despite no print or broadcast outlets. They will be here for 2010, too.

Dave Olsen’s follow-up post is getting a lot of intelligent reaction from social networkers, bloggers, journalists and sports fans—four labels that often describe a single person.

When Olsen and Kris Krug, also from Raincity, knocked on the door of the closed and secret IOC World Press Briefing, they were turned away and asked to cross the street and join the throng of protesters.

They may have better luck gaining accreditation through the provincial BC International Media Centre, who will recognize the press not accredited by the IOC but will still assess an organization’s media credentials.

The IOC is being pressed on all sides to make room for social media and citizen journalists. As Olsen recognizes, “Vancouver is a hub of innovative journalism” and the talent in this city can not only cover the news in a different way than the traditional, accredited media, but can cover the vast amount of stories and issues that are missed.

Post Author: Neil Black