The following is a response to official Olympic reporter Jeff Lee in reference to an article he published in The Financial Post 12/07/08, regarding a meeting attended by a group of Vancouverites interested in making it easier for indie media journalists coming to Vancouver from around the world to cover our 2010 Olympics.
Financial Post Comments only allows 500 characters, and I posted a short response in their comment section attached to the article, but Lee's article warrants a few more words.
For the sake of full disclosure, I've disagreed with Lee in the past in this blog regarding how he reports Olympic information.
In this latest article Lee described our group as follows;
"The plotters were ordinary people, young and old. Some had piercings and others, unusual shades of hair colour. Some brandished laptops. One had a tiny video camera. Others sat on the floor and simply listened."
I don't want to make a big deal of semantics, but not only is Lee's characterization of our group skewed, once again he failed to tell the whole story. For example, there were also people in casual business attire at the meeting, plus I saw at least one UBC professor, and I think even an undercover police officer. Granted, people were sitting on the floor, but only because the turnout was so great.
Raincity Studios, where the meeting was held, is a hip working environment with long tables wired to support dozens of computers.
It's a very cool heritage building, well maintained and stylishly decorated, but
Lee described the room as follows;
"... four dozen people trudged up to the fourth floor of an old Gastown building mere metres from where Vancouver was born."
Most of the info in his article was technically correct, and I concede that maybe a few people trudged, but Lee's snarky attitude towards indie media journos is stuck in 2003, and ironically, this is exactly why we've bumped heads so many times in the past.
Even though Lee refuses to allow me to post to his 2010 blog on The Vancouver Sun, his attitude today is so condescending I thought I'd give it a shot at the Post to see if I can get through.
Your headline Jeff, "Indie media want to get in on the games" is sadly indicative of the mindset of too many mainstream news journalists who feel intimidated by indie and social media.
The reality is that indie media have
in on the Games for quite some time.
Even though your newspaper is well paid by the IOC/VANOC to distribute 2010 Olympic information, you don't hold a monopoly.
For five years I have produced an Olympic related business news blog, plus way back in 2006 I also published a popular Olympic book about the impact 2010 would have on Vancouver. My book, Leverage Olympic Momentum, the one you refuse to acknowledge, is primarily about indie media strategies anyone can use, and it addresses everything-and-more of what you heard at our meeting last week.
For many of us indie media is old news.
Even though it was the first time I met the Raincity posse face to face, I've been meeting and exchanging new media ideas with them and many of the people in that room for a long time. Many I know from another social media group that has been meeting once a month for about a year - The Third Tuesday MeetUp.
Our meeting last week wasn't about figuring out how to get in on the Games as much as it was about finding space large enough, and deciding how to manage the space in order to support our indie brothers and sisters arriving from around the world in 2010.
You refer to us as "plotters" and ordinary people.
We're not plotters.
Plotting suggests something hidden or nefarious.
We are out in the open, and far from ordinary.
I'm not sure what you expect or want from the indie community.
When I turn you on to my book and blog you ban and pan me. When we get together in an open meeting you accuse us of plotting.
Many of the people in the room are brilliant, and just the fact they were there makes them unique, not ordinary as you describe.
Mira Friedlander, also a Financial Post reporter interviewed me for a feature she ran in the Post over twelve years ago on September 30, 1995, and at the time I told her the web was an exciting place and "There are as many as 200 new sites a day on the internet."
Today, in 2008 we probably do 200 a minute, and I'm happy to say I've been here for every second of it since 1991 - the last seven years as an indie news writer addressing music and Olympic issues.
I'm glad to see you're finally coming around to our way of thinking Jeff, but in the future it would be nice if you could make a bit of an effort to extend to us the respect we deserve.
For years my blog has reached tens of thousands of people all over the world who are interested in an indie version of 2010 news. I also have hundreds of professional and progressive journalists on my media list who asked to be there, and they too live all over the world. Some of them are your colleagues.
I fully support and applaud Dave Olson's open letter to VANOC, and realize in part it was a matter of record and a catalyst to inspire a conversation, but when the 200 or so international sports journalists came into town a couple of weeks ago to tour 2010 Olympic facilities and infrastructure, I didn't even try to get on the media list knowing full well VANOC would turn me down.
I'm going to give them a heads up regarding your "plotters" article and my response, plus I'll send it to at least three hundred other journalists on my list and give it a spin on Twitter.
