Fresh Media 2010

The Olympics and the changing landscape of journalism.

Credit: Flickr / Kris Krug

Professor Andy Miah discusses the ever-changing face of journalism as highlighted by the Olympic Movement

On February 23, while some Olympic-focused journalists enjoyed massages, others joined bloggers and tweeps from around the world for an afternoon of dialogue at the W2 media space.

Hosted by W2 Community Media Arts Society executive director Irwin Oostindie, the Fresh Media conference began with a keynote speech by professor Andy Miah, who raised interesting questions about the role of media in the representation of social change and the Olympic Games.

“My experience of the Games [this year] is not through TV, probably for the first time. Rather it is through Twitter, [through] my Tweetdeck, that I load up every day. This is how [some] people are encountering the Games. I think that is important: how we use technologies to visualize the Games [as well as]… how those new media are trying to become part of the conversation,” states Miah.

VIDEO: How W2 is creating a space for an alternative media narrative

Great video by the BBC explores the role of Gastown’s W2 Culture + Media House in constructing a broader media narrative beyond the Olympics sporting events.

Tracing the development of Olympic activism from Mexico’s 1968 Games to the present, Miah noted that the Olympic Movement has always consciously aimed to develop and encourage social change. However, that goal can be undermined by the organization’s own tightly controlled avenues of access and expression.

For example, contracts with artists restrict some public expressions during the Games, while media outlets have been critiqued in light of sponsorship deals with the Games.

This year’s Games coincides with a rapidly evolving definition of “journalist,” which now includes independent bloggers alongside multinational broadcasters. Miah observed “there’s a strong sense that the old media are fishes out of water, occupying a world without understanding what it is about” in their attempts to employ social media in coverage. However, he noted that access to technology isn’t everything: to make a large impact, the techniques of social media must reach broader audiences and overcome inequalities from lack of media literacy and the “digital divide.”

“What is left to do?” Miah concludes, “Think critically about what stories need to be told… The Olympics is an entity that raises social issues, but doesn’t always address them.”