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Regional journalists slam poor treatment of working media at NACAC meets

Observer writer

Thursday, October 29, 2020

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Two leading Caribbean track and field journalists have called on the North and Central American and Caribbean Confederation (NACAC) for a standardisation of requirements for media facilities at meets in the region, especially at the annual CARIFTA Games.

Kwame Laurence, a reporter with the Trinidad Express, and Kermit Taylor, a well-travelled photographer from The Bahamas, have called on NACAC to establish facilities and other requirements for media workers compatible to those established by World Athletics for their global championships.

The calls came at a recent virtual NACAC Media Round Table that was chaired by President Mike Sands, who told the meeting the sub-continental association was in “transition mode” and seeking ways “to improve and to move forward”.

Laurence, who has covered the CARIFTA Games from 1997 when it was hosted by Barbados and attended the most recent staging in 2019 in the Cayman Islands, said: “What has stood out for me are inconsistencies in standards when it comes to media facilities, you would expect things to improve each year, but that has not been the case.”

Laurence and Taylor called for experienced journalists who have attended international championships to be consulted by local organising committees (LOCs) when preparing for events, and in the situation that the host country doesn't have anyone, then NACAC should include an experienced journalist in their party that goes to inspect the facilities.

Laurence pointed out that given that it appears that each LOC “is being called on to reinvent the wheel, there is obviously a need for a NACAC document that outlines the requirements for media facilities”.

“LOCs have to be held unaccountable in following these guidelines, and if a document already exists it is clear that LOCS have not been adhering to it,” he added.

Laurence also addressed what he described as the “last-minute syndrome” adopted by some LOCs when dealing with the media, the new incidents of some hosts charging members of the media for accreditation, access to reliable Internet and electricity before the start of and during events, saying that even after competition ended, the media's job was far from over.

Official media hotels with reliable Internet and dedicated transportation for the media should also be part of the consideration when countries are bidding to host CARIFTA Games, the Trinidadian said.

“The official NACAC document that I propose has to be based on the standard established by World Athletics for their championships meets and it can be adhered to and also be used for other meets in the NACAC ambit,” Luarence suggested.

“CARIFTA Games is considered as one of the best, if not the best junior meet in the world, the goal should be to establish high standards across the board, including the media facilities,” he said.

On the subject of accreditation fee for the media, a relatively new situation, Laurence said: “This is a global standard in athletics and the media should not have to pay to do their jobs, and World Athletics has no fees attached to coverage of their sports at its championships events.”

“Because there is no document to provide guidance, from time to time, LOCs come up with the bright idea to earn some money. As Caribbean journalists we say no to any such fees and as a member of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS), I again say an emphatic no,” Laurence noted.

With the last-minute approach to preparing for media, Laurence said if there were documented guidelines to follow, “haphazard arrangements can be eliminated, as journalists we have had to endure inadequate, awkwardly positioned press tribunes”.

“The proposed NACAC document should address this. We know the document is not being written today, but what I can say, the media needs to be given finish line seating with proper work stations, a good view of the entire track and quick easy access to the mixed zone and there must be an adequate power supply and strong reliable Internet connections, this is the basic standards and you would think that this would be in place now, this is not the reality,” he continued.

Apart from the times when the championships are taking place, there are other considerations that are not being taken into account.

“While the meet will be over on the track, the media's work continues and we are requesting for a minimums of two hour after each day, the light and Internet must stay on so we can keep working. This might seem obvious, but it is not, I know what is it like to have lights and the internet turned off on me and I know many others who know this as well,” Laurence stated.

The Internet, he argued, “should be in place two days before so when the early arriving media get there and go to the stadium to do stories and take photos”, they are often left scrambling to make deadlines or have to rush back to hotels.

Proper mixed zones where journalists can interview athletes after their competition are needed needed along with volunteers that would ensure the athletes are available for short interviews.

Given the frequency of results sites crashing at these meets, Laurence said “four committed volunteers should be assigned to provide printed results when they become necessary as the sites can fail and often do”.

For accommodation of the media from the region, he said: “Early identification of media hotel with special rates and reliable Internet service [should be done] since we often work from our hotel rooms late at nights and early mornings.”

“It is becoming more and more challenging for journalists to attend the games, and while we are sometimes able to get reasonable-priced flights, the accommodation costs are a major deterrent,” Laurence went on.

Taylor, for his part, argued that if LOCs are not able to appoint suitably qualified persons to manage the photographers, then NACAC should appoint a photograph commission, and if necessary, train them for the job.

“It will continue to be a challenge if this is not done soon,” he said, pointing to a number of challenges photo journalists had in Cayman last year, especially as the host broadcasters had restrictions about where they could set up to shoot.

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