You can mischaracterize indie media all you want, but the truth is we've been right here and in the open for a long time.
We aren't trying to get in on the Games.
We are in.
BREAKING NEWS !!
A second version of Lee's article also ran in The Vancouver Sun, and on Lee's blog he explains why it took so long to publish his report.
According to Lee, he was sitting on it in an effort scoop his competitors. What he didn't say however was moves like this are engineered to improve his parent company's share prices, which btw went from about $5 last year to less than a buck just recently and dropped Canwest into the penny stock league.
Considering your company is bleeding so profusely, maybe it's not prudent to wait so long to compress the wound.
Here's the response I posted to Lee's blog . . .
This is exactly what I mean when I write in my Olympic news blog and book that local mainstream news media does not report Olympic information in a timely manner, but instead waits until it serves their economic or political purpose.
Yes it is legal for a newspaper like the Vancouver Sun to be paid by the IOC to boost the 2010 Olympics, but it isn't right and it is harmful to our community.
When you sit on news and leverage it to improve your company's share prices it's no longer news, it's advertorial, and a second cousin to "checkbook journalism."
Lee explained his tardy publishing of our meeting through this headline;
"The trouble with print media and the new world order."
He then dug the hole deeper with the following statement;
"The meeting took place on Thursday night and I was the only traditional journalist there. The rest were bloggers, new media people whose sites might be overlooked by my competitors. I didn't want to blog about this before the weekend for fear of alerting my competitors. And since the Province comes out on Sundays, I wanted to wait until Sunday night or Monday morning to post anything online."
Reporting on our meeting certainly is not critical news to the general public, and I agree there was no harm in holding it for a few days, but now that you know how mainstream news media manages Olympic news, what do you think? Is this the same criteria they use when reporting homeless issues respect of 2010?
Maybe this is why Lee doesn't want you to read my book, because that answer ... and a lot more are in it.
If you're already hip to social media you won't need my book to convince you
of its power, but you will learn a few things about the unwritten Olympic rules and incestuous relationship they have with local news media.
The IOC and their Olympics business model is outdated and broken.
It is no longer necessary or viable in this era for news media, Olympic organizations and sponsors to form such secretive relationships.
The internet can easily pick up the promotional ball and run with it. The challenge however is Olympic organizations like VANOC keep a lot of secrets, and keeping secrets isn't a forte of social media.
Removing local mainstream news media companies from the Olympics Boosting equation and passing the baton to the Internet that can do it much more efficiently means the IOC has to update their business model, and they have to do it ASAP, because they might not survive 2010.
But if they do limp through 2010, and make it past us in Vancouver, our indie media counterparts are going to be waiting for them in London.
In fact, I'm already there and have been for a long time.
Resistance is futile.
The video below was taped two days before the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
It becomes even more relevent each passing day.
If you have plans to volunteer during the Games, make sure you know what you're buying ....before you sign on the dotted line.
Local news media today (12/03/08), called, on behalf of VANOC, for people to register as volunteers with Tourism Vancouver during 2010.
The newspaper article states Tourism Vancouver will require at least a 70 hour commitment from each volunteer. The newspaper however fails to mention that in most past Olympic regions the average volunteer investment is more like 140 hours.
Volunteering is a good thing, and Tourism Vancouver is a good organization, but if they are like all the other tourism agencies in past Olympic regions, I'm betting they don't fully appreciate the depth of the nightmare they're about to step into.
If they really knew how difficult it is to keep Olympic volunteers, instead of using a newspaper advertorial in such a casual call to action, they would engage the public more openly in an effort to explore ways of avoiding the mistakes every Olympic region made in the recent past.
I realize many Vancouver business owners are nervous putting pressure on local mainstream news media to do the right thing, but keep in mind local mainstream news media are well paid by the IOC to unfairly influence citizens in Olympic regions. Just because you want to stay on the good side of your local newspaper with the hopes they will escalate you to local notoriety doesn't make it right for you to unconditionally support them, or to look the other way while they manufacture consent.
Think Local. Act Global.
And act ethically, because the world is watching what you do too.
Olympic volunteering is not a walk in the park, and it takes very unique planning most Olympic regions never get right.
Based on numbers collected from Olympic regions in recent history the amount of time a volunteer will be required to invest will be more like 140 hours instead of 70 - that's a fact.
Why? Well, there are many other requirements to take into consideration beyond just showing up to do the actual volunteer work.
