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Panpa Bulletin : May 2006
42 | PaNPa bULLETIN May 2006 PUbLISHING MaTTERS Peter ISaaCSon When Melbourne staged the Olympic Games in 1956, all newspapers could do was to report and picture it in black and white. What a dif- ference in 2006. In March, readers of metropolitan newspapers (and many of the larger provincials) for the first time got full value from the excruciatingly expensive presses publishers have installed in the past few years. For the 11 days of the Games, both competitors and spectators could be viewed the following day, in full color, by newspaper readers in all States and by the miracle of modern communications, in all the participating countries. Credit for the splendid coverage was shared between the on-the- spot photographers and journal- ists, their editors and the produc- tion teams at each publishing site. The strain on the media teams must have been tremendous. With tight deadlines, photogra- phers and journalists were con- stantly battling against the clock to get their pictures, accompa- nying captions and stories away. That they managed to do so every day and night of the 11 days of the Games was a magnificent feat of organisation by the newspapers and news services staff, abetted by the Games media liaison group and traffic police who cleared the way for couriers. At the time of writing I do not have circulation figures but I am willing to bet that the metros re- corded considerably higher sales for the duration of the Games. They may have retained some of the added readership. The opening and closing cer- emonies lent themselves to wide- angled, imaginative coverage. The joy of winning and the regret at loss was captured in close-ups of com- petitors. Spectators came alive in the many pictures that graphically illustrated the excitement of each day's contests. It was not only the illustrations that pictured the Games. Sports journalists, general reporters, col- umnists, commentators on almost every subject except sport, even leader writers wrote from their specific, highly specialised point of view. And what they wrote was, in many cases an acceptable com- mentary on a great sporting and societal event.Whether the Games acted as a generator of goodwill for the countries of the Common- wealth, as a means of bringing the white and the black nations and people closer together, whether they made the rich nations more sympathetic and helpful to the poor majority is problematical but the newspaper (and TV) coverage made it appear that they might. Might is the operative word. Royalists got their fill of the Queen, theDuke ofEdinburgh and Prince Edward - of the Queen in particular. She was photographed in all her grumpiness and the Duke in all his apparent boredom. The Prince was hardly noted. That the senior royals could spare just one day to attend the Games for which so many of her subjects,(in total, still comprising one third of the world population), had trained and exerted themselves so might- ily, was a sad commentary on the priorities of the Royal family. Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Brit- ain, a far more important person than the Queen, a far busier per- son than the Queen, spent longer and created more respect for his country than did Her Majesty. I believe her brief visit, equally briefly reported, added to, rather than detracted from, Australian's latent republicanism. It was surprising that so few journalists commented on the disjointed opening and closing ceremonies. The tackiness of both events was hidden from those who did not attend or see them on tele- visionby carefullychosen newspa- per images - and the impact of the magnificent fireworks displays. In this comment I was contradicted by Michael Gordon who praised the opening and closing as being 'audacious, quirky and dazzling'. Gordon also wrote 'if the idea of common wealth means anything, the Games should prompt the rich few to demonstrate more resolve to address the problems of the many poor'. No one would cavil at that sentiment. Of the events themselves there was no media criticism. Rightly so. The organisation at the vari- ous venues was professional and smooth, spectator accommo- dation first class - both rightly praised by the media. It was The Age that made the public relations coup of the year by publishing, in a stand-alone, tabloid supple- ment, the names of every one of the 15,000 volunteers whose ef- forts in and out of the venues con- tributed so greatly to the success of 'the friendly games'. It is four years until the next Commonwealth Games - Delhi 2010. Four years, with an Olympic Games beforehand, for newspa- pers to show again they can report and picture great sporting events with all, if not more, of the reality of the electronic media. Peter Isaacson is a publisher and life member of PanPa Commonwealth Games Peter Isaacson gives australian newspapers a much deserved pat on the back for the coverage of the Commonwealth Games Commonwealth Games 2006. australia’s Steve Hooker clears the bar to win gold in the pole vault. Fairfaxphotos