THE OLYMPICS: NEWSPAPER WEB SITES TO BATTLE TV

By: Erin Whalen

Print, Online Staffs Partner To Cover Events



from this week’s Editor & Publisher magazine. To subscribe, click here.



by Erin Whalen



Before the coming of the cell phone, athletes were nearly impossible to
track down at the Olympics for interviews.



But this year, the cell phone will be the Internet’s key partner in
coverage of the event – especially for smaller papers intent on
shadowing their hometown heroes despite budget constraints that
prevent a trip to Sydney. Wireless devices will enable editors to
maintain contact with athletes right at the stadium or arena, and
to glean powerful quotes while athletes are still aglow with the
rush of the moment.



Sports Editor David Nathan of the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester,
Mass., plans to use cell phones to keep in contact with rower
Christine Smith Collins and other local athletes. He used a cell
to cover freestyle skier Nikki Stone during the 1998 Winter Olympics
in Nagano, Japan, and was able to speak to her ‘within minutes of
her winning the gold.’



Bob Meseroll, sports editor of the Missoulian in Missoula, Mont.,
says he will use wireless technology to keep in contact with
Collins’ teammate, Monica Tranel Michini, in Sydney. Many other
newspapers plan to follow suit.



Not all papers can put their local athletes’ results online first.
Scott Nulph, sports editor of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle in Cheyenne,
says that his paper doesn’t have the resources to place breaking
stories directly on the Web, but will move them there after they run
in print. The information for these stories, however, will come
straight from the source: discus thrower John Godina, a Cheyenne native.



Godina assured Nulph that he would ‘make every effort’ to call the
paper’s toll-free telephone number after each phase of his competition
to offer results and quotes, and he may also take e-photographs for
the paper. Godina will keep a diary during the competition, which will
be excerpted in the paper after he returns home.



The fact that smaller papers have no staff in Sydney means that they
will often have to rely heavily on athletes being proactive. It won’t
always be easy.



Ryan Johnson, a sports writer at the Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyo.,
whose stories will include features on local heavyweight wrestler
Rulon Gardner, says that his paper will keep plenty of background
information on hand to fill in stories if an athlete doesn’t come
through with a promised phone call. He expects the best, however,
because ‘we try to build a relationship’ with athletes as they rise
through the ranks, and that pays off when they reach center stage.



Johnson says that smaller dailies are just as capable of producing
great Olympics stories as those papers with staff in Sydney – so
long as high-tech communications and cooperation from athletes help
level the playing field. ‘We’re able to do some pretty good stuff,’
he declares, ‘if we have the right people to work with us.’





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Erin Whalen is an intern at E&P.









(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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