25 July 2014

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Local newspapers ‘barred from London 2012′

A leading newspaper publisher is claiming that the local and regional press have been denied access to next year’s Olympic Games.

The British Olympic Authority invited applications for passes from all UK media outlet last year for the 2012 Games which get under way next July.

But regional publisher Newsquest says it has allocated no passes to local or regional titles who will have to rely instead on syndicated material from the Press Association.

Now a number of Newsquest editors in London are writing to local MPs and London Assembly members demanding a review of the decision.

Andrew Parkes, group managing editor for Newsquest South and West London, said: “This has always been marketed as the ‘local games.’ All the way along the line, it has relied on the goodwill of Londoners who have paid for these Games.

“But the so-called local games will have no local media presence. The people who rely on us for their information will be told nothing about the event taking place on their doorsteps.”

“As things stand we simply can’t cover these Games properly and it’s plainly wrong that big media organisations, with no interest in the local perspective on these Games, will swan into their stadium seats on 27 July leaving us stood at the gate.”

The News Shopper in South London is among the Newsquest titles now publicly calling for a review of the decision.

Its editor Richard Firth said: “This was supposed to be the ultimate local event, but the local media have received a collective slap in the face.

“The BOA says it received thousands of accreditation applications from all over the world but we believe the local media should be allowed in to cover the Games from a local perspective.

“They’ve offered us generic material from a national news syndication service but that’s no good to our readers.

“We want to write the stories which will be of genuine interest but they’re stopping us.”

A BOA spokesman said 3,000 applications had been received for the 400 passes available but could not confirm whether any regional or local newspapers were amongst those who had been successful.

He said: “We had a media accreditation committee made up of individuals to represent types of newspapers and agencies to help with the allocations.

The Press Association has been appointed as the host for national news, with that role comes all coverage of Great Britain sporting events.”

A second tranche of press places may be allocated but it is not known how many, on what basis they will be allocated or when it will be announced who will get them.

The Newspaper Society, which represents the local and regional press industry, had previously urged Games organisers not to forget the local press when allocating passes.

In July 2010 it held a meeting with Jayne Pearce, head of press operations at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, to discuss plans for press access and accreditation, and also raised the issue informally with ministers.

At the meeting, the NS said the needs of the local and regional press should be given ‘considerable emphasis’ so the Games would be truly national, rather than just focused on London.

The NS said at the time that journalists from regional newspapers who wanted to be accredited should be given equal priority with other media applicants.

18 Comments

  1. michael wale, michaelwale@waitrose.com

    LBC broke this news last Saturday morning . I do a weekly what The Local Papers Say, and we led on the News Shopper report. LBC broadcast my slot every half hour ( it is in two parts) from early am Saturdays through the morning. We support the local press.

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  2. Neil Speight, Essex and East London

    This is a long running and very frustrating story. My paper covers East London, butting right up to the Olympic park and, in another edition, is a local paper for the Mountain Bike event in Hadleigh.
    We have been supporting the Games all along, with calls for local volunteers, features and picture features about the build and helping the Olympic delivery authority build bridges with local communities. They have used ourselves and other local newspapers as the way to get their message across, but when it comes to covering the events themelves, we get shut out.
    Recently a trial, day long, mountain bike event was held in Hadleigh, with local people invited to see the facility. We, along with other local media, gave the event excellent coverage, with a reporter and photographer there for much of the day.
    However, we have since been told when the real thing happens, we will not be allowed access.
    It beggars belief.
    Neil Speight
    Editor
    Essex and East London Enquirer

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  3. Subbo

    To be fair, I can’t see why local newspapers should have special access to what is a global sporting event. I don’t live far from London and failed to get any tickets at all. However, I don’t understand why a local reporter should get free access to, say, the 100 metres final. How would that benefit local readers who would probably already have seen/read about it before their paper comes out anyway ? For non-sports stories, good local reporters should have squirrelled away contact numbers for vital sports and security officials long before the Games opened. Stories that come up should be covered in the normal way. Trooping around the main stadiums during actual events, trying to get ‘local angle’ stories on everything that happens, would probably prove a nuisance to everyone.

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  4. Richard Firth, London

    Hi Subbo.

    You’re quite right. We neither want nor expect access to the 100 metres final. We simply want to reflect the genuine local interest stories. So it won’t be a case of trying to find a local angle on Usain Bolt – that’s not what we’re after.

    As Neil points out, we continue to cover all the build-up (in our area, the use of Greenwich Park for equestrian events has caused a big stir) and we’ve been enthusiastically invited along to the test events but when the real thing starts, Sky and the BBC take their seats and we’re left with the gates slammed in our faces.

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  5. Long Gone

    Olympics? Local? Am I missing something here or are Parkes et al trying to jump on a freebie bandwagon?

    His readers who need information on the Olympics will get it on the wall-to-wall coverage from national media.

    He is better off using his spartan news gathering troops to rewrite press releases (or even break an odd local story here or there) …

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  6. pedant, London

    Yes, Long Gone, local. I have a council tax bill which shows how much I pay every single month towards the games being held in MY city.