For example, volunteers have to invest considerable time in training, which take on average at least three eight hour sessions, plus you have to make time for uniform fittings, becoming accredited (which means a visit to the police station for a criminal background check - paid for by you), and time to traverse security zone checks throughout the city and especially in the downtown core near Olympic facilities.
The time or money to accomplish these tasks is not trivial.
Traveling between your volunteer post and back home turns an easy round trip into a four or five hour marathon. Quite literally, if you normally live half an hour away and need to be on volunteer duty at 8am, it is reasonable to assume you would have to leave home by at least 6am, and returning home after a twelve hour shift could be even worse. All this stuff counts as volunteer time.
You might be wondering why you need 24 hours of training?
Well, you can't just show up on day one and know what to do.
Plus, at least half of the training will be culture orientation.
Regardless of whether you volunteer for Vancouver Tourism or directly for VANOC, you have to comply with how the IOC wants you to act. It takes time to learn and absorb their culture. Understandably, they also constantly test volunteers during culture training to weed out protesters interested in sabotaging the event. The more important your position, the more strenuous your training and the deeper they look into your background. It's more intense than jury duty
The newspaper article failed to mention training, security, and travel complications, but I'm not so sure it was done as a result of negligence. It's no wonder though the piece didn't have a byline. I'd be embarrassed too to put my name on such shoddy reporting.
The article also failed to mention that in past Olympic regions, when eager volunteers signed up too soon, quite often better positions opened up later, sometimes even paying positions. Trusting volunteers are often surprised to learn that along with signing the standard non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, in a flurry of John Hancocks they also signed a document preventing them from accepting a better posting more suitable to their schedule or lifestyle.
ain't a place for naive eager beavers and early adopters.
In the spirit of fairness, plus I don't want to get sued, I'll give VANOC the benefit of the doubt and not accuse them of using such trickery, but you should know that locking-in volunteers and paid workers is standard operating procedure for the IOC, so if VANOC isn't going to follow suit, it would be nice if they could let us know up front.
In this era of Twitter and full disclosure, such a guarantee from VANOC, or at least a warning would only be ethical, and provide one less reason for volunteers to get pissed off and quit on day two like too many do in past Olympic regions.
I'll also concede that getting locked-in isn't a problem if you land a sweet position indoors, but if you're outside on garbage detail you'll be upset when you find out you can't volunteer for the great jobs that only became available after the grunt details are filled. Don't underestimate how often this happens. It's part of IOC strategy.
The newspaper article also failed to mention Olympic volunteering comes with a hefty price tag. Volunteers usually pay for everything including getting to their post, food, uniforms, background checks, not to mention having to book all that time off work. Food alone, even McDonalds, is more expensive than you think in Olympic areas and commissaries. In Salt Lake City for example, back in 2002, volunteers complained of being forced to pay twenty bucks just for a very average breakfast. Insults like this are one of the reasons the IOC has such a hard time keeping volunteers working throughout their term, and a good example of why I maintain their business model is broken.
Most of us do not mind in the least to shell out a few thousand dollars and a few weeks for a good cause, but keep in mind Olympic sponsors make a killing through their 5 Ring affiliations. NBC alone, the official broadcaster boasts they sell advertising to 3 billion people at each recent Winter Games. Plus, your taxes are also going through the roof to pay for the Games. It costs way more than most think to volunteer.
Sponsors should pick up costs for volunteers.
Yes, I know, you're hoping to score good tickets for men's gold hockey in return for your charity. Don't hold your breath though because once again Olympic sponsors get the best seats in the house for the most popular events. How do you feel about curling, Sport?
Make sure you don't get trapped when you sign up to volunteer for anything 2010 related. The paragraph below will explain more.
Olympic organizations also look to recruiting agencies as sponsors and give them preferential treatment in trade for ‘value in kind’ employees.
Recruiting agencies in the ramp up will endeavor to get their applicants to sign exclusivity agreements that lock applicants up during Olympic periods. It creates a serious challenge for workers [or volunteers] who want to defect because they found a more suitable position through another agency or maybe even directly. It also adds a level of complexity when a volunteer discovers a paid position and is not allowed to take it because of obligations to a third party recruitment contract.
There are a number of ways Olympic organizations and their suppliers manage the system in order to give them power over the workforce.
The best defense for SMBs [small and midsize businesses] is to start early to build their databases before the best workers are locked up. It’s not unheard of for recruitment companies to license or sell entire databases and all rights to their workers.
