Japanese wheelchair basketball player Mari Amimoto leads in scoring at world championships

Yesterday’s Wikinews challenge was to take basically a one source piece of information I wanted to write about and make it into an actual more detailed article.  This was highly problematic, because well, two English Wikinews reviewers basically said only reporting from the official table of the leading scorers for a tournament is a little problem. (un problema pocita)

At the end the day, Japanese wheelchair basketball player Mari Amimoto leads in scoring at world championships was published.  It is a nice little story about the Women’s Wheelchair World Championships currently being played in Toronto, Canada.    The reviewers did a good job at dealing with the small little problems.  In any case, the article is from a perspective I don’t think that the other news outlets would take. (Though to be fair, I wouldn’t put it past the Paralympic Press people.  They can often be really good at doing those sort of stories, precisely because they are often writing for an international audience as opposed to a purely domestic one.)

That issue of trying to do a new take on something can be a big challenge when trying to write from limited, non-news sources.  Very hard to do.  Beyond that, as a journalist writing for Wikinews, I want to name drop.  As many athletes as I can mention, I like to do because I think the little bit of attention can be very good.

Because I’ve decided to try to write more about Wikinews, and because I want to go to the Rio Games, I feel like I need to start preparing now by more consistently writing about Paralympic sport.    Lost that thought.  Ah yeah.  I’ve decided to follow a number more accounts on Facebook to see if I can keep up with the “latest” news so I can write about it more.

If you have a Paralympic story idea that I can write about for Wikinews, please get in touch.  I would be pretty much open to anything.

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Russians top podium on second day of European Deaf Swimming Championships

Russians top podium on second day of European Deaf Swimming Championships is an article I got published yesterday on English Wikinews.  Also, Spanish Wikinews.  It was one of those exercises in disaster.  I originally wrote the article based on preliminary results.  In between submitting the article for review and the article being reviewed, the preliminary results changed to final results.  This completely screwed the article text, because it made it all inaccurate.  Erk?

The event is a world championship for deaf sport, which is not aligned with International Paralympic Committee in the sense that deaf sport just isn’t.  (The politics of this is actually quite interesting, in why deaf sports didn’t join the Paralympic movement.  Also, there is apparently a fear in some places that deaf sport will completely disappear because the technology is much better, and hearing problems are becoming much more fixable. )  What does this mean in terms of writing Wikinews articles from faaaaaaar away in Spain for a competition in Russia?  It means finding secondary sources to verify facts is PITA and not actually very doable.  The results seem pretty newsworthy to me, but verification.  Verification.  Verification.  Erk. Erk. Erk.

Errors were all eventually addressed, and the article got fixed on English Wikinews and then published.  😦

“He had two knives” or when is a fact a fact?

When is a knife a knife?

“He had to knives” and “Police said he had two knives” are two separate facts. One of the problems some new journalists on English Wikinews is recognizing what is a fact, and the above is a classic example. It is really easy to write opinions or assertions as facts without intending to.

A fair amount of Wikinews writing is synthesis writing.  We may not be able to verify the facts ourselves by talking to sources, witnessing an event ourselves, or reading the original source material.  It is really important to understand the facts that the sources we have present to us. If a source says, “Police said he had two knives,” the source is asserting that it is not a fact that he had two knives.  The fact is the claim.  This is very different from a claim of “He had two knives,” where “he had two knives” is the fact.

This might seem like a minor quibble, but it has the potential to be hugely important.  Picture a court case.  All the evidence is clear: “He had two knives” which he used to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Lots of people saw him with two knives.  There were two dirty knives in the sink which had his fingerprints on them.  He admitted to having two knives, and using them to make sandwiches. There was a picture of him using two knives to make a sandwich.  His name was engraved on the  knives.  We know those knives are his.  That is a fact.

In other situations, this may not be a fact.  There was no picture of him with two knives.  They did not have his fingerprints on them.  The knives were not found in his house.  He denied that the knives belonged to him and that he used them to make a sandwich.  On the other hand, the police claim that he had two knives.  In this case, maybe the knives do belong to him.  (He could have wiped down his fingerprints, taken the knives out of the house, lied about not owning the knives and not making a sandwich.)  What we do know as a fact is the police made this claim.

These finer points do matter, and they impact how people understand the news they read.

Sochi Return on Investment Analysis

Return on investment analyses is really easy: ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100. The problem with doing this for the Sochi Paralympics is I did not make money. I knew going in I was going to lose money. This is more about understanding the relative performance metrics of what I did when trying to assess the value of doing other reporting on my own dime (or with grant money on some one else’s dime) and the potential outcomes.

