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BBC’s sports editor on social media and the Olympics: ‘There’s an illusion around Twitter’

Image copyright Populou

Speaking at the Polis International Journalism conference today, BBC sports editor David Bond discussed as part of a panel the expected impact of social media on this year’s Olympic games, with 26,000 accredited journalists all eager to cover the sporting event across media platforms.

I caught up with David after the panel discussion to find out more about how he feels social media will impact sports journalism this year, and the considerations he is taking to ensure information from the platform is used responsibly.

Twitter has just changed everything. It wasn’t around in Beijing, maybe just starting off, but it wasn’t at the level it’s at now in terms of the amount of people who use it, the personalities who use it.

Currently David says he largely uses Twitter as a news source, and highlights the risks journalists will need to consider when using information from social media platforms, during the Olympics and more generally.

I think it comes with a lot of risks and dangers, you have to approach it like any piece of information.

On Twitter because it’s there and people see it, it’s got that broadcast quality and you assume, in most cases wrongly, it has reliability.

We’re still trying to get our heads around it.

He added that when it comes to using the platform to see the interactions of athletes competing in the games there are further considerations to be made by sports journalists.

A lot of it is done to plug sponsors and we have to be careful of are they really the people they say they are … that’s less of an issue now.

But it is going to be in many cases the way we find out about stories involving athletes as that’s the way they’re communicating now. Just look at football.

But he does have some concerns:

The worry for me is that increasingly we’re getting restricted on what we can ask people, direct contact with people is becoming more and more limited.

That’s quite alarming for me, the more barriers there are between two people having a conversation, having unfettered access, that just restricts the freedom of the media.

There’s an illusion around Twitter, I think, that it is all free information and it’s all moving incredibly fast, which it is – but I think there’s a risk of distortion around the quality of the information and there’s a lot of opportunity for people to put barriers in the way.

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World Association of Newspapers calls for press freedom in China

October 29th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Editors Forum have written to the Chinese government about international standards of press freedom in the country.

Laws in China restricting foreign journalists were temporarily relaxed during the Olympic Games in Beijing and have recently been extended by authorities.

In a letter dated October 21, WAN wrote to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in an attempt to change the laws permanently:

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to welcome the extension of the relaxation in media regulations, but also to call on you to take further steps to uphold international standards of press freedom.

In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, your government introduced new rules that allowed foreign journalists greater freedom to travel in the country without prior government permission and to talk to anyone who was willing to be interviewed. Those regulations were set to expire on 17 October, however, shortly before they expired new regulations were introduced that recognise these rights.

While welcoming the extension of the more relaxed regulations for foreign journalists, we are concerned that they do not extend to domestic journalists and that many fundamental rights necessary for the proper functioning of a free press are not observed. For example, there is no protection of news sources, it is not possible to report freely on Tibet and hotels are obliged to report the arrival of a foreign journalist to police. Furthermore, with more than 30 journalists and at least 50 cyber reporters imprisoned, China jails more journalists than any other.

We respectfully call on you to extend the relaxed regulations to domestic journalists, to introduce further reforms so that your country might fully respect international standards of press freedom, and to ensure that all
those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression are immediately released from prison.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O’Reilly
President
World Association of Newspapers

Xavier Vidal-Folch
President
World Editors Forum

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RSF: China re-blocks Reporters Without Borders website

September 18th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Press freedom and ethics

RSF reports that access to its main website has again been blocked within China. The site had been made accessible a week before the start of the Olympic Games.

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Chinese officials told to influence online news coverage of games, says RSF

March 31st, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Chinese government officials have been told to ‘orientate online opinion’ in the build up to and during this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said.

According to RSF a confidential memo seen by the group ‘confirms that the authorities have an active policy towards online information content’.

In the memo, guidelines on how government officials should behave towards foreign media before and during the games are set out.

The instructions, which are intended for provincial officials in the country, asks recipients to “reinforce the work of commenting on the Internet and increase the level of opinion orientation on the Internet.”

“There is a need to reinforce management of news websites and to guarantee appropriate opinion behaviour as regards online news and information,” the memo states.

In a press statement, RSF said the plan contained some positive features, such as instructions on training officials and holding news conferences for foreign journalists, but contained ‘serious obstructions to the free flow of news and information’.

“While introducing more flexible rules for foreign journalists in January 2007, the Chinese authorities also established a nationwide policy for supervising and influencing the international media,” said RSF.

“Parts of this classified memo show there is a real concern to provide better information to foreign journalists, but it also reveals that the authorities never abandoned their intention to censor the news.”

Full details of the memo can be viewed on the RSF Asia website.

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IOC approves blogging athletes for Beijing – with strict rules

The International Olympic Commitee (IOC) has announced that athletes will be allowed to blog this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing – but what will they actually be able to say?

In order to protect other media who hold rights to the games’ coverage, blogging competitors will have to follow strict guidelines, the Associated Press reports, with blogs taking a diary-style and no interviews with or comments about other athletes allowed.

Furthermore, athletes’ blogs cannot contain any audio or video content of ‘any Olympic events, including sporting action, opening, closing and medal ceremonies or other activities which occur within any zone which requires an Olympic identity and accreditation card (or ticket) for entry.’ Similarly still photos are allowed, so long as they don’t show any Olympic events.

Finally, sponsorship of such blogs is forbidden and none of their domain names can contain the word Olympic, Olympics or anything similar.

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