Belgian men’s goalball team departs for Finland for World Championships

The story on English Wikinews that I got published yesterday was Belgian men’s goalball team departs for Finland for World Championships .  Like other stories, this one was inspired by things I saw on Facebook.  There isn’t much being written about the world championships in the English language media, and trying to find some way to do that in a way that is newsworthy? PITA.  I went with the easiest solution to discuss an event that is supposed to have started yesterday but where the actual games do not start until June 30.  I found a team competing that posted something, anything, about going.  In this case, it was a selfie that basically said, “We’re at the airport!  Hi! We’re offer!” and ran with that.

 

Because there was so little information available elsewhere, because nothing had been written recently for most other teams, there is pretty much no information about other teams. :/  Sad for anyone else wanting to write about the competition before it starts who don’t have ins with the team because of a local.  We’ll see.

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.

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?

Reporting day 1 of sports

IMG_5120

The Awesome team Canada takes to the ice for their first game of the Winter Paralympics.

Today was the first day of sports after last nights’ inauguration ceremony. Still having some small yet annoying issues that impact my reporting. The kettle in my room doesn’t work.  The Russians still do not know where things are.  The signage is awful in many places.  The bank is not open.  There is no currency exchange around.  Food options outside my hotel and the Olympic Park do not appear to exist.  The signs in the hotel say leave towels on the floor if you want new ones, and to leave them hanging if you did not: I left them hanging and the towels went away but no new towels. All I am eating is McDonalds, free cookies and Coca Cola. There was a sign in the bathroom at the hockey stadium that said do not put toilet paper in the toilet.  The USA embassy sent me an e-mail saying avoid certain parts of Moscow because of a protest. The host country is invading some one else. That’s the picky stuff.  Maybe I am obsessing because London built my expectations so high?

 

It is now time for sports. Because of waking up late and feeling sick, I missed the biathlon so I went to ice hockey instead. This time, everything went smoothly.  Buses were where I expected them.  They took me where I wanted to go.  The signage for sledge hockey venue for the media was better, so I was able to easily find where I needed to be.  Happiness.

I had three sports I wanted to see while in Sochi: Sledge hockey, cross country or biathlon, and wheelchair curling.  Since I’ve been interested in the Paralympics, I have been living in countries where these are not the winter Paralympic sports of choice and I have not seen them live.

Sledge hockey was awesome, though a bit disconcerting at first because the sledge the players sit on has two parallel blades under at most a third of the sledge.  They are tall enough that the puck passes under them.  When watching, I had a few moments of whut? Where? How?  Mental processing.

I showed up to see the overtime shootout win of Norway over the Czech Republic.  I watched the Canadians just totally dismantle Sweden 10 – 1.  All fine, all awesome.  The fans were great in supporting both teams and supporting good hockey.

And then we hit the game where Team USA played Italy.  Since I’ve been in Spain, I have been a bit more conscious that I am an American.  It is just a fact of the language barrier.  I can’t feel Spanish like I could feel Australian.  In any case, neither here nor there.  I am an American. I love my country in my own special way.  People treat me like I am an American.

The wonderful view from my hotel room

The wonderful view from my hotel room.  Notice the Paralympic flame.  It is perfectly placed for me to look at from bed.

Thus the Russian fans worked to grate on my nerves.  Sir Philip Craven talked about how sports should transcend politics.  Some one should have told the Russian fans that.  They were openly partisan.  They cheered loudly every time the Italians got the puck.  They rocked the house and wildly waved their Russian flags when the Italians scored their lone goal in Team USA’s 5-1 victory over Italy.  When the USA scored, there was little applause and most of it came from the section where the American fans were sitting.  During the intermission, the person doing the big screen in house entertainment went to talk to fans of Team USA. The nice female presenter asked the pair of USA bedecked male fans to do the Team USA chant.  They did.  A number of people in the audience booed.  Booed.

They booed.  It grated hugely on my nerves.  I was in London for those Paralympics.  Those are my benchmarks for awesomeness.  They were truly awesome on multiple levels.  This includes the volunteers and the fans.  The huge numbers of fans and the locals cheering for high quality play, no matter the country: This was a standout of the London Paralympics.  In London, I did not hear this sort of political, partisan booing against teams Great Britain has issues with, including when Iran played Argentina before a home crowd.  Remember that little Falklands War? Yeah.

