International Sports Press Association (AIPS) embraces a new digital era for Young Reporters graduates

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AIPS (www.AIPSMedia.com) has set a new era by launching the Young Reporters eCollege, an innovative distance learning programme, with a first online session to discuss the future of Tokyo 2020 and how sports journalism can and must stay relevant. In times of pandemic, the Young Reporters eCollege is a way to continue the renowned Young Reporters Programmes, offering chances, tools and answers to the next generation.

The coronavirus disease has changed the way we talk, meet, study, consume, travel and live. When COVID-19, became a pandemic, the world as we knew it started to collapse. For some countries it was earlier, for some others, it was, -or will be-, later. Those that were better prepared managed to adapt more easily.  

Sports media has also been hit by the pandemic. Circumstances are new, different, exceptional, but this profession has survived worse scenarios. When the crisis is over, sport will resume. In the meantime, sports journalism can’t be put in lockdown.

Quick Reaction – AIPS quickly reacted to this new reality, firstly by changing its website to make a day-by-day recount of the outbreak, with reports coming from more than 130 countries, and then by bringing together graduates of its cornerstone Young Reporters Programme together in a virtual situation room to discuss the future that awaits.

In a one-and-a-half hour Zoom session, 14 Young Reporters coming from four continents were reunited with their mentors, the day when Tokyo 2020 officially postponed the Games for next year.

It was a virtual emulation of the long morning sessions that we’ve had somewhere around the world, from Jordan to Uruguay, from the Netherlands to Morocco, in all those years since the Programme started.

Context and Facts – Among the many things that are taught over the Young Reporters Programmes, is understanding the context, establishing the facts, judging the circumstances and coming with a creative perspective.

The amount of sports news that are being produced every day without a single ball bouncing is the confirmation of these exceptional times.

Moving the Olympics to next year was not just an obvious choice, but it was also historical, as it had never happened before. Calendars, funding, hotels capacity and understanding the situation of small federations must also be included in the analysis, as AIPS president Gianni Merlo pointed out.

More Traffic, Less Money – Websites are receiving up to ten times more traffic, paywalls are no longer active, yet many small newspapers will cease to exist if advertisers continue to pull out. It is not the first time that journalism faces a crisis. As we always say, crisis are opportunities and also tests. Survival tests.

Is it really the moment to discuss about Haaland’s next team? No, which is why the covers of Marca are the explanation of why sports is culture, and being a sports newspaper does not necessarily mean to privilege transfer market rumours over a pandemic.

Creativity and Storytelling – What times are better to grow a relationship with athletes than now, that they have time and are not in holidays, training in their living rooms and responding challenges over social media? And what if there is no sports events to cover? Are we capable of producing interesting stories with a phone, just as many journalists that do not live in the main cities and have no budget for travelling have to do day by day? And, more importantly, can we touch the people’s hearts?

Finding the right stories, the right characters, equals to finding the right notes for a melody. If we manage to find an Olympic medallist that is also a doctor and prepares to save people’s lives, there is a guarantee of success for the audience, and for ourselves. If we only wait for some social media post to reproduce what the athletes are doing, then we are signing our death certificate as journalists.

Content vs Story – Everybody can create content, but the ones that tell us the key stories will always make a difference. It is the conclusion of a thoughtful session that will for sure open the path to a new digital era for AIPS. Virtual, but very, very real. More former Young Reporters will join in the future, and more journalists will be able to join. There is a new generation that is eager to learn, regardless of the difficult circumstances.

And since social distancing can’t stop distance learning, there will surely more exciting news coming. Stay at home. And stay tuned…

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