He who controls the workforce controls the game.
As time goes on Olympic organizations are getting smarter and they write more limiting agreements. However, the more a worker [or volunteer] knows beforehand, the more carefully they will react and not just sign their options away to the first taker.
In the past, Olympic organizations had the power of secrecy on their side because workers in a new region had no idea what happened in the last Olympic region.
When Olympic organizations say they pass legacy information between regions what they mean is they pass ‘selective information’ that benefits them and not the region. end of excerpt
BTW, if you think I'm unfairly copping an attitude about volunteering you should know my company, as in the company I own, invests considerably in volunteering to help orphaned and abandoned children in BC without homes. You wouldn't know this though unless you were also a member of the charitable organization because we're not interested in recognition. We just want to help kids. I've also worked many telethons and hospital fund drives - since 1978.
Most volunteering is a good thing, I do however have a problem with volunteer organizations infamous for treating volunteers horrendously.
For clarity, I'm not even remotely suggesting Tourism Vancouver or even VANOC falls in this category, but if you do a little research you'll discover volunteers at past Olympic events do not receive the respect they deserve. If you ignore history you're doomed to repeat it.
There is plenty of documented evidence, even as current as Beijing and Turin indicating the Olympic volunteer program is poorly managed, but have you ever seen it featured in your local newspaper or on television - the same news media companies paid huge coin to boost the Olympics? Unfortunately neither have I. You read it here first.
If you ignore a problem, you can't fix it, and so far everyone in our region who can do something about it is looking the other way.
One last note, I've managed thousands of volunteers throughout my career, and even in Olympic venues. I also made a few mistakes over the years so I know first hand that managing volunteers is a nightmare when you don't do it right.
It's possible VANOC will get it right, so don't let me or Athlete's Village, Richmond Oval, or Convention Centre overruns and all the controversy about secret meetings and hidden costs deter you.
If you decide to get in the 2010 volunteer pool, slip in slowly.
The Sun included a link to Tourism Vancouver at the bottom of the advertorial, but true to form they couldn't get that right either, so you can click here [Actually it looks like Tourism Vancouver is embarrassed too because they also removed the following link] Tourism Vancouver.
If you are as exasperated as most Vancouverites, track these companies down and tell them so. Tell them I sent you.
I've written extensively about news media and Olympic organizations since 2004 in this blog and a book entitled Leverage Olympic Momentum.
The Olympic social media issue is more complex than most people imagine.
Before I expand upon the myriad of reasons for the complexity I want to reiterate I am Pro-Olympics - with a twist; love the sport, hate the politics.
Briefly, hereís why the social media challenge is so complex.
First, social media is based on full disclosure, which means the producer of the information has an obligation to disclose affiliations and as a result any bias, large or small to the recipient of the information.
The expectation is quite clear. Without full disclosure social media is simply mainstream news media, and that folks no longer cuts it for smart news consumers. Granted, there will always be a segment of the population that accepts Wal-Mart styled journalistic quality, but in general, people are now demanding more of their news sources than mainstream news media is willing, or maybe even capable of delivering.
One of the reasons newspapers are experiencing such financial difficulty is because people lost trust in them years ago. Somewhere along the line mainstream news media felt it was acceptable to publish news based on the best interests of their advertisers, but then along came social media.
Another reason for complexity is due to
Olympic host regions operating inherently as both an oligopoly, and a monopoly. Consequently, unless you are a trusted IOC partner or supplier, getting an invitation to the media table will be incredibly challenging.
The IOC, its affiliates, partners, and sponsors do not welcome competition. They say they do, but their actions unfortunately prove otherwise.
For example, in 2006 VANOC actually barred me and a client from a news media conference where my client was, in part, the subject of conversation. When some members of the local news media heard we were barred, they offered us their credentials to gain entry. Jacques Rogge and John Furlong were present, so in one respect I suppose news media wanted to see the fireworks when we asked Rogge and Furlong questions about how the IOC and VANOC treat small businesses in Host regions, but it's also possible the journalist wanted to send a message that VANOC should treat citizens in our Host region fairly.
We declined the mainstream news media credentials because only two hours previous we held a press conference of our own, which turned out incredibly well.
The television journalist who offered us the media pass, Ted Chernecki of Global News, ended up asking Rogge the question on our behalf during the VANOC media conference. As expected Rogge sidestepped the issue, and also as expected no one put pressure on him to answer adequately.
