Wick Communications

Covering the Games

In sports on June 29, 2012 at 8:20 am

What are your plans to cover the Olympics?

Oh. So you’re telling me you won’t be jetting off to London to hob-nob with the queen and interview elite American athletes on the shore of the Thames? Pity.

That doesn’t mean you have to leave the excitement to NBC and the big boys. As with most really big stories, you just have to find the right angle of approach.

Henry M. Lopez, the digital development manager for The Santa Fe New Mexican, speaks of several ways to commit community journalism around the international affair in his excellent column in the July Inlander magazine. (Sorry, I can’t seem to find a link at the moment, though you can read the entire periodical here.)

Lopez suggests creating a community event around the Olympics – a viewing party, perhaps. I think that is a bold suggestion … and difficult to accomplish.

Lopez also suggests that your old school newspaper can be transformed into a new social media company: “… not in the sense of Facebook or Twitter – but in the sense that we can be the destination for local and regional socialization. The Olympics provide a perfect opportunity for building a community because they evoke the most important factor in community building – a genuine emotional connection to the content.”

I think he’s absolutely right about that. He notes you can create a Twitter hashtag around the Olympics and have your people lead the local discussion. He also suggests the possibility of finding a sister city with similar interests in sports; you don’t need a government to declare a sister city. …

Obviously, the key is not to re-invent the wheel. You want to provide content that no one else will provide. No one needs to read your column about Michael Phelps, unless you have something truly unique to say. Remember that the Olympics is a cultural event more than a sporting event. People who would never watch the NBA get all worked up about watching the American Dream Team. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Look for local athletes. That is pretty obvious. I’m sure you already know if you have an Olympic swimmer or a discus thrower in your midst. If so, pull out all the stops. Make sure you have a way to contact some family member who will be traveling to the Games. Offer the athlete a blog or regular column during the Games. We did that when I was covering the Olympics in Atlanta (that’s a considerably more svelte Clay Lambert on the right in the picture above, posing with other reporters covering the 1996 Olympic rowing events.)
  • Find locals playing Olympic sports. Some of these disciplines are fairly obscure. Do you have a competitive fencer in your neighborhood? Do you have a beach volleyball court, say, at the local lake? Time a story about local folks drawn to these sports to correspond with coverage of the Games on TV.
  • Cover the fans. Is there a local bar that has done something special with big-screen TVs? Find a super fan who is camped in front of the TV for all the live coverage.
  • Find former Olympians. Don’t laugh. There may be former greats in your neck of the woods. Until he died earlier this month, we had a two-time Olympic wrestler living in our readership area.

What are some of your ideas?

Clay

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