Media coverage here and abroad

Clare Forrester

Wednesday, August 08, 2012    

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FULL credit to all concerned for the media coverage of the home response to the first two victories by Jamaica's Olympic team here in London. Videos posted online of scenes in Half-Way-Tree especially have gone viral and remain in hot demand. While we can never expect similarly prominent treatment from other national news outlets, it would have been nice to be able to find a photo of Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in victory mode published the following day in the print media. Rather these, to some extent understandably, were dominated with the faces of the three UK gold medallists who shared their victories with Fraser-Pryce on the same day. To be fair, the various wire services did fill the gap as expected, but I still feel that given the sizable Caribbean diaspora in the UK, the audience is there for the sort of treatment that a pin-up size photo of the defending 100-metre champion called for.

Interestingly, news of Shelly-Ann's triumph and related photographs hit the headlines of major newspapers in other large countries right around the world - Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, to name a few. There was no mistaking the message that the world has viewed the London competition for the 100-metre titles especially, as a rivalry between Jamaica and the US for sprint dominance, with the US determined to break the stranglehold held on the 100 metres by Jamaica.

This acknowledgement was also reflected in the first story that I read early the morning after in the online New York Times, although this account carried a blown-up photograph of a forlorn-looking Carmelita Jeter, the silver medallist, with the US flag draped around her shoulders, rather than one of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. In addition, the lead into that story was that small Jamaica with a population of less than three million had gained the upper hand over the more powerful US.

This lead was consistent with a line of questions posed to Shelly-Ann by a US woman journalist at the post-race press conference. The journalist wanted to know how she felt about her tiny country beating the US. There were other questions by journalists from some of the better-known sports publications which were not quite complimentary of Jamaica's way of life. Quite frankly, many of both the print and broadcast journalists at these press conferences seem more eager to pose questions than the quality of the questions. Hence many are merely repeats of questions that were already answered.

Against that background, though, Shelly-Ann was a class act. Not only was she articulate, but excelled in the quality of her responses to all the questions. Colleague journalists from other Caribbean islands volunteered this information to me stating how impressed they were with the way she handled herself in the responses she gave. There was much substance in her answers from which they all could develop stories. There is definitely a future for this young woman whenever she chooses to hang up her spikes.

For many years I had felt that that was one area that the Bahamian star athletes held sway over Jamaicans, but there are signs that things are changing for the better, and when you sit in on a post-race press conference with Shelly-Ann at the head table, you know that you will have reason to want to be - as the high commissioner said jokingly earlier this week - regarded as "Jamaicanly".

At the wekend I learnt that the BBC World Service was seeking a one-on-one with our sprint champion. That at least is encouraging and by now I trust that they were able to connect with our team officials. It's difficult to imagine why such an important news agency would have any difficulty at all pinning down such an interview expeditiously. After all, this is partly about Brand Jamaica.

The other media-related item was the strong current of criticisms against the giant US network NBC, which has exclusive TV rights for the Olympics in the US. They were not only criticised by viewers in that country about their coverage of the Olympics in general, but especially for their delayed coverage of the 100-metre finals for men, instead saving the footage for their prime-time recap Sunday evening. Based on reports, an estimated television audience of two billion people around the world watched as Usain Bolt thrashed his rivals to win gold in the men's 100m final - but none of them were in the US, as NBC declined to broadcast the historic moment live.

The criticisms were perhaps a bit unfortunate as, based on my feedback and pre-games promotions, the NBC coverage is the best they have ever provided of the Olympics. Friends based in some parts of the US sent me messages expressing some satisfaction that they could for the first time remain at home and watch the events live on TV. But as the marquee event, the 100 metres was not one to have been treated to delayed coverage anywhere in the world. As one critic tweeted, if the US was assured of dominance in the event then the coverage would most likely have been handled differently. Who knows?

Interestingly, though, the UK Mail online which carried this story, published a gallery of some wow-type photographs of Sunday night scenes during the 100 metres. Trouble is that one of the photographs, showing Prince Harry and party in the stands, was captioned: "Prince Harry wore Jamaican colours as he accompanied his brother and sister-in-law at the athletics." It is to be noted that the colour of Prince Harry's scarf, which presumably was what was referred to, was black, green, gold and red. Well, at least the green was there.

Much has already been written about the CMC coverage in Jamaica, especially about the quality of the reception or non-reception in several rural areas. I have yet to learn what has transpired, if anything, from the last caution correspondence from the Broadcasting Commission to that media house.

Medal count

Following that most unfortunate mishap involving Brigitte Foster-Hylton on Monday morning when she crashed into a hurdle and so was unable to advance from Round one in her event, my medal count is now reduced by two. The second was when Novlene Williams-Mills ended her campaign for a medal in the 400 metres. Despite these mishaps, we have much to give thanks for and are very much still in the hunt for several more medals.





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