NMC Director tells UNESCO forum professional journalism is valuable to sport and society
Society including dominant sectors such as the sports industry need a viable News Media to help bring about positive social change, Andrew Moger, the Director of the News Media Coalition (NMC), told a high level public policy forum.
There were numerous daily examples around the world, he said, where news and sports journalism in its various forms had shed light for instance on problems of in-stadia racism and hooliganism, maladministration in sport, match-fixing, issues of funding and the increasing concern of sports stars and sports journalists being abused and threatened online. Moger was speaking during an international conference webinar organised by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the specialised agency of the United Nations aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture.
The theme of the session was how the private sector could be a ‘co-driver for social change’. Moger stated that news publishers and news agencies devoted significant resources to sports coverage, including reporters, photographers, video news journalist and comment-writers producing thousands of stories and witness accounts every day – and often driving debate leading to change. Some times this involved taking a more active role in provoking change, in addition to reporting the news. Citing recent failed plans by certain major football clubs to form a breakaway European Super League, Moger said : ‘This is an example where the news media have driven debate towards a particular end point’. Similarly, in the context of online abuse, he said that many news publishers operating in the UK and outside independently decided to suspend posting football updates on social media during the previous weekend in solidarity with the sports world’s boycott of social media platforms.’
The news industry was complex yet dynamic, said Moger, who went on to reference an overnight story run by a number of NMC members including Agence France Press and the Daily Mail online and other news websites around the world. This concerned Liz Cambage, Australian basketball star, who hit out at what she claimed was a lack of racial diversity in Australian Olympic team promotional photo shoots, threatening to boycott the Tokyo Games in protest. Her initial Instagram post had been spotted by the Press who had then sought a response from the Australian Olympic Committee, which later admitted the athletes involved ‘should have better reflected the rich diversity of athletes who represent Australia at the Olympic Games.’ The olympic committee, according to the AFP report, stated: ‘From Indigenous reconciliation, people of colour, gender equality and all forms of diversity, the AOC is rightly proud of its record,’ adding that there would be further photo shoots “that reflect our broad diversity of athletes’.
In one 24 hour news cycle an issue had been highlighted by the news media and a small but important contribution to social change had come about, said Moger.
The role of the news media should not be taken for granted, he said, just because the creation and consumption of news was an everyday reality. The News Media can do best for society when it is not faced with arbitrary restrictions on how it can report on sport: ‘It must be said that all sport reporters, photographers love successful sport, love to report on successful athletes. But it remains in the ethos of journalism to criticise and call out wrongdoing when it occurs. To do this, journalists need access to information, which is not always possible. They need to witness what is going on, which is sometimes difficult in a highly commercialised media rights environment.“
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