It was gratifying however to see news media stir up the muck a bit, unfortunately, things went downhill quite rapidly from that day on respective of most local news media putting any real pressure on VANOC in a timely manner. The only news media company that really consistently and in a timely manner tightened the screws, ironically, was CBC - the current official Olympic broadcaster.
Half an hour after our press conference and during a Board of Trade luncheon with about 1,000 people in attendance with Rogge as the guest of honor, Board organizers had to visit our table twice to ask us to request that news television cameras leave our area. The attention was incredible. I wrote about it in detail in my book. Maybe this was why VANOC refused to allow us access to their media conference. Social media as early as 2006 already had them on high alert.
The lesson learned was that social media reporters like me are shut out of official Olympic media scrums. BTW, at the time, the term social media wasn't even in mainstream vernacular. Basically, I was just an independent small business person telling my side of the story, a side some local mainstream news media refused to cover.
If you want something done right, do it yourself.
We learned way back in 2006 if you want to explore, in a TIMELY manner, a message that even remotely challenges Olympic culture, you have to do it independently, which weíve done effectively ever since.
We learned very quickly local mainstream news media will not compromise their financial equity and bite the advertising hand that feeds them.
While they followed the money, we chose to back our community.
At one point we had almost 10,000 small and midsize Lower Mainland business owners reading our monthly 2010 newsletter - maybe you were one of them. Many local news media also lurked, and some journalists actually registered and asked to be sent regular media updates.
After a few years of writing about the 2010 Olympics we attracted a large following. Once we had the audience we wanted (local business owners, volunteers, politicians, news media) we changed strategies and eventually quit publishing a newsletter and simply let people find us.
Our social media tools were not designed to generate revenue directly, nor did we want them to, although we might reconsider it in the future.
We arenít activists trying to overthrow the Olympics. We are a small local business trying to survive Olympic-frenzied, artificially inflated property values and skyrocketing taxes. All we want is for our community to share proportionately in the wealth Olympic sponsors make, ironically, off the back of our community. Our contention is, if NBC sells advertising to four billion viewers at each Summer Olympics, and also to three billion at each Winter Games, there should be enough to go around for everyone.
One of our popular slogans is,
ďIf you have to pay for it, shouldn't you benefit too?Ē
According to the responses weíve received
over the years,
more people think so the closer we get to 2010.
Even though we do not generate revenue directly through our social media strategy, it has worked quite well for us economically by producing a number of contracts from companies interested in leveraging Olympic momentum. It didnít take us long to figure out most companies are put off by IOC intimidation and donít know what to do. Today, one of our clients has a multi million-dollar Olympic contract, and a few others are Olympic suppliers, but most just want to know how to survive the Games and leverage Olympic momentum outside of the VANOC purview.
Many companies don't feel they receive 2010 Olympic information in a timely manner from local news media so they follow this blog.
Another of our slogans is ďWe donít break the news. We fix it.Ē
Recently, when a large contingency of international sports journalists came to Vancouver we tracked about 60 of them and sent each an email message directing them to local websites, blogs, and other information online that addressed the real world challenge of hosting our 2010 Olympic event. While many Vancouver social media bloggers futilely lobbied VANOC for access to the media scrum, we also published a news posting on our blog and sent international journalists to read it.
As a result a few of the journalists emailed and asked to be included on our media press list, which we were happy to do. We now have them on our social media list, and even though we didn't get to follow the group around in Vancouver we have something better. We now also have access to the audience the international journalists serve. Our social media scope expanded exponentially and into a market an Olympic Host region never had access to in the past.
You might not think this is important, but I assure you the IOC is watching carefully. We cracked their veneer internationally, and by doing so challenged their authority and made it harder for them to sell sponsorships and future Olympic events to unsuspecting host regions. Plus we did it without jeopardizing our own Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Did you know the IOC lost four major TOPS sponsors last year alone?
The number is unprecedented and includes Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Lenovo, and Manulife Financial. I wrote recently in another posting that BusinessWeek asked Kodak, "Are Olympic Sponsorships Worth It?"
Maybe these companies know something you don't.
Know your enemy.
BTW, we share our newly built international sports journalist Olympic media list with like minded trusted partners, who also contacted each journalist or editor and directed them to local websites they deemed important. We also consider sharing the list with anyone who asks and who we feel will treat it and the journalists with respect.