Based on my previous blog post exploring Sochi costs, the total was €551.05 / US$766.18.

The actual ROI becomes complicated as it is a question of what my expected return is. This is actually a difficult question, especially when it comes to measuring media impact because it isn’t just page views that matter: there are a large variety of factors that play into the effectiveness of media story telling and measuring ROI.

For the moment, let’s assume pure costs against pure page views is all I care about: 10 articles producing 14,078 views from March 1 to March 23 puts the cost per view at €0.039 a view.

Let’s make this a little more complex. In order to get to Sochi, I did a fair amount of reporting. There were 18 other articles mentioning the Winter Paralympics, including 11 from Copper Mountain, 2 right before I left for Sochi, 2 from La Molina, 3 internet based articles a few months before the Games. Let’s weight these a bit assuming the Sochi costs are born out for these articles based on the Sochi period (because they probably got page views they would not have had otherwise). The Sochi articles account for about 75% of all 2014 Winter Paralympics news coverage during that march period, and the other articles account for about 25% of all traffic. In this instance, total views Sochi value goes down to €0.029 a view and the non-Sochi value is €0.069. The bump while much smaller pays off more by having large volumes of news stories in the archives. On an average views per article, it goes from average total views per article for non-weighted for Sochi at €2.554 to €3.406 for weighted, versus non-in person Sochi €0.457 to €0.811. The €0.039 number views seems the most rationale in this case.

Let’s assume that pure production is the number that is cared about. Total cost per article is €55.105 an article for each article published while I was in Sochi.

While in Sochi, I wrote one blog post the day I left, seven while there and so far two after that excluding this one. I’ve written effectively 19 blog articles about preparing for, going and the follow up to the Sochi Paralympics. For me, this was an important part of my reporting and it complimented my reporting. It talked more about the process and the experience in a way that my pure sport reporting in a journalistic style did not. These ten articles had 8,496 views, syndicated and to my blog, between March 1 to March 23. The value of each individual view is €0.084. While I had the same number of blog entries, I had a lot fewer views.

From a pure money aspect, if only counting blog entries, it cost me €78.72 per blog post. Expensive. Let’s assume for a moment equal weighting of blogs and news articles. I produced 17 pieces of long form content. Each piece cost me €32.414 to write. If I combine the page views across both my blog and the published Wikinews articles, the average cost per total view is €0.024. Cheaper and cheaper per view. Combined views, this is not bad.

These numbers feel fine, but they are rather non-compelling. Yawn yawn.

There are other metrics to assess ROI in this case. The official English Wikinews account on Facebook linked to every article published from Sochi. These posts for the Sochi reporting combined were views 7,636 times. Seems pretty good. Of the ten articles, there were 25 times where they were linked to on Twitter. Twitter reach for these links exceeds 100,000 twitter accounts. The links were seen by a lot of people, the views were decent both to the blog and the news articles.

ROI might have been stronger had there been more Wikipedia work and Commons. Wikipedia allows no original reporting, and is thus useless in an original reporting context. (Journalists should not be going places as Wikipedians reporting for Wikipedia.) Commons was also off limits, because of two factors: The agreement as a member of the press is none of your photos can be uploaded commercially. This meant no event pictures could be uploaded to Commons. Second, Russia has no freedom of panorama. I tried to upload a photo anyway, and it got nominated for deletion. In this particular context, Commons content creation is not a factor in ROI.

So using pure page views, the answer is each view costs less than €0.10 each. The articles averaged €32.414 to write. I’m not actually sure how much more this ROI analysis adds. There really needs to be a formula to better figure this out.

Actual Sochi Paralympic budget

Armenian team at the Opening Ceremonies.

Armenian team at the Opening Ceremonies.

Before going to Sochi, I tried to budget and discussed this more in depth than people probably cared to know.  Budgeting is very important when you’re doing citizen journalism and you want to possibly get money to support your efforts.

Transportation involved two trips on the Russian metro at 40 rubles each, airport express train at 640 rubles, and a round trip train ticket from Moscow to Sochi at AU$125.  I got zapped with 116 RUBs for the train twice for sheets. Plane tickets were bought using frequent flier miles.  Retail price is showing me US$331. Do some converting: €0.78 + €12.59 + €81.12  + €4.564 + €238.06 = €337.11.  Not bad. About €100 if you subtract the plane ticket part out.

