Play the Game 2013: Behind the curtain - The significance of journalistic grunt work

Journalists Weinreich and Jennings won the Play the Game award in 2011 for their work on bringing the widespread corruption in some sports into public view. Photo: Tine Harden/Play the Game

23.10.2013

If it were not for the courageous investigative journalists around the world relentlessly pursuing the truth, some of the most infamous cases of doping, match-fixing, bribery and corruption in sport might never have seen the light of day.

At Play the Game 2013, taking place on 28-31 October in Aarhus, Denmark, you will get a chance to hear some of the most influential investigative journalists in the world of sport tell the story of how they work on exposing the bad seeds in sport.

Besides their various presentations in the main and parallel conference sessions, a number of investigative journalists have agreed to hold three journalistic workshops where conference participants with added interest in investigative journalism can hear more about the underlying work and conditions that drive these journalists towards their goals.

The hurdles of investigative journalism
Freelance investigative journalists have the freedom and time to pursue cases that do not necessarily have a place in an editorial office, where quick stories take the place of immersion and deeper investigation. However, working on stories that do not necessarily result in a pay-day comes with great economic challenges for the reporter.

If the breed of investigative journalists is to survive, alternative ways of funding the work must be found. This is one of the topics of the workshops.

In the first journalism workshop one of the most renowned investigative sports journalists in the world, the German Jens Weinreich will talk about how he succeeded in using crowd funding to pay for his work on the upcoming book ‘Macht, Moneten, Marionetten’, where he investigates the power games and covert alliances in the IOC.

Who are really pulling the strings behind the curtain in the most powerful sports organisation in the world?

In the same session, Lars Andersson, Editor-in-chief of the Danish online sports magazine “Sport Executive” will talk about his struggles to get the media to take sport seriously and focus on more than match-results, and how this resulted in the creation of the Sport Executive magazine, putting the spotlight on the stories on sport and society that other media often ignores.

Behind the investigations
In the International Weightlifting Federation under IOC honorary member Tamás Aján, the whereabouts of several million dollars of Olympic revenues are unaccounted for.

Despite accusations of financial mismanagement, the IOC, supported by CAS, has so far declined responsibility to act on the allegations.

In the first workshop, German freelance investigative reporter, Grit Hartmann, will talk about how she worked on exposing this major story.

In the second workshop, Canadian journalist, Laura Robinson, will talk about her investigations into Vancouver 2010 Organising Committee CEO, John Furlong, and what she regards as the moral vacuum of Canadian sports.

In 2011, Robinson wrote an article claiming that Furlong had omitted certain details from his biography, followed by the claim that he had physically abused aboriginal students when he worked at a Catholic School in Canada in his youth.

The accusation led Furlong to launch a lawsuit against Robinson, which is still pending.

Canadian author and match-fixing expert, Declan Hill, whose new book on match-fixing will be launched on the conference on Monday evening, will talk about the synergies on academic and journalistic research in his work on exposing international match-fixing rings.

In the final workshop, the grand old man of investigative sports journalism, the British journalist Andrew Jennings will talk about his many years investigating FIFA, culminating in the exposure of one of the greatest corruption scandals in sport, the ISL scandal, revealing the names of a number of FIFA officials who received bribes from the now defunct marketing company ISL.

Another former FIFA official will be put in the spotlight on when Irish freelance journalist James Corbett talks about the exposure of former FIFA ExCo member and CONCACAF president Jack Warner’s theft of funds from FIFA that were intended to go to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Sports media research
The ability of the sports media to cover the more controversial stories in sport and to allow for time to go into deeper research is a topic that is often under much criticism at Play the Game.

At Play the Game 2011 in Cologne, Germany, preliminary results of the International Sports Press Survey were presented, revealing that sports journalism, according to the survey, focuses almost exclusively on results, tournaments and top athletes and that sports politics and economic issues are of little interest to the printed media.

In a parallel session at this year’s conference, Professor Thomas Horky from Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg and Lecturer Jörg-Uwe Nieland from the German Sport University Cologne will present the full results of the International Sports Press Survey 2011 in an extended version including more data and numerous analyses from different national contexts.

The full report will be presented at the book launch event Monday evening.

The results of the international survey will in the session be supplemented by presentations from four different nations, giving examples of how the media in different national perspectives cover sports.

Tatiane Hilgemberg from the State University of Rio de Janeiro will take a look at the agenda of the Brazilian media in the run up to the 2014 World Cup.

Ditte Toft from the Danish Institute for Sports Studies has handled the Danish data from the Sports Press Survey and will present her analysis of the sports content in Danish media.

Peter English from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, will talk about sports journalism ethics in newspaper organisations in India, Australia and the UK, and Joaquín Marín Montín, associate professor at the University of Seville, Spain, will present a Spanish study of ex-athletes in advertising.

The journalism workshops run on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Download the full conference programme to learn more about the conference sessions

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