First AIPS e-conference attracts more than 300 sport journalists

First AIPS e-conference attracts more than 300 sport journalists

A screenshot of the first AIPS e-conference that was held to celebrate World Sports Journalists Day and the 96th anniversary of AIPS. (Twitter)
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The first time I heard about AIPS, the French acronym for International Sports Press Association or Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive, was during my time at City University London while studying for my MA in international journalism (with sports journalism as specialty).

I was already a sport journalist writing for Arab News but it was an eye-opener for me that allowed me to meet and learn about other sports journalists and the challenges they face. Back then, I chose my dissertation to be dedicated to Arab women sport journalists representing 22 countries, and the challenges that they go through.

I’m not bragging when I say that the road for them was not paved with flowers; each and every one of them had her own cultural, traditional or political barriers that hindered her success. However, I’m proud to say that despite everything, they managed to break through and continued to rise in their own distinguished way. Seeing this through the years and watching them accomplish their dreams was, and still is, very inspiring and motivating.

When I first started in 2005, my options were limited to watching a game on TV and then finding the number of athletes or sport officials to contact after the game. However, I managed to work from the field and interview athletes when I traveled with the team outside the country. That’s why I know how it feels when you have the capabilities to do more but your hands are tied — at the moment this is because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But just as before, then it was simply a challenge that luckily no longer exists. The light at the end of the tunnel was clear and we found our way out, and now we have at least one female sport journalist on every local newspaper in the country, if not more.

With the arrival of the global pandemic, it seems like a different kind of barrier hit us and we were not ready or prepared to fight, but the good thing is that we are trying, and we definitely should.

With the arrival of the global pandemic, it seems like a different kind of barrier hit us and we were not ready or prepared to fight, but the good thing is that we are trying, and we definitely should.

Dr. Razan Baker

According to a senior reporter at Australia’s ABC News, Tracey Lee Holmes: “My employer, the ABC, this very day has announced 250 of my colleagues will be made redundant in the coming weeks,” she said at the first AIPS e-conference on Thursday, July 2. This is, of course, one example of the many media outlets that have had to shut down their print team, or eliminate their digital media team. Holmes emphasized the importance of seizing opportunities to keep journalism alive. “The reward for strong, independent journalism is a strong, independent society. Weaken journalism, and you weaken society.”

The first AIPS e-conference was held to celebrate World Sports Journalists Day and the 96th anniversary of AIPS. The e-conference was titled, “Has COVID-19 affected journalists’ independence and future?” and included contributions about racism in sport by AIPS Vice President Evelyn Watta, as well as a message from IOC President Thomas Bach and AIPS President Gianni Merlo. According to the AIPS official website, 102 countries and more than 300 journalists participated.

Speaking about the future of sport media, panelist Jerome Cazadieu, director of de la Redaction, explained how they are overcoming current challenges. “We will also have to propose other ways of reporting via our most innovative formats launched seven years ago under the L’Equipe Explore brand in order to attract the many advertisers who would want to accompany this rise of sports in France.”

“The print and digital editorial teams were merged in December 2018, and journalists now work on all media platforms,” he said.

In addition to losing jobs, stopping sports or stopping the coverage for sports will create a crucial issue in the development and awareness of sports, especially in countries where women joined the field recently. Women, just like men, need to see a role model to follow who was brought up in a similar environment. As mentioned by a sport journalist from Ireland, “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it.”

Shinsuke Kobayashi, deputy managing director of Kyodo News Olympic and Paralympic office in Japan, raised an interesting point. “We are trying our best to cover sports and present them to our audiences, with limited access and limited freedom,” he said. “But I think we have to be careful that people do not take advantage of this situation to limit the freedom and the power of the press.”

Reflecting on the past, present, and future of sport journalism is quite a task. If many people became jobless, this might deter many interested young reporters. However, the future of sports journalism is quite promising, the panelists agreed, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Young reporters are an insurance policy for those who see ethical journalism as a threat, AIPS Mentor Riccardo Romani said.

  • Dr. Razan Baker is a director of international communication at the Saudi Olympic Committee, a specialist in corporate social responsibility in sports, and a sports columnist/journalist. Twitter: @RazanBaker
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