SubScribe: July 2016 Google+

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

On-the-spot reporting puts Reuters on the spot

A guest blog from SubScribe's sporting secret squirrel E. I. Adio

If you’re in a newsroom in the next weeks and standing anywhere near the sports desk, don’t let anyone hear you mention Seb Coe’s “Olympic legacy”. It might prompt floods of tears, hysterical laughter or the darkest of looks aimed in your direction. Or maybe all three. Because four years on from the 2012 London Games, and sports desks on our nationals and agencies have never had it so tough.

As we have reported before, within a year of the London Olympics, around a dozen specialist “Olympic correspondents” or “sports news correspondents” were no longer in their jobs, several of them no longer working in journalism.

And with circulations continuing to fall and newspaper budgets still being cut, that erosion of sports coverage – never an inexpensive operation in a year which includes the month-long European football championship involving three home nation sides, plus a Ryder Cup and the Olympics all on top of domestic events – has continued unabated.    

Take the Daily Express (as its owner Richard Desmond has, by repute, been saying for a while in the forlorn hope someone might actually buy the title from him). It and its three sister titles are not sending a single reporter to Brazil for next month’s Rio Games.

Those Express and Star sports staff who are left – when not putting into their pages pre-designed content provided by PA Sport – won’t have the old-school option of “take in agency”, either, once the Olympic flame is lit and they await the latest news of brave battling Brits who finish down the field in the various events, such as synchronised modern stoolball.

Because international agency Reuters has opted to barely cover the Olympics at all, either.

Reuters has had a proud reputation of providing comprehensive and in-depth coverage of all Olympics, sending teams of 100 or more specialist reporters, editors, photographers and technicians to previous Games. For Rio, they are sending just three reporters from their London office, backed up by a dozen news hacks from New York, none of whom is known for their experience of covering sport or contacts within the IOC, FINA, IAAF or SODOFF. Only one of those acronyms is made up, in case you wondered.

The “direction of travel” at the hands of the Reuters bean counters has been established over more than a year, with the latest low in non-original, not-at-the-venue coverage established during the Euro 2016 tournament in France, when many matches were reported from a Reuters office in Bangalore, with the coverage based on TV pictures and websites.

To save time (and some money), those Reuters reporters who were allowed to travel to France were instructed not to attend post-match mixed zones or even routine press conferences. 
After all, no one really wants to know what the players and managers have to say.