Gianni Merlo Looks Ahead

When we celebrated International Sports Journalists’ Day last year I thought again of the importance and significance of our profession.

Having witnessed the enthusiastic youth of the world participating in the Belgrade FISU Summer University Games opening ceremony, I was even more convinced that we as chroniclers of sporting endeavors – no matter how significant they may be, no matter whether on the local or international stage – can make a positive contribution towards breaking down the barriers which lead to conflict around the world, because we are part of the culture of the world.

Gianni Merlo

Gianni Merlo

Sport’s message is peace and this was evident amongst the world’s elite university athletes in Belgrade.

As many of our colleagues fall victim to staff cuts as a result of the “World Financial Crisis” I urge you to care for each other, to listen to each other, to embrace change and work with it. I encourage publishers and media bosses not to use the current economic downturn as an excuse to make cutbacks.

Now people say that this is the era of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the blog.

In London not long ago for an IOC Press Commission meeting I had the opportunity to listen to Reuters Editor-in Chief David Schlesinger’s “take” on what he referred to as citizen journalism. In a story from Belgrade, scene of the World Student Games, AIPS President saluted World Sports Journalists’ Day with these observations:

“It is no longer right to make the distinction between text and images, professional reporting and citizen journalism,” he said. “The old means of control don’t work. The old categories don’t work. The old ways of thinking don’t work. We need to come to terms with that.”

Schlesinger predicted that the first report from a stadium at the next Olympics won’t come from Reuters, AP or AFP, rather from “Twitterers banging out the result on a mobile phone”.

“Fundamentally, the old media won’t control news dissemination in the future.”

I believe that as sports journalists we need to take this seriously. We must embrace new technology and not be afraid of it. We must work together with and guide the federations in dealing with matters of accreditation that will no doubt surface.

As Schlesinger said: “”It means working with the mobile phone and digital camera and media-enabled public, and not against them.”

But one thing must be very clear. The new technology must not be an excuse to neglect our duty in defending the value not only of sport, but of our society. We must continue to fight for freedom of expression, not only on the internet but also to avoid the internet becoming a tool of the power to stop the real freedom of expression.

I still strongly believe in our mission as you do.