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paul92

American Media's Disgraceful Paralympic Coverage

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So, I already knew Americans don't know much about the Paralympics - so I thought I'd check out US news sites.

So on each website's front pages:

Fox: No mention

CBS: Only reports that Prince William and Kate will be attending.

ABC: Has a link half way down their latest headlines section.

I consider CNN to be the most respectable so I thought they would at least have a photo and headline near the top, but...

(And this is the US edition, not international)

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So nothing in the first half of the page...best I keep scrolling...

BINGO!

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Just realised I've missed out NBC News, the Paralympic broadcast, of course - they must have some big news article about it...?

0 mentions on NBC's front page....

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Well, it IS the Paralympics. Very worthy and all, but it's not going to keep the world spellbound for the next few weeks like the deal deal a month ago did. I'm not expecting much coverage down here either.

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That shouldn't be the point.

So many news sources are brushing the Paralympics under the carpet.

Why?

Because talking about people with the odd arm or leg missing is still a taboo subject.

The only way these barriers will be broken down is by allowing these athletes into the public spotlight and not shutting the door on them.

There are over 4,000 athletes from 147 nations taking part in the Paralympics. There is no excuse for not giving this event the attention it deserves.

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But it's a bit naive to expect them to get the same sort of spotlight and media frenzy as the senior games. Yes, the Paralympics are a noble endeavour, and disabled sports is an inspiring outlet for sections of the world community.

But, and I really don't want to sound callous about this, broadcasters and print and digital media aren't about to give them blanket, or even extended, coverage purely as a goodwill gesture. They want ratings, and Paralymics just don't rate. They don't command the widespread attention that able-bodied sports own at all times.

I'd love to be proven wrong, but as far as I'm aware, no disabled sporting leagues get prime time coverage of their events at any other times of the four year cycle. I sure can't remember seeing coverage of any disabled world championship of any sport outside of the paralympics. In sports and entertainment, it's senior sports that have the economic leverage. And able-bodies sports are what we aspire to participate in - most of us probably engage in activities that culminate in the Olympics - be it just cycling to work, swimming at a pool in summer, working out at the gym or social football on the weekends. It's great that, god forbid, there are activities we can take up if we ever become disabled, but most all of us hope we stay healthy and don't have to.

I probably do agree though that it would perhaps be better for their profile for the Paralympics to be staged in the lead-up to a games. Maybe a month or even two before. They would be able to feed on the anticipation leading up to a senior Olympics, they would act as teasers for the main games for the broadcasters who are already in place for the bigger event, they would help to test out facilities and structures. I can see a lot of positives for them in being the appetiser for the main event, rather than the night-cap afterthought after mostly everyone has left.

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I agree with Rols.

Also have to say, is it also a bigger issue in terms of the American markets interest in world sports in general? (as in, not one of the major league sports such as NFL , NBA, MLB etc)

It's not as if the masses are enraptured with the FIFA World Cup, how bout the Rugby World Cup?

If they can't get engaged in those, what chance do we have in the US media being interested in boccia?

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But, and I really don't want to sound callous about this, broadcasters and print and digital media aren't about to give them blanket, or even extended, coverage purely as a goodwill gesture.

But there are major news outlets which don't even feature have an article that the Paralympics have begun. No wonder most Americans aren't aware the games even exist.

And for the national broadcaster (NBC) to not even bother reporting on it, well that just shows they are not even trying.

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Just one to add a personal example. My partner/.husband's a nurse. I get squeamish myself in some of the things he talks about with other nurses and medico types. And he has worked stints in rehab with both the elderly and disabled. He's got a fantastic bedside manner, is liked by his patients, and doesn't have a problem with being confronted by the sharp edges of illness or disabilities.

Last night we were watching the news, and a news item previewing the Paralympics came on. And while I, as an Olympics fan, watched it with some interest, his reaction was: “I don't want to watch this, it disturbs me.”

As I said, this is a guy who is more than most used to dealing with people with disabilities, and is not usually put off by being confronted with such harsh and sad realities. But I can see his point of view that it's not something he'd watch for entertainment (which is really, down at heart, what all televised sport is).