It might seem like we are in contempt of the entire mainstream news industry, but we are not. In fact we understand very clearly most journalists are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Most resist toeing the corporate Olympic company line, but they get incredible pressure from their colleagues and bosses to promote the Games in primarily a positive manner, and in effect disregard people in the Host community. Our goal was to let international journalists know there is another side to the 2010 Olympic story, if they cared to look. Almost all did. We know because we carefully monitor our log files.
We also keep track of what all these international journalists are posting in their countries about Vancouver 2010, and we comment directly in their publications. Editors think twice about publishing misinformation when they know someone with a Twitter account or blog is looking over their shoulder. It is a good example of social media working to improve our community.
Dave Olson of Raincity Studios is a progressive guy pushing the edge of Canada's foray into social media, but he was so frustrated with VANOC's response, or more accurately lack thereof regarding the World Press Briefing attended by the international journalists described above, he wrote an open letter to VANOC.
We came to the conclusion long ago the real power of social media journalism is not in producing original news, but instead in keeping news media companies honest by telling the other side of the story.
I do not want to do a journalist's job. I do however expect that they report in a more ethical and nonpartisan manner, and if they donít we will. It's pretty simple. All they have to do is tell both sides of the story in a timely manner - timely meaning as soon as they know it.
I have extensive experience regarding both traditional and social news media, and have had my work broadcast and published in Wired, The Globe and Mail, CityTV, BC Business Magazine and a long list of other respected media venues.
Interestingly, outside of CTV (the official 2010 broadcaster), the other media company that makes the most Olympic noise in Vancouver, Canwest, interviewed me a few times, but not one of the interviews ever made it to print or air. Even more interesting, The Sunís official 2010 Olympic writer, Jeff Lee, permanently banned me from posting on his blog. I was always relatively respectful regarding criticisms I had of Lee's work, his colleagues, or his employer, but even so, Lee claims he will never let me post to his blog because he refuses to promote my book in any way shape or form through his publication. Ironically though, he allows the poorly informed, or the rabidly pro or anti Olympic segment to post on his blog, but apparently if you actually invest six figures+ and five years in research, and you happen to implicate local news media in the Olympic charade, your opinion doesnít count.
Lee can censor his Canwest blog any way he wants, but keep in mind Canwest is an official Olympic booster. The Sun is well paid with tax money to tell the Olympic side of the Olympic story. And in these trying times for newspapers the last thing they need is competition so I understand their motivations, but also keep in mind Canwest owns a high percentage of news media in BC, and the concentration here is higher than anywhere else in Canada.
Shutting out social media journalists because they use well documented solid research to justify their conclusions is ridiculous and flies directly in the face of the premise of social media being an open platform where full disclosure is mandatory if you want your publication respected.
Canwest would have been better off to debate my perspective and endeavored to prove me wrong, but they didnít because my conclusions are correct and they know it. My perspective of the 2010 Olympics and the impact it would have on our community was accurate in 2003, as it still is today. More importantly, I report Olympic news in a timely manner.
It is important to note that Canwest is paid by VANOC, while business members of our community pay me. At the end of the day thatís what will count when the 2010 tax bill rolls in.
The virtual trail social media leaves, this blog for example, is indelible.
The Vancouver Sun has been boasting recently that they revamped their website. Big deal. You still can't post comments on most of the important articles. If Canwest wants to survive they have no choice but to adopt policies more in line with newspapers on the cusp of social media - like the Wall Street Journal for instance.
It is unhealthy for a community to only receive information regarding how their tax money is spent from the mainstream news media companies being paid to spend it. Canwest has a vested interest, which means they are biased. Other than one small Vancouver Sun article to announce they are an official paid Olympic booster, they never identify this affiliation when they report 2010 news. Keeping bias like this under the radar might be legal, but itís not ethical.
Social media lives and dies by full disclosure and so should mainstream news media. This secretive relationship is why VANOC, Canwest, and other Olympic organizations arenít too keen to welcome social media into the fold. We tried, through the Freedom of Information act, to view the agreement between Canwest and the IOC, but were told it will never be made available to the public because itís a contract between private parties. I understand FOA rules, but the issue here is that both of these private parties use tax dollars to boost their visibility and wealth while taxes skyrocket and our community is turned inside out.
I write about 2010 media challenges extensively at OlyBLOG.com and post regularly at news industry sites like J-Source, plus hundreds of other online sites. Since 1999 I have also produced a business newsletter about managing news media in crisis situations. About 3,000 high-ranking executives and politicians in North America, including a dozen U.S. senators and MBA students at Harvard Law School read it.
