This rambles. I apologise.
Having done a lot of work with the Paralympics on English Wikipedia, English Wikinews, Commons and a few other projects that resulted in getting press accreditation to attend the 2012 Summer Paralympics, I want to expand that include the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and I’d like to get more community engagement in doing this. I’m completely certain that if I want press access for myself to go to Rio to cover them for the Wikimedia projects, I have the contacts, process knowledge, track record of success to make it happen. I’ve had multiple conversations with people inside the area that can make this happen for me, gotten advice on how to do it, discussed my own work, etc. Still, Wikimedia projects are built on collaboration and people often feel their work matters more when it is validated through opportunities like going to a major event and covering it.
Let me start off by saying that I think the IOC is very generous in their media licensing. While English Wikipedia Signpost criticized the IOC’s licensing, it did so with out critically examining the Wikimedia Foundation’s licensing and without understanding the economics underlying the Olympic Games. Allowing anyone who attends, be it a member of the press or a ticket holder or athlete, to take audio, video and sound recordings and use them however they want for non-commercial purposes is great. It allows people to enjoy the Games, to document their own experiences. It does not allow them to profit from this. Critically speaking, I am unsure why the Wikimedia Foundation requires me to contribute in a way that allows for commercial re-use of content I submit. That’s neither here nor there. The IOC is not going to change their very generous license. If the Foundation is serious about engaging the IOC as the Wikimedia Foundation, the conversation needs to start with the Foundation allowing non-commercial licensing on Commons. Full stop. This is an important backdrop to think about when thinking about sending Wikimedians to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In trying to plan who should be sent to the 2016 Games, the first question is this: Which projects will allow reporters and photographers to usefully attend and generate content for the projects they are involved in? Commons is out because of incompatible licenses. If it gets discovered the photographer is licensing their work commercially, their accreditation will be removed. Wikipedians are out. All language Wikipedias that I am aware of prohibit original research. This basically leaves two projects that allow original research: Wikinews, Wikiversity and Wikibooks. Wikiversity is out because it is not structured. It might some day become viable, but it would take a fair amount of work on par to bring it up to the level justifying extensive coverage of the Games. Wikibooks might be possible, but Wikibooks it not focused on the immediate. Wikinews thus becomes the only viable project where sending contributors to the Games becomes worthwhile as they can produce content at the Games that can be used immediately on the project, and that can be linked across various projects. (See Amber Merritt’s Wikipedia article for how Wikinews work can be used on other projects.)
Journalist and photographer accreditation for Wikimedians must go through Wikinews. If you can’t succeed on Wikinews and cannot do Original Reporting on Wikinews, there is no way your reporting can be used elsewhere with out a radical change in projects. The focus needs to be on finding and developing quality Wikinewies. I suspect there will be some complaining about this premise, and the weakness of the Wikinews from an internal viewpoint. That is fine, and completely irrelevant if your goal is to get Wikimedians to Rio. The opinion that matters in this case is not the Wikimedian, but the opinions of those in the sporting sector. The sporting sector is where press access will be given. I’ve done original reporting of news events. I’ve had press access to a softball test series in Australia between Japan and Australia, a water polo test series between Australia and Great Britain’s women, an announcement about the opening of a centre for excellence, a gymnastics team announcement where I got to see the nation’s opposition leader jump into a foam pit, a women’s national basketball team training camp, an athletics practice for London bound competitors, a rowing training session for a London bound competitor, and a wheelchair basketball tournament. I’ve subsequently done original reporting on Wikinews for these stories. While the traffic may not seem impressive and while Wikinews may not be as visible as Wikipedia, the sport organisations involved were impressed with the reporting and it opened additional doors that allowed for more opportunities. In this case, let me repeat: What a Wikimedian thinks is irrelevant to what the sport organisation thinks because the people we are pitching press access to is not a Wikimedian, but a large and conservative sport organisation. Wikinews can help raise the media visibility of less publicised sports, and it feeds to Google News. It can provide validation to competitors who do not always receive much media attention. If we are serious about sending Wikimedians to Rio, we need to send Wikinewsies, who are photojournalists and print journalists.