As for me, I'm a fanatical Olympic fan, but I don't ever really watch the Paralympics, or expect to watch much this time. It's not high on my radar of what I want to see. If I do watch, it'll be more to see the venues that I've only recently been in myself, and see what they've done to them. I might have a slight interest in wheelchair rugby, but not enough to make a point of watching it.

Now I know quite a few people, friends or people I met there just recently, in the UK who will be attending events at the Paralympics. To a person, though, their main motivation is they want to go to Stratford to see the park, but couldn't get tickets for the “real” deal of the Olympics. Same thing happened in Sydney. I've no doubt Britons will follow them more avidly than they would normally, but more as something that is getting their attention in the aftermath and afterglow of the senior Games.

I'm sure the media in the USA … and Oz … and elsewhere will be following the fortunes of their own athletes and give some coverage to medal successes, and make mention of how paralympic sports and athletes can be inspirational. But it's not going to be something that suits many people's tastes to want to watch avidly. And it still wouldn't get the type of coverage than say, a senior Olympian winning a medal, or if Mike Tyson bit someone's ear off again, or Tiger Woods had another indiscretion, or any other notorious sporting “bad boy” did something coverage-worthy. That's life, it may be unfair, but that's the way it is.

Edited by Sir Rols

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The start of the Paralympics was mentioned on NBC's Nightly News (a national broadcast) this evening. Clips of the Opening Ceremony were shown.

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I don't mean to sound callous, but why does it deserve more news coverage than it is receiving? There are many gathers of 4,000 people from all over the world. Almost none of them get any media coverage. The Paralympics are getting some. How much should these events get.

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That shouldn't be the point.

So many news sources are brushing the Paralympics under the carpet.

Why?

Because talking about people with the odd arm or leg missing is still a taboo subject.

I think that's way off the mark, sorry Paul.

The difference is, we have a well-funded public-service broadcasting sector that can afford to broadcast events like the Paralympics. I'm thankful that this is the case, but I don't suppose we're really any "better" than America when it comes to disablity awareness or dealing with tabboo subjects. It's simply the case that their networks are profit driven and, like it or not, the Paras aren't going to generate the viewing figures for them or their advertisers. If our media landscape was the same, I don't think it'd be any different over here.

Edited by RobH

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we have a public broadcaster.

it's mostly tedious and shows downton abbey and meet the press, which not many people opt to do anymore.

it won't be covering the paralympics, but channel 1172, NBC sports 7, formerly the smooth latin 80s jazz station, will.

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There are many gathers of 4,000 people from all over the world. Almost none of them get any media coverage.

Would you care to clarify which sports events you are referring to? I'm rather curious!

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Would you care to clarify which sports events you are referring to? I'm rather curious!

I wasn't referring to sports necessarily. It's a 4,000 participant event. There are tons of them. Why are some more worthy of press than others? Note that the paralypics are getting more attention than most. How do we decide how much more is appropriate?

The media will largely ignore, for instance, The World Scout Jamboree. Is that "disgraceful"?

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In reply to the posts that started this thread, I have the following spontaneous thoughts:

1.) I think pretty much all of us can agree that the Paralympic athletes are of a rather impressive and remarkable calibre, as are sportsmen and sportswomen who manage to qualify for the Olympic Games. Just the fact that participation in both events requires an enormous amount of sacrifice, discipline and professionalism at the highest levels does mark these individuals (able-bodied and disabled) out as being deserving of recognition and respect. Nonetheless, questioning the realism of potential blanket coverage isn't callous - it's acknowledging certain facts, about the media and frankly ourselves.

2.) Further, it is quite clear that the Paralympic Games are somewhat overshadowed by much more extensive media coverage of the Olympic Games (which immediately precede them). That has a lot to do with the public have been confronted with the classical discourse on disabled people, which perceives the latter to be victims deserving of pity (as opposed to encouragement, respect and equality) - rather than masters of their own post-disability destiny. Hence, the assumption of network executives (say, in the United States, but also elsewhere) that the Paralympic Games won't "play" in primetime.