Hotel expense was €33 a night for five nights.  That equals €165.  Food was… That’s a bit harder to calculate.  I took with me €200 that I converted to rubles with no commission at €1 to 40 RUB.  la la la la.  Let’s go with €160 on for food and postage, with about €25 of that at the airport on the last day, including a breakfast that was 760 RuB / €14.87 from Burger King that included lots of stuff I did not want including a disgusting breakfast roll thing with a tomato in it.  Sbarros for lunch was much cheaper at 220 RUB / €4.328 which included two slices of pizza and a very large drink. Two bottles of Pepsi each ran 70 RUB / €1.377.

IMG_5223I screwed up and converted USD to RUB and did not convert it before I left Russia.  Ooops.  Add US$75.

All told, assuming actual cost of airline tickets, going to Sochi cost me €551.05 / US$766.18.  That isn’t that much.  Going to the London Paralympics, the cost was around AUD$7,500.  Costs were lower because I did not fly to Sochi, because I did not attend the whole games, because I missed meals, because I bought fewer souvenirs.   (It was AUD$15,000 for two people. This included everything from airfare to food to internet.)

What did this get me? Page views for all 2014 Winter Paralympics articles from 1 March to 14 March 2014 on English Wikinews total 14,685 views.  To be fair, I produced only 10 articles while in Sochi.

In London, myself and my fellow report produced around 50 to 60 total articles. That’s a huge volume.  My reporting partners in Sochi were Ukrainians, who were primarily writing in Ukrainian and doing their own work.  It wasn’t so much a partnership of working together to support each other’s English Wikinews reporting.  The page views for London original reporting around the Paralympic period total 78,943 views.  That’s about 5 times as many views.  The costs for London were 17 times higher: €9734.25 / €551.05 = 17.  I think reporting wise, I got my money’s worth here.

I think, when I do a better metric analysis, some of the breakdowns will be interesting.  Where this reporting project fell down was background research and background writing for English Wikipedia… but I think the Ukrainian project will demonstrate why that matters and how useful that particular aspect can be.  I know that they had zero articles about the Paralympics before 1 March 2014 on Ukrainian Wikipedia.  They now have 53 pages with 23,803 total views from 1 March to 14 March, the fifth most visited Wikipedia for articles about the 2014 Winter Paralympics found in that category.  But that’s another analysis to look at Return of Investment for another time.

 

Thoughts before leaving Sochi Paralympics: Reporting issues and Paralympic news

Look! I'm media! So cool!

Look! I’m media! So cool!

I leave the Sochi Paralympics today. As a reporter, I met my publishing goals that I set before I left. I need to remember that: 1 article a day is a lot on many levels, and anything else was just bonus. Also, I’m not getting paid to be here, I’m a citizen journalist writing articles for a Wikimedia project. I do not have to answer to an editor “back home” or justify the expense of going to Sochi.

But at the same time, I would have liked to have done more. One of the inherent problems with not being able to dedicate yourself to the craft of journalism is there is a lack of contacts, sometimes a lack of knowledge, and a lack of practice. Reporting relies on contacts. Reporting also relies on boldness. Be bold. Ask the questions. Go where things are. I do not have the contacts, and I can get only 2/3rds of the way there on boldness. (I might have gotten more had I done more research.)

A selfie from the cross country on Sunday

A selfie from the cross country on Sunday

This is why at times I am frustrated by my reporting here: For a few things I wrote, I feel like 70% of what I wrote came from information sheets journalist are given, 25% from pictures I took on a journalist (not photography) accreditation. The color feels hard to come through when my knowledge of things like curling fails me. Plus, I feel like I should write about all four curling sheets, all four matches… not just one. One well placed rock in one end that does not appear like it had a result on the outcome. How do you write that well?

In the afternoon match of wheelchair curling, the United States threw some really bad rocks, weren’t playing aggressively to win initially against the Russians. They went to an 8th end down by three rocks. My understanding is after the 7th end, if you do not think you can win, no 8th end required. The United States wheelchair curlers played the final end much more aggressively. They were assisted in the 8th end by some bad Russian stones which shot the gap between US stones and left the scoring area. This could only be banked on so much, and the Russians did not always misplace rocks. Despite much better playing and having three stones in the scoring area with 2 rocks to go, Russia managed to place a stone the USA could not get out. The United States ended up short, scoring only two of the three points they needed in the 8th end. Unlike the game Canada was playing against Norway on the sheet next to them, there was no forcing an extra end.