So I am clearly not impressed with the Russian fans here.  I was also less impressed with the opening ceremony, which at times felt slightly militaristic in tone.  I liked the inclusion of sexual orientation in things that should not be discriminated against during the Games. I liked less the personal public thanks from Sir Philip Craven to Vladmir Putin. (Hey! I saw Putin live in person before Obama! What a strange place this world?)  It felt uncomfortable, more uncomfortable when I woke up and read the morning news about Russian actions and statements regarding the Ukraine.

In London, I felt like I got a sense of place.  Everyone wanted to talk, including volunteers and other reporters.  It was awesome.  Everyone wanted to help.  I don’t get that here.  It is sad.  I don’t quite get a feel of Russia so much.  I have memories of watching Pat O’Brien during the Lillehammer Olympics, reporting from the International Broadcasting Center before a fire and getting this awesome feel every night that it was a small Norwegian ski resort town that felt homey and Norwegian, with the fireplace.  Now that I am at a Games on par with that, I kind of want and crave that Olympic feeling that Pat O’Brian gave me during Lillehammer as a kid, only in person.

How much of this is my own cultural baggage of growing up in the United States in the dying days of the Soviet Union, I do not know. I’d like to think I have transcended such bias, or at least am at a point where I can own and recognize it.

 

But hey the sport is good so far.

Articles published so far:

The reality of reporting from the Olympic and Paralympic Games

I have seen a fair amount of criticism lobbed at the media for their failure to cover a number of Russian related topics during the Olympic Games.  The LGBT topic should have gotten more attention.  Orphan children should have gotten more attention.  The deplorable situation regarding the environmental impact and the unhappiness of the locals in Sochi over the Games should have gotten more attention.

All of these are likely true, but ignore certain reporting constraints that take place during a major event like this.  I write for Wikinews, a Wikimedia Foundation project. I feel lucky to be able to attend the Paralympics because I am not part of a major newspaper, am not a broadcast rights holder, write for a volunteer driven project.  In order to get media accreditation, my news organization has to do a lot of work to demonstrate that we cover winter sports.  This involves going to world championships or other events, interviewing people, and otherwise demonstrating that we know something about the Paralympics.  We’re basically on some level showing we can promote the Paralympics.  For the Olympics, this process is particularly competitive and readership plays a huge part.  Freelancers are just not able to get media accreditation.  You have to be part of a media organization.  Most media organizations going are going to report on The Games.  Full stop.

My visa to get to Russia for the Games arrived February 14.  I could have probably left immediately and tried to do some reporting on those issues for Wikinews.  Several problems though: 1) Lack of funding.  I could not afford to do that if I wanted to.  If you look on Kickstarter and other funding projects for journalism, there isn’t much money being given to that. 2) I do not speak Russian.  This is a huge hurdle.  It makes it very difficult to do reporting. 3) I do not have the contact base to do reporting from Russia on these issues.  Contacts matter in reporting.  It means people talk to you, know you, trust you.  They are key to getting things done. 4) I wanted media accreditation to primarily cover sports and provide attention to disability sport.  I did not come to Sochi primarily to cover these other topics, which would mean spending time and energy away from The Games.

I have not been inside other news organizations, so I can only guess what is going on but I would think their issues would be similar.  It costs money to do that sort of reporting.  Newsrooms across the globe have been shedding global staff, and shuttering their international correspondences desks.  Instead, they have opted for freelancers and stringers.  The economics of this reporting then are not great.  (In my case, I am a volunteer so the economics are what can I afford? And the sister project to Wikinews is Wikipedia, which allows no original reporting.  They just repeat the main stream media.) Many of the people going to the Paralympics and Olympics are sport reporters. They are here to report on sports.  That is what they know how to do.  That is what they are paid to do.  Would you go to a neurosurgeon for knee reconstruction?  Probably not.  Larger news organizations with more media accreditations may be able to afford to do that.  They may also be able to be better placed to hire stringers who can report on these issues because visas are not an issue if a person is a local reporter already inside Russia.  In London, a lot of these questions got asked at press conferences because the local media asked them.  The local media here is unlikely to be asking those questions. But by and large, it just isn’t very feasible here.

There are ways to report on these issues from inside the Games in Sochi.  They just take work, and editorial people back at home base approving of this.  I’ll try to do my bit, but please do not be hugely disappointed if I cannot deliver a lot on Putin, the Ukraine and lastly the Paralympics.  Not what I am here for though I am really going to make the effort to try.