While we would need to send Wikinewsies to Rio, it does not mean there is not a role for other projects. In fact, Wikipedians and Commons photographers and Wikibooks contributors provide an additional value added proposition for in person, original reporting because their work can be coordinated with Commons photographers. This becomes an additional selling point for giving Wikimedians access to high level sporting events. With the events that we covered for Wikinews, several of them were done in coordination with Wikipedia related work.
This included taking pictures for Commons and using those licensed appropriately for Wikimedia use because of fewer constraints on entry conditions on Wikipedia articles. When we attended the Opals training camp and the water polo test and the softball test and the wheelchair basketball event, we took pictures and included them on articles about members of the team. Some of these pictures were also added to articles on non-English Wikipedias. Some were used much later, during the Olympics, when new articles were created. If it was appropriate, some of these images were added to higher level sport articles. Some of these images appeared on the front page of English Wikipedia in the Did You Know section. At least two images taken were identified as quality images on Commons. Photos are a great big selling point. Looking at the two pictures of athletics competitor Michelle Errichiello, I know which one I like more: It is the one by the Commons photographer. High quality photos sell an article. They make the person look more important. They better explain the topic for people who are visual thinkers. Commons photographers doing advance work are very much needed if we want to get Wikimedians to Rio, and they can probably get access to events where licenses are not as restrictive as the Olympics.
Commons work has its greatest value in being used. Wikipedia’s traffic often speaks for itself. The Australian Paralympic Committee’s website gets only twice as much traffic as all the articles about their topics on Wikipedia get. Thus, improving Wikipedia coverage of a topic is a way to help Wikinews work. When I say we coordinated this with Wikinews work, we did. The women’s national water polo team going to the Olympics? The softball team going to the World Championships? We improved every single article about team members on Wikipedia. If the article didn’t exist, we created the article. We then nominated these articles for English Wikipedia’s Did You Know. We improved a number of these articles and took them to Good Article status. When we were done with this, having the images we took during the test series, we put all the articles into a book and published it on Pediapress: Water polo and softball. When these arrived in my mailbox, I gave copies to the relevant sporting bodies. This sells the local importance of being willing to engage the Wikipedia community, and thanks them for taking a risk. Apparently, the water polo players, who knew exactly why we took headshots of them, were very pleased with how their articles turned out in the end. (Did we filter any information? No. There was no editorial decisions to not put information in because it made some one looked bad. Examples of including information that people might not want there when having access include the article about Brigitte Ardossi and Jennifer Blow.) Sport organisations like seeing high quality articles about their sport people. Coordinating improvement drives between Wikipedia and Wikinews reporting makes all Wikimedia work more valuable and better justifies access.
I think, with this in mind, the process discussion can better start. How do you get to the 2016 Rio Olympics? Success, success and networking. In order to get to Rio, the Wikimedia Foundation, the local Wikimedia chapter or a highly motivated individual will need to do the following or leverage on what has already been done:
- Get in touch with a national sport federation that will likely be sending competitors to Rio. Find their media person. Be persistent. Get a meeting with them. Encourage them to give you media access to a training camp, press event, test series or competition. See if you can’t arrange to get head shots of the team or athletes. When getting in touch, know ahead of time what the schedule is for the team. I thought about doing Australia men’s volleyball before the Olympics, but training camp was in Europe and no Australian events were planned. Explain to the federation what you can do: Take pictures of the team, write Wikinews stories (which goes out to Google News) and improve Wikipedia articles about them. (If you cannot do this or do not have the people to do this, do not approach. You are trying to develop a track record of success here. Failure decreases your odds.) Talk to whoever you need to talk to. In some cases, they may kick you down to the regional level. This happened to me with softball: It ended up being easier to go through Softball ACT instead of Softball Australia. When you go, where a Wikipedia shirt so people know who you are and who you represent. Whatever you promise on, endeavor to deliver on. Thank the organisation. Follow up with them after the event to provide a link to your Wikinews articles and Wikipedia articles. Ask to be put on their press notification list.
