Reuters chief: Olympic accreditation rules outdated

The rules governing who can report from the Olympic Games are outdated in the age of modern social networking internet sites, according to Reuters’ editor-in-chief.

David Schlesinger made his point to the IOC’s Press Commission, which has been meeting in London this week, saying it was no longer right to make the distinction between text and images, professional reporting and citizen journalism.

“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 said.

“Fundamentally, the old media won’t control news dissemination in the future. And organisations can’t control access using old forms of accreditation any more.”

While at the Beijing Games last year, Schlesinger was ordered by the IOC to remove a picture from his blog, because he was only accredited to write and edit text.

“You’d have thought I’d mixed the water with the wine, or served beef at a vegetarian banquet. The full weight of the disapproval from the IOC came down upon us,” he said.

“This isn’t a distinction that made sense any more in 2008 and it makes less sense by the day as news organisations radically reshape newsrooms and roles.

“Frankly, your issues a much more serious. You need to deal with the almost impossible question of who is a journalist, and what does it mean to report.”

Schlesinger said the first reports to come out of the 2012 London Olympics events would not be from Reuters, AP or AFP – but from “Twitterers sitting in the stadium banging out the result in a Tweet from their mobile phone”.

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

“Working against them would be crazy. Could you imagine gun-toting guards trying to confiscate every phone off every spectator? That would become the story of the Games and it would ultimately fail.”

Click here for more recent articles on journalism, sport and sports journalism

SJA MEMBERS: Make sure your profile details are up to date in the 2010 SJA Yearbook by clicking here