    Do I want to read about the 100 metres final? No. However, I do want to know, as I’m sure regional readers across the country, about the bloke from my patch who finishes eight in the steeplechase or whatever.

    PA won’t be bothered with that, as they may well be ‘jumping on a freebie bandwagon’ and rubbing shoulders with the big winners while I hear nothing about Joe Bloggs from my patch.

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  7. Local

    If you have a local GB athlete then get in with their family and friends so when they are competing you watch with them on TV – a lot of the athletes’ closest pals won’t get tickets either. Having a cup of tea with a nervous mum will provide a better colour piece than a trite ‘I was there when…’.
    This is an international event and being in the stadium will add nothing to a local paper for local people.

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  8. Regional sports ed

    I can’t believe the number of people missing the point about this. PA, BBC et al will not give a stuff about the squad hockey player or the guy who goes out in the first round of the fencing. We can’t watch with their families because that sort of event won’t be televised. We can’t phone them because the squads will be in lockdown and forbidden to speak to the media outside of official press areas. The only way to talk to local competitors who are below elite level, and to objectively gauge how they have performed, will be at the venues and in the mixed zones. And all regional journalists worth their salt will be covering their local competitors rather than swanning off to the 100m final.

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  9. Parvenu

    Hmmm, yes there are lots of ways you can get round the problem of covering the Games (as Local says in his post), but I don’t think that’s the point.
    What’s happened is the Olympic Delivery Authority has been happy to use local papers to get important stuff out to the people (nationals wouldn’t touch it) but has now closed the door to the locals when it comes to covering the Games live. And that means virtually all of the local papers, even the ones on the doorstep. It’s a wholesale snub.
    I can accept that papers like mine, quite a long way away, can expect to get rebuffed but I’m with Neil on his general point. Local papers have been waved aside as if they don’t matter without a moment’s thought.

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  10. Parvenu

    PS: Looking forward to the women’s hockey second round. Didn’t get any other tickets and couldn’t afford them anyway.

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  11. Harold

    Use your imagination! I’m sorry, but there are 3/400 nations (no idea how many!) competing at the Olympics. That’s a lot of reporters/ TV stations etc etc. It’s a global event, not just an event for the UK, and certainly not just an event for a part of London where the games happen to be located. You don’t need access to the events themselves and if you have a local athlete involved, find a way round it like the rest of the regional press has to. You’ll have enough pre and post Olympics to fill your papers for months. What goes on during the games in terms of sport is really as relevant to the Shetlands as it is to London, so you shouldn’t expect any access to any sporting events. The rest of the stories – positive and negative – surrounding the Olympics should be got the usual way – contacts and spadework.

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  12. Neynox, London

    Isn’t Andy Parkes the man who decided that the South London Guardian, Richmond & Twickenham Times etc didn’t need any dedicated sports and leisure staff?
    I agree that local papers should be allowed access to the events, but who is Andy planning to send to cover them?

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  13. twiki

    I don’t buy the idea of a ‘freebie’. I worked at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester for my local paper. I only went to events covering our own athletes and, by going to them, got series of exclusive interviews and stories, none of which I would have got without going to the Games. Getting in with the families is important but nothing beats covering the event live.

    Incidentally, PA covered the Commonwealth Games and I covered events with many of the staff – some of whom were pretty poor and had clearly just been brought it from wherever to cover the Games. If our paper had had to rely on them, we would have had seroius problems

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  14. Northern Snapper, Up North

    So, Newsquest management are able to make comments to HTFP after all!

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  15. Fristrated regional sports writer

    A lot of point-missing going on here. The people we really want to cover are the likes of hockey squad players and those who go out in the first round of fencing/canoeing etc. They won’t be shown on TV, so watching with famillies is a non-starter. They will also be in governing body-imposed lockdown, preventing them from talking to the media except in mixed zones and at orchestrate media conferences (which are generally only arranged for elite athletes). The only way to get guaranteed, objective coverage of their performance, and to get their reaction, is at the venues. And any regional journalist who slopes off to the 100m final at the expense of a local competitor elsewhere is not doing their job properly. Experience also tells us that PA cannot be relied upon to do this job.

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  16. Malcolm Bradbrook, Oxford

    How many times have local papers sent reporters to cover events like mountain biking / steeplechase etc before now rather than relying on submitted reports from sport clubs’ ‘press secretaries’?

    In my experience local papers sports desks have been relying on submitted material for almost every sport other than one or two football/rugby/cricket teams per patch for more than a decade so what is different now?

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  17. Paul Warren

    Don’t really are about this one!

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  18. Billy Boy

    So Newquest cuts local sport coverage in its London weeklies to the bare minimum and then has a big whinge about not being able to cover the Olympics – claiming it provides an important local service. Oh pur-lease. The only reason they’re making a big noise about this is because they’ve spent the past six years expecting a big free jolly to east London.

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