Since Beijing, we've noticed a huge increase in viewers from London. Many compare the economic challenges happening in the UK regarding 2012 to what is occurring here in Vancouver respective of 2010.
Our philosophy is not to wait for VANOC to invite us to the media table. We arenít waiting for a few reasons. First, it is easy to access the world without having to bow to IOC culture. Second, time is passing quickly and Olympic organizations love it when you talk about these issues because when you talk, nothing gets done. Olympic organizations and their government partners know how to stall, as evidenced by talks regarding First Nations people. Third, VANOC will never allow anyone to participate unless they support the cause unconditionally, which today is becoming a serious dilemma because anyone who lives in an Olympic region has front row seats to the downside.
Even though Olympic organizations and some of their news media partners have disrespected our community and ignored us, we are still Pro-Olympics. Itís hard to walk this fine line though because Olympic organizations promote a George Bush ďYou are with us or against usĒ mantra. Even when I carefully explain our position many people still find it hard to understand how I can be so critical of the Olympic business model, but still get behind the Games. Basically, I love the sports (just ordered $12K in tickets), but just because I love X-Cross IĎm not going to look the other way and allow an outdated business model to ruin my community.
Just the fact VANOC does not invite social media to the table indicates their business model needs a very serious overhaul. The only companies not embracing social media are the companies with something to hide.
Why are they afraid?
The challenge the IOC and VANOC have is that by default and through its open design, social media allows people on both sides of the equation to comment on Olympic issues. Local mainstream news media partners do not always disseminate Olympic information in a timely manner. Instead, they wait until it serves their purpose or that of their Olympic partners and clients. Timing is everything.
If you rely primarily on local mainstream news media for Olympic information you probably already realize a lot of information is published only after it is too late to do anything about it. It is done this way by design, and weíve carefully documented a number of examples in my book and blog over the years. One of the main reasons to publish the book way back in 2006 was to give our community a heads up, and an opportunity to be proactive. Every mayor in the region received a copy and so did many high-ranking civic leaders and executives. We wanted to make sure they couldnít come back in 2011 when the bills pile up and taxes shoot through the roof and say, ďWe didnít know it would turn out so poorly for the community.Ē
It is the first time a Pro-Olympics book of this style and depth, and one that is also so uniquely and constructively critical has ever been published before the Games hit town and before the damage was done. Iím not rabidly pro or anti anything, and stand instead somewhere in the middle on rational common ground.
Olympic issues are so controversial that just having a critical mass of people aware of many of the issues up front will make it extremely difficult for Olympic organizations to conscript volunteers. One of the MAIN reasons the IOC and VANOC create sponsor-like relationships with local mainstream news media like Canwest and The Sun is to have news media beg, trick, and cajole people into volunteering. Without The Vancouver Sun influencing locals the 2010 Olympic volunteer system will faceplant directly into the halfpipe at Cypress. Wal-Mart-like loyalty is a very important component of the IOC, and it isnít a stretch to say they put the ďcultĒ in Olympic culture.
Olympic Athletes are also a great example of a group so intimidated they look the other way even in the face of human right issues, but Iím predicting this time around even Olympic athletes will break rank and demand a more ethical Games.
American skier Bode Miller is incredibly outspoken regarding news media, so donít be surprised if he leads the charge, although Iím hoping a Canadian athlete will step up, especially considering how familiar they are with the homeless situation in Vancouverís Downtown Eastside.
Granted, the 2010 Olympics didnít cause the homeless situation, but gentrification as a result of Olympic frenzy has certainly put many more people on the streets since we won the Bid, some who are mentally ill and incapable of understanding why it is happening.
The Olympics has a negative effect on a lot of people in a Host region, including volunteers, but Olympic organizations are smart enough to partner with local news media to keep the information contained, at least until it is too late to do anything about it.
How do you think Olympic volunteers in Vancouver will feel this time around when they see and hear through social media sites how poorly their counterparts in past Olympic regions have been treated?
What will 2010 volunteers think when they learn the Olympic volunteer CHURN RATIO in Sydney, Australia, which as promoted by the IOC and local newspapers as being the ďBest Games Ever,Ē was 3:1, and in some cases a whopping 4:1?