After all, let's face it, we're not used to the aesthetics of disabled athletes on a frequent basis - and some able-bodied people may find this experience, for better or worse, challenging. We aren't exposed to boccia, goal ball, powerlifting and wheelchair basketball on a daily basis. It's a vicious circle of sorts: because the media makes assumptions about people's viewing habits, their values and their topical flexibility, they relegate the Paralympics to being the "junior edition" of the Olympic Games. And because people don't get the option, they are unable to develop at least an appreciation of these sports and are instead relegated to watching the latest shenanigans of F-grade "celebrities" and talent-free "performers". That has little to do with a lack of interest, but a lack of options...BUT, things do change, and here's why...

3) Take me, for example: I haven't really had the chance to contemplate disability issues on a frequent basis, apart from the occasional news report on the accessibility of public spaces. I consider myself quite liberal, but there are other topics on my agenda. Yes, I did know about the Paralympic Games and (since I follow the IOC ins-and-outs) about the IOC/IPC agreement on the "one bid, two games" concept. But I had never ever seen the Opening Ceremony of a Paralympic Games yet. Yesterday, I did - and I was thrilled. In fact, I shall be making use of the livestreams offered by the IPC to at least get an idea of Paralympic sport - because, as a free man, I have that option to tune in. And if I appreciate it, I'll definitely tune in for more (in fact, after posting this, I'll go onto the IPC's smart player and tune into some quality cycling in the Velodrome to see Britain's first gold medalist). Same with the people who go to the stadiums - Sir Rols is right: I'm pretty sure a lot of them want a "second go" at the Olympic Park and are happy to use the Paralympic Games as an opportunity to explore this beautifully landscaped area that emerged from an industrial wasteland. But as they do so, these people will be exposed to Paralympic sport - it will affect them and their attitudes, and with a little bit of luck, they will have gained a broader appreciation of Paralympic sport as part of sport!

Another instance is the publicity around the Games - Channel 4's ad campaign in the UK, the prominence of someone like Oscar Pistorius, a myriad of high-quality livestreams being offered and TV coverage in most countries in the world. And that doesn't include the participation of many a country where disability was a taboo until a few years ago. Also, bear in mind - attitudes towards the disabled only started changing in the 1980s. Moreover, the Paralympic Games only exist since 1948 (when the Olympics were already 52 years old). They have come a long way since the days of Sir Ludwig Gutmann (see, I only made the association that this gentleman was basically the Pierre de Coubertin of the Paralympics). Think of the Paralympic Flag, the Gutmann foundation legend (Stoke Mandeville being the Paralympics' Olympia), the IPC being a more democratic version of the IOC...progress is being made.

But change takes time - it never comes easy. However, I think that these Paralympics will equate to another leap in the movement's history. That is good news - look at the fact that they are getting better with marketing...and as they get better and it becomes more marketable (and that's the name of the game these days), you'll certainly hear more about the Games. But until then, let's acknowledge how far the Paralympic Games have come since they were founded at the back of Stoke Mandeville hospital. Remember, the Olympic Games took decades to get to where they are now. From what I remember, until Munich, there was no blanket coverage of the Olympic Games. Things will change - but we will have to be more patient and stop expecting NBC and other corporations (whose perfectly legitimate objective is to make money for their shareholders; for we live in a free market society, and rightly so) to spoon-feed everything to us. If I relied on the state channels in the Netherlands or Germany to give me the Olympic coverage I wanted, London wouldn't have been half as much fun. This new Web 2.0 world is giving us more options than ever before...let's use them, Olympic and Paralympic style!

In closing, I offer my apologies for this rant and make a practical suggestion: Here's the link to the IPC's smart player - check out some Paralympic action, if you so fancy. If you like it, great! If not, no worries - but hey, at least we now have the option!

PS: Sorry for these rather unstructured thoughts - if you require any clarification, please let me know!

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