Young Journalists conference turns back the clock for this oldtimer

From Sports Media Canada President Steve McAllister

SHENZHEN, China – There must be easier ways to turn back the clock than flying 15 hoursacross the globe to do it.

But here I am, in one of the fastest-growing cities in the world (10.5-million people and counting) and feeling like I’ve found the fountain of youth despite the day-long flight from Toronto to Hong Kong.

Hanging around 20-something young sports journalists from around the world will do that.

Thanks to FISU (the international governing body for world university sports) and AIPS, the aspiring writers, photographers and broadcasters are here to cover the World University Games, which began August 11 and run for 12 days. Erin Meagher, a King’s College journalism student from Mississauga, ON (the daughter of long-time NHL public/media relations executive Gary Meagher and a former competitive hockey player herself), Wilfrid Laurier University student Justin Fauteux of Oakville, ON (who writes sports for the student newspaper at Laurier) and Ryerson journalism student Kelsey Wingerak of Kelowna, BC (who looked completely comfortable in front of the camera as the students introduced themselves on the opening day of the conference Friday) are representing Canada here. Erin, Justin and Kelsey, along with the other participating young journalists ranging between the ages of 18 and 26, will go through basic training, journalism style during Universiade 2011 with morning sessions that include appearances by guest lecturers (including yours truly, who along with long-time Olympic sportswriter Alan Abrahamson of, will talk about the fast-moving changes in the sports media industry) followed by taking what they learn by covering events in the afternoon and evenings. The reporters will create content that will appear on the FISU and AIPS websites through the Games (Kelsey, Justin and Eric will also be blogging for on their experiences in Shenzhen).

Being around people excited about the opportunity to get their feet wet by covering an international event and their own stories is a reminder of what makes our business so appealing and so much fun. It also serves as a welcome reminder of those early days in the business when covering a high-school football game or junior B hockey game for a weekly newspaper fueled the same rush one gets from covering a CFL game or Maple Leafs game on a Saturday night. On Thursday night, a young Ugandan woman talked about her spot as a shooting guard on the university basketball team in her homeland and how her passion for sport pushed her towards journalism. One of the members of the young journalists from China spoke proudly Friday morning about her career as a high jumper before deciding to get into journalism. There was a brief thought of bringing up my days as a junior B defenceman in Eastern Ontario, but that was quickly erased when realizing my glory days as an athlete came well before they were born.

On that note, let the Games – and the education, experience and enjoyment that will ensue over the next two weeks for the next generation of sports media experts  – begin.