What is a churn ratio? Churn represents the number of volunteers who quit before their Olympic commitment is met. It was well documented in Sydney regarding the 2000 Games that many volunteers quit on day two, and that in order to keep volunteer staff in place the local Olympic organizing committee had to process three times and in some cases four times the number of people needed. And guess what? The same thing happened in Turin, and it would also have happened in China, but itís pretty hard to ignore or piss off a communist regime.
I wrote about issues like this in detail in my blog and book. If you understand the volunteer process you will understand why social media is greatly feared in the Olympic camp. Volunteers are just one part of the social media equation however, and when you also learn how they price and sell tickets you will have a stroke.
If people in Vancouver want a better and more balanced understanding of the impact an Olympic event has on a community, and the ramifications of the complex local mainstream news media bias, I suggest you read three critical books. One, called "The Collaborative GamesĒ was written by a Pro-Olympic journalist from Sydney, Australia, Tony Webb." The second is by Canadian professor and Anti-Olympic activist Dr. Helen Lenskyj, entitled "The Best Olympics Ever?" - the question mark says it all, and the third book is by IOC senior executive and founding WADA president Richard Pound called ďInside the OlympicsĒ - this one will dramatically change your perception of the Olympics forever.
If you donít read these books you will have a very hard time understanding VANOCís lack of transparency and why Olympic organizations remain so secretive. Read these books and youíll also understand why the False Creek Athleteís Village is in such economic trouble. Did you know London is going through exactly the same challenges with their Athlete's Village, and that situations like this happen in almost all Olympic regions? Granted, the worldís current economic situation is making it worse, but issues like this are played out time and again while Olympic organizations make little effort to improve their operating procedures and business model.
Vancouver is neither as naive, or as special as most people think. The IOC has been through this many times and they know how to partner with and manage local mainstream news media.
Vancouver isnít gullible. Weíre trusting. Thereís a difference.
If you want to change the rules, first you have to know the rules, especially the unwritten. If you are counting on local mainstream news media to educate you forget it. Kirk LaPointe, editor in chief of The Vancouver Sun and an Olympic partner/supplier/booster admits flat out their number one mandate is to make money. Itís not a coincidence The Sun no longer includes the word ďcommunityĒ in their masthead, although don't be surprised if they put it back now that I point out it's missing.
Itís your job to learn as much as you can from as many varied sources as possible. After all ... isnít that the underlying fabric of social media?
I donít know how else to share the following without having it look like a plug, but if you donít have time to read all the books I mentioned above, my book will get you up to speed very quickly. It compares the information and philosophies of all these writers and books, plus many others and condenses everything into a solution respective of my two decades of entertainment and special events management experience, which includes projects at the Expo Ď86 Amphitheater, and Calgaryís Ď88 Games Cultural Olympiad. I learned my chops managing events attended by and broadcast to millions of people around the world.
I made many predictions in my book about 2010 and its impact on our community, and some have already come to fruition. One of the most important was that the internet, for the first time in history would provide local taxpayers and business owners with the leverage needed to force Olympic organizations to pay the Host region the respect it deserves.
Without social media tools this could never happen.
You have two choices; ignore history, or learn from it.
The IOC, VANOC, some local news media, and
Olympic sponsors would rather you ignore history.
1st printing no longer available at CHAPTERS locations in Vancouver
Own the Podium?
The official creed (guiding principle) of the Olympics is a quote by the
founding father of the modern day Games Baron de Coubertin. He said, "The
most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part,
just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
The Olympic motto consists of three Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius,
which means, "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The 1924 motto is meant to encourage
athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their
No where does it imply that winning the most gold medals for your country
is part of the agenda. In fact it implies exactly the opposite.
The IOC maintains that it doesn't actively encourage countries to collectively
win the most gold medals, but on the other hand they also don't institute
anything to ensure that the Games are not turned into corporate money
In fact, IOC sponsorship and partnership business models encourage a win-at-all-costs
mentality. It is the reason they have doping, fraud and bribery scandals.
The IOC invites young people to compete in the Olympics using the original
Creed & Motto. But when it comes to delivering on the promise they
fall incredibly short.
The Olympics today isn't as much about sport as it is about money and
Priorities changed over the years and so too should their Creed &
If athletes go for the gold, and the IOC goes for the gold, and corporate
sponsors go for the gold, and governments go for the gold, and considering
that you will have to foot the bill for their gold, why should
you be edged out of the race?
Move to the starting line.
Own the Podium?
Own Your Home?
Real journalism consists of
what someone doesn't want published,
all the rest is public relations." George Orwell