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Determining whether an Olympic athlete is from your coverage area

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mr. X, Jul 10, 2016.

  1. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    What should be the criteria for determining whether an Olympic athlete, or would-be Olympic athlete, is from your coverage area?

    A previous employer considered anyone who graduated from a high school in the coverage area as being from the area. (It stayed away from someone training in the area.)

    Is what is important where the person was raised or where he or she lives now?

    USA Swimming seemed to have the right standard in judging and supplying someone's hometown, USA Track & Field not so much.
  2. PaperDoll

    PaperDoll Well-Known Member


    One of my first assignments many years ago was to profile local Olympians. One fencer was claimed by five papers, since he'd been born in one place, went through high school in another, college in a third, then grad school, and was living and training somewhere completely different.

    "Hometown" is very vague, and sometimes just where the hospital happened to be (see also: Major League Baseball). The USOC media staff has a very detailed spreadsheet which includes birthplace, however the athlete defines hometown, college, and current residence. It might be posted on the media site -- does that still exist? -- after all the trials have concluded.

    I will take any local Olympians I can get -- and I've got two right now, both of whom went to high school in the area and whose families still live there. However, there is a national training facility in a sister paper's coverage area, and they don't do much with it -- or the potential Olympians who have spent quite a bit of time there.
  3. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Be as generous in your criteria as you can be, or want to be. In my experience, readers latch onto the idea that any Olympian has any ties to their town.

    Having covered/coordinated coverage of a couple of Olympics in the last 20 years or so, here's how I look at it:

    • Simply being born in a certain place doesn't necessarily make them "from" that place. You can couch it in copy by saying, "Smith, who was born in Podunk and grew up in [different state], blah blah blah." There's a chance his or her larger family remains in the area. I would not include them on a list of local Olympians, though.

    • If they spent their formative years (elementary school through high school) there, that's probably enough. I would include them on a list of local Olympians.

    • If you're a college town and they went to that school, then, yes, you can claim him or her. I would include them on a list of local Olympians.

    • If you're where they trained but have no other ties, it's iffy. Just because they used the local college's track, pool or weight room is a stretch. You could say, "Jones, who trained at Local College before the Olympics, blah blah blah" in copy. I would not include them on a list of local Olympians.

    • If they took up temporary residency at a private sports academy (such as IMG in Florida) in your town, that might change matters. I might include them on that list, depending on how long they stayed there.

    • If you have a national training center in your town, it's a stretch to claim him or her as having local ties because you'd have to claim everyone. I would not include them.

    • They don't necessarily have to currently live in your town to have local ties. But it helps. I would include them.

    If you want to cover your bases, compile a list before the games begin. Break them down by categories:


    You can run the list, if you'd like, to tell readers you're aware of connections and head off any complaint calls from great-grandparents, but it's probably more useful for you to decide where the dividing line is — or should be.

    Good luck, and have fun. (Covering the Olympics is one of a handful of things I miss about the newspaper business.)
    Alma likes this.
  4. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    It's your call. There are no rules. If you think an athlete has a connection to your area -- or, more important, if the people who live there think the athlete has a connection -- you cover him or her as a "hometown" athlete.
  5. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    Is that spreadsheet available now? If so, where?

    In 2012, I used the USOC Media Guide to determine who was from our coverage area. It looks like I went with the city of residence. Once I wrote about an athlete from an area college competing for a nation outside the U.S. she had dual citizenship from because it was a big story.

    I doubt the USOC Media Guide for the 2016 Olympics is out yet.
  6. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    If they win, they're from your area.
  7. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    What reformedhack said. And I'd claim anyone you can. Just be diligent in describing the connection. We used to claim a USMNT soccer player who was born here and moved away at like a year old. And tennis players who trained nearby. If we're talking a list it could get tricky, but as long as you're clear in a story/capsule there are no worries.
    reformedhack likes this.
  8. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    And the problem becomes when you don't have the manpower/institutional knowledge to keep up with it. But the Olympics is short enough you can make it work.
  9. ChrisLong

    ChrisLong Active Member

    I've been juggling this issue seems like forever. At my first job, we had a very prominent track club based in our city. But those tracksters can train anywhere and at least half of them lived in a different state. People I've never heard of were showing up in AP photos from Europe wearing the uniform with the name of our city prominent. I had frequent arguments with the director of the club about our coverage.
    At my last job, we always joked about this. "If they even thought about going to (prominent amusement park) they are ours."
  10. MTM

    MTM Well-Known Member

    We have a former NFL QB and onetime NBA coach who were born in our local hospital when their fathers coached at area schools, but have no ties otherwise as they both left as toddlers, and we treat that as a curiosity.

    We had an Olympic swimmer whose grandmother lived here while she competed and we were all over that.

    As others said, there are no rules.
    BDC99 likes this.
  11. Dog8Cats

    Dog8Cats Member

    reformedhack again to the rescue. I would absolutely follow the guidelines set out in that post -- very logical and defensible.

    I'd recommend researching and nailing down the case histories of the borderline "local" athletes. Then, when the higher-ups -- especially those who don't realize their paper has a sports section except during the Olympics -- want to know how much attention will be paid to Sam Sprinter (who left your circulation area, never to return, within 48 hours of the umbilical cord being cut), you'll be able to justify a reply such as, "A mention of where he was hatched, inserted subordinately to the important facts of his performance, will be made."
    reformedhack likes this.
  12. PaperDoll

    PaperDoll Well-Known Member

    Precisely. It amazes me how my paper's coverage area has expanded based on the success of certain schools/towns in certain sports.

    Mr. X, I got the statewide list of Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls from USOC/USA Paralympics PR contacts I found online.

    When I followed up with the governing body for one supposed local, I was told she doesn't live here, and seemingly didn't train here, regardless of what the spreadsheet said. At least one truly local person said, "Well, yes, I'm an Olympic hopeful. Aren't we all?" before adding she had no shot and wasn't interested in being interviewed prior to Trials. A high school kid who competes in swimming and wheelchair track told me he'd qualified for Trials -- which I hadn't known -- and joked I should come back in four years.

    I don't know when the official media lists will be out, but I'm waiting anxiously because it seems like there's always somebody new on there. Having two actual Olympic athletes, instead of just a random team official (for, I think, three Olympiads in a row) will be a welcome change.
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