Having done so much writing for Wikipedia at times, I struggle with how to write neutrally. I second guess and end up neuturing things. That felt like the case here.

When I get back somewhere (Spain or the USA), I will write more on some of

The United States enters during the Opening Ceremony

The United States enters during the Opening Ceremony

the issues involved with Sochi, better planning thoughts, how to be more successful at this sort of thing, and the metrics at the end of the day.

Let’s move on to other news agencies coverage of the Paralympics. In London during the Paralympics, the Associated Press was not to be found. I read the news often, and I rarely if ever any coverage of the Paralympics. I did not see any reporters on the ground. Here in Sochi, it is a different case. There are USA journalists, several of whom are based up in the mountains. There is media coverage. There is television coverage. (Though I have been told NBC has few people here, with most of the NBC people using OBS feeds and as a consequence being based in the USA.)

I’m not entirely certain I am happy with other United States coverage that I have seen. It appears to take three forms: 1) Ukraine. 2) Oscar Pistorious. 3) Crashes.

I feel tremendous sympathy for the Ukraine. That situation has to a degree impacted my ability to do my reporting here. It is horrible what is going on in the Ukraine, and I cannot imagine the additional stress on the Ukrainian athletes and officials. But some of the reporting appears to hugely political. Craig Spence and Philip Craven were right about things being about sport. So when journalists appear to use the Paralympics as a throwaway line to make a political point about Putin while ignoring the broader issues of inclusion and the elite sport going on, it gets annoying. This is especially annoying when the Paralympics are not contextualized and most USAians have no idea what the Paralympics are about. Many of these sportspeople here get little news coverage outside the Paralympic period, so taking away their moment in the sun by making their participation part of some political disalogue gets annoying. Did I mention annoying? Perhaps I would find this news coverage about the Ukraine aspect less annoying if for every mention of the Ukraine in a Paralympic context, there was a sports articles about the performance of sportspeople… you know, like the Olympics.

The other thing that is annoying is the Oscar Pistorious thing. I don’t know whether I should be blaming the IPC here or the media. Everything is fundamentally political on some level in decision making. The IPC embracing of Vladmir Putin was political. The IPC embracing Oscar Pistorious and chosing to highlight his accomplishments on the big screen was a political decision of sorts. The IPC is chosing to align itself with a man who killed a woman (murdered is to be determined, killed is not disputed), who allegedly cheated on another woman and who liked to play with guns. The IPC chose to align with some one who, after winning silver in the London Paralympics, protested that the person who won gold had an unfair competitive advantage because of his blade. This was a guy who went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to say his own blades did not give a competitive advantage. Hypocrisy, thy name is…

Anyway, back to Oscar and the media. The Associated Press was asking sportspeople about that. You’re a Ukrainian Paralympian. Your race ends. You have won a medal. A United States journalist asks you about… OSCAR PISTRIOUS! You are an American Paralympic medalist and your race ends and a United States journalist asks you about OSCAR PISTORIOUS! ZOMG. So awesome. Where was this during the Olympics? During the Olympics, I did not see a single Associated Press article where, following a person winning their medal in Sochi, the winner was asked, “Are you following the Oscar Pistrious situation? How does his actions impact your Olympic experience? How do you feel as an Olympian being connected to Oscar?” This feels like lazy journalism. Bold to be sure, but lazy. Maybe I have been too inside the movement, but I think the key to Paralympic success and disability access being improve is to focus on the sports. These are elite athletes. They train really hard. They give up a lot to be where they are. When their moment in the sun comes, when they become the best in their field, they get asked about Oscar. Their own accomplishments are ignored.

The last thing I have seen involves crashes and hospitalizations. That make news. I have a harder time faulting this one, though I would like to see more emphasis on success. Great Bitain can do that. Why can’t the USA media?

Sochi Winter Paralympics continues with Russia sweeping podium in men’s cross country

Ooops.  Lost my pen cap.

Ooops. Lost my pen cap.

Sport continued yesterday at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi. With four sports on offer, I chose to go to the cross country skiing as I’d never seen that sport live before. At 11 C at start time, it was a strange temperature for skiing. Looking at the course walking past it, I could see the snow conditions looked iffy because the snow was rather dark in spots. Bundled up, I was too warm. Ski socks,jeans, long under wear, a t-shirt and winter coat. Not the thing to be wearing to watch skiing while in Sochi. At least the waterproof boots came in handy…

It was a beautiful and warm day up in the mountains.

