(ATR) The Olympic Journalists Association dissolves 12 years after it was founded. The group with 150 members across the globe was an intermediary between journalists who covered the IOC, an advocate for increased contact and transparency.
An IOC press conference in July. (ATR)
The founding president of the OJA, Alain Lunzenfichter, now retired after 37 years at L’Equipe, delivered the news in an email to the membership, along with current president Steve Wilson, former AP sports editor.
“Times have changed. Fewer journalists are covering the IOC on a regular and sustained basis. And some of our members have moved on to other careers. Our current president has left full-time journalism to work on other projects, and our founding president is also involved in different ventures.
“In short, the OJA has completed its mission. We will cease operating at the end of the year. The 2018 booklet will have been the last edition. Needless to say, it has been a privilege and honour to work with and represent all of you. We thank you deeply for your support and wish you all the best going forward,” says the email.
The last edition of the OJA directory.
Along with liaising with the IOC, the OJA published an annual directory of the members which was a unique compendium.
The OJA helped establish guidelines for press access to the IOC hotel during the Olympics.
The OJA dinner held in December was as close as it could get to an annual business meeting.
The membership of the OJA has remained somewhat steady over the years, mostly representing journalists who turn out every two years to cover the winter or summer Olympics. Far fewer paid attention to the IOC Session and executive board meetings that take place every year.
The decline of bidding contests
for the Olympics has meant less interest from the media in the IOC. In years past spirited campaigns for Summer and Winter Olympic Games commanded media attention in the bid cities and drew sometimes hundreds of journalists at the IOC Session where the vote was taken.
Declining budgets for newspapers and other media have also dealt a blow to the number of journalists who at one time reported from IOC meetings.
Against that financial pressure, covering new events created by the IOC, such as the upcoming Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, has become even more difficult to justify.
Retirements are also depleting the ranks of Olympic journalists with deep experience. And as the world of sporting events outside the Olympics keeps growing, younger sports journalists are more interested in these new sports, not necessarily the traditional program of the Olympics created more than 100 years ago.
Plenty of lamentations to Lunzenfichter and Wilson followed word of the OJA demise.
Alain Lunzenfichter was the founder of OJA. (ATR)
“This surely is a sad news and I have learned a lot from all of you. I thank for your works and it was a great pleasure to be part of OJA,” says Hiroki Shoda of Kyodo News.
“Thanks so much for the privilege to share with all of you the enthusiasm and the vision of the Olympic Movement in these years of profound changes in the Olympic Games and in the whole sports world,” says Franco Fava of Corierre de la Serra.
Mark Bisson, Senior Editor for Around the Rings: “I started out as an Olympic journalist around the same time as the OJA was established and received great support and advice to get me up and running. It's provided useful networking, support and friendships ever since.”
Karolos Grohmann of Reuters, who was OJA vice president, says the association was a positive “from the first access passes for the Olympic hotel in Beijing in 2008, to the annual booklet and the annual Lausanne dinners which, and I think I speak for most of us, were a wonderful way of ending the year among friends and colleagues. Times have indeed changed and while I still cover the IOC regularly many of us do not any more”.
ATR Editor Ed Hula served as secretary general of the OJA until he reached the age limit for officers two years ago.
Reported by Ed Hula.
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