- Repeat the above with several sports. I suggest starting with less visible sports in order to work your way up to the more visible ones. Success matters and developing contacts matters. After events, consider giving them a Pediapress book of your Wikipedia work. Send them statistics for Wikinews and Wikipedia. Thank them. They do not need to talk to you, do not need to assist you, or need your media coverage. Traditional media still gets a fair amount of traffic. The limited work I’ve done suggests in some cases, the traditional media still gets twice as many views as Wikipedia.
- After you’ve done this, then go to the sport organisation and ask for access to the bigger events, like the World Championships. After you have a track record of success, go to the national Olympic committee and ask for access to the 2014 Youth Olympics as a member of the press for WMF or your national chapter. Leverage the contacts you developed earlier to justify this. Those contacts can get you in the door and the work you’ve done can assist in making the case for getting access to these events. Keep in touch with your national chapter, especially at this level, as they will likely be the organisation you will need to be representing. The chapter may also be able to provide funding for some of this work or assist in getting WMF assistance to do this work.
That is it. Relatively simple in some ways, but it requires a lot of work. I would guess it took at least 40 to 60 hours to do the softball articles, and none of them were taken to GA, only DYK. This also included chasing up softball people, arranging for a photographer, setting up a meetup, and writing for Wikinews. It also involved watching 5 softball games. This whole thing will work much more easily in a culture that values success. Australia values getting things done. Success begets success and provides opportunities. What is more important for most of my work? I get it done. I work on the Wikipedia articles. I write the Wikinews articles. I let people know of my success and others are happy to assist in making more opportunities for my work. (I owe a lot to people at the University of Canberra, the Australian Paralympic Committee, the Australian Institute of Sport, Water Polo Australia, Basketball Australia and the National Sport Information Centre.)
What are my plans going forward to get to Rio?
- Engage the community as much as possible to let them know what I am trying to do, and asking them to be involved in regards to the Paralympics. If you assist here in writing Wikinews, getting license acceptable images, improving Wikipedia articles for DYK and GA, then I will be more willing to assist you in trying to get the Olympics for Wikimedia.
- Post Paralympics, talk to people inside the Australian sport sector to tell them about all the fabulous work we will have done in London. (Highlight greater community involvement. Highlight my own work, the work of Hawkeye7, the work of bidgee, Wikimedia Australia’s support, and all the work done by Wikinewsies.) Blog about this as much as I can with that audience and Wikimedians in mind.
- Start talking more with the Australian Olympic Committee about getting access to the 2014 Youth Olympics and 2014 Winter Olympics. Talk to the Australian Paralympic Committee about getting access to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Leverage what was done in London when talking to these folks. This will involve spending money on Pediapress again. Did I mention that my belief is that by giving copies of water polo and softball Pediapress books to the Australian Paralympic Committee, they saw the value of headshots and that explains why they donated headshots for articles about every single member of the 2012 Australian Paralympic Team? Pediapress sells Wikipedia work in a way that the pages themselves do not. I’ll also have stats about our Wikinews work, have pictures, etc. I will ask how to make this possible to get to the 2014 Youth Olympics and 2014 Winter Olympics and what additional work we need to do to make this happen.
- I will look for Wikipedians and Wikinewsies who demonstrate a commitment to working in this area to drag along. Bidgee is my photographer of choice at the moment. Why? I call and he often shows up. He has a decent camera and takes decent pictures. He uploads pictures quickly enough for use on Wikinews. (We cannot wait a week to three months while images are processed to be excellent. We’re still waiting on one photographer to upload Opals pictures.) He can write Wikinews, though he earned his Wikinews accreditation primarily for his photography work. Because of that, he has photographed the Opals, the Stingers, Paralympic runners, Paralympic swimmers, wheelchair basketball games, the Australian women’s softball team. This work best with a content creator and a photographer as partners. If others step up and demonstrate success, I can leverage their success to get them access.
Will we get Wikimedians to Rio? Yes. Hopefully, the above begins to give an idea of how this will be done.