It was a beautiful and warm day up in the mountains.

There were two races on offer, the men’s sitting 15km in the morning and the women’s sitting 12km in the afternoon. Both were good races and fun to watch. The crowd was less problematic feeling than the one at the sledge hockey. Russia swept the men’s side, but the USA managed to pick up a silver medal on the women’s side. Ukraine also won a medal, continuing their dominance on the medal table. They currently rank second, behind only Russia. Spain is ahead of the United States, because while they have only one medal, it is gold. Jon Santacana won it in the men’s visually impaired downhill. The United States has five total medals, three silver and two bronze. This puts them ninth overall in the medal count. Despite the United States’s relative success at the Olympic Games, there is no history of medal dominance on the Paralympic side. Neither Australia nor New Zealand have medalled yet at these Games.

As a reporter, the day felt mildly disappointing.  Sochi does not feel like it is set up with journalists in mind. It is not easy to report from these Games.  I do not know if this is deliberate or not.  I talked to some other reporters.  Everyone appears to have had issues with their accreditation arriving late. The lack of English problem is a huge problem.  (Speaking Italian or German or Spanish does not appear to be any advantage.) Failure to understand in some cases leads to people speaking slower to you in Russian, as if that would help. I’ve done this to others as an English speaker a few times, and you know, I may think twice about doing that because it is annoying. No, I do not understand and speaking more slowly to me does not help.

I have tried to get my Ukrainians to talk to people for me, translate what they are saying and get a better feel for what is going on. Thus, we talked to some eastern Ukrainians who had been living in Russia for six years. The attitude apparently was why don’t I know Russian? I must have a problem. When asking for help, in Russian, I know on at least two occasions, my Ukrainian has been rudely asked, “Can’t you read? What’s your problem that you can’t read the sign?” Well, as we’ve learned, signs in Sochi often do not point you where you need to go at all. Buses that say they are going one place often end up in another place. You want to hit your head against the wall.

While trying to talk to others, I had the Ukrainian talk to a journalist from Kazakstan and just generally find out which “side” he was taking in the Crimea situation. Apparently, he wanted the side of peace, which was apparently implying with Russia. Following the press conference the other day, two Russian reporters asked one of the Ukrainians (tag teamed him, they did) why they would not accept Russia trying to bring peace to the Ukraine? Why did they reject Russian efforts to bring peace to their country?

Met some Americans yesterday and talked to them. They had similar issues that I’ve experienced in terms of the language problem and the getting around problem and the general vibe issue. In talking to the Ukrainian, they were more on his “side” and asked questions about how it was impacting him personally. This was completely different than the experience with others.

And this political thing hangs heavy over the Games. It does. No matter how much Craig Spence and Philip Craven would like to think otherwise or hope it would be otherwise, it hangs heavy. London political issues were flash in the pan, small stuff compared to this.

I doubt the Ukraine will leave the Games now. They are second on the medal tables, and their performance as sportspeople gives testament to their strength.

But that doesn’t mean all is good and outside the Ukrainians doing their thing, everyone else forgets. Apparently a 16 year old Russian competitor told the media he thinks the Ukrainians should accept Russia’s offer to try to bring peace. Erk?

Today is my last full day reporting on the Games. The strangeness of yesterday left me feeling unmotivated to write any news articles yesterday. I’m not connected with the United States Paralympic Team. I didn’t prep Wikipedia articles like I did for the Australian team before London. I don’t have the contacts. I’m the only one writing in English. While I managed about three articles the day before and met my writing goal for the Games already, I feel like I could have and should have done better yesterday by producing something. But no desks, the encroachment of the fans in the media section doing lots of Russian chanting, seating where I was worried about my stuff falling under it (lost my pen to that), the lack of power to plug things into, the tables in the press center being standing only for the most part, the smallness of the space, not being based in the mountain cluster and spending at least an hour trying to figure out the confusing bus system… just not conducive to writing news articles. (The bus situation is truly awful. There is no real special media transport, so you end up on busses where you are packed like sardines with lots of spectators while you have all your reporting equipment. You don’t know where you are going and finding people to help is near impossible. The buses were not running frequently despite the events for the day having just concluded.)

I am hopeful I can get something published about today’s events. I’m not optimistic. I am trying to remember the important thing was that as a Wikimedian, I made it here as accredited media. It took a lot of work and I succeeded. Arriving here was an accomplishment in its own right.