(ATR) Sharome Burton found himself in Buenos Aires for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games after a mad dash to find the necessary paperwork to complete an application for the Young Reporters program.
Sharome Burton (ATR)
Two months after Hurricane Maria decimated his home island of Dominica in the Caribbean, Burton was told by his country’s National Olympic Committee that they wanted to nominate him for the program.
Internet access on the island was scarce, which made cobbling together the necessary documents for the paperwork and procuring samples of past work even harder. Never mind the fact that the deadline had passed to submit an application.
NOC officials worked with both the IOC and Panam Sports to make sure the application was received and evaluated. Within a month Burton was told he’d been accepted in the program and would be covering the upcoming YOG.
“I don’t think anything back home could have prepared me for this,” Burton said to Around the Rings
. “My country has 70,000 people; Buenos Aires has multitudes more than that. Back home I cover literally every sport seven days a week; I can wrap my hands around the entire picture. When you go to any international event of this magnitude you cannot cover everything. It was a big eye opener.”
Burton is one of the 38 Young Reporters recruited by the IOC to be trained and mentored during the YOG. Since its beginnings at the first YOG in Singapore in 2010, the program has continually grown at each subsequent event.
In Dominica Burton had been a radio reporter shifting back and forth between sport and general news on the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria. At first, Burton worked for free at the local radio station after finishing up a degree in communications and economics.
After the program Burton says he will attend graduate school in the United States to become an engineer. He plans to keep developing skills he learned in Buenos Aires because “there’s always an opportunity to put things to use” when it comes to good, solid reporting.
Burton’s story reflects the diversity of the reporters chosen for the program. All five continents are represented in the program, with different levels of experience in media.
In Buenos Aires the reporters are trained in four media areas: writing, photography, social media, and broadcasting. Experienced journalists in each field mentor the journalists in the program, helping them pitch and produce daily pieces in each medium. All the work produced is featured on the IOC's Young Reporters Facebook page.
Reporters spend a few days in each field learning how to frame and execute content, and then are edited by the mentors. The goal for the program’s participants is to carry the skills learned at the YOG back to their home countries, and the next steps in their careers.
Many alumni of the program routinely stay in touch with their peers and some former young reporters are even working as mentors in Buenos Aires.
Steve Wilson, a veteran Olympic journalist formerly with the AP, told ATR
that outside of language barriers the main challenge has been to distill the basics of journalism when teaching. He said he is stressing that without the “highest standards of accuracy and fairness” young journalists will not be able to grow into the storytellers they aspire to be.
visited the program during the second week of the YOG when the young journalists would be returning from events and going through the editing process with mentors.
Wilson, center, Montanarella, right, give advice to Adriaanse (ATR)
Jeroen Adriaanse was working on a rewrite of his daily story with Wilson and Lucia Montanarella, the head of the Olympic Information Service. He said that the mentors had helped teach him how to grasp the “human side” of an event such as the YOG.
Adriaanse was nominated for the program through the International Sports Press Association and had a background in football writing. That background was limited to mainly match reports and analysis, so having mentors to teach him to craft a narrative around an Olympic athlete was invaluable.
“How did they get to the place they are now, what challenges did you overcome to be here, and this is normally things I would not [consider],” Adriaanse said.
Wilson called the mentorship “eye-opening,” because of the wide range of reporters from different cultures he’s gotten to interact with.
“It’s been rewarding to see how they improve and get better in the various levels of journalism that is prevalent today,” Wilson said. “I wish I had such training myself to learn how to do all the things they are doing right now.”
Burton’s work paid off with an award for the best young reporter in the program just before the conclusion of the event. In the different categories he worked with video reporting and editing for the first time, learning how to frame photographs and write captions, and get athletes to produce engaging, shareable content on social media.
With print, he said that he focused on telling “stories that have impact” about the athletes at the YOG. One example was interviewing athletes from war-torn areas such as South Sudan and Somalia. He focused his reporting on how the athletes were able to train, qualify, and then physically make it to an event so far away from their homes.
“It’s been very much out of our comfort zone to see us produce [high quality work] in this pressure,” Burton said. “It has been a rollercoaster this whole week...on such a big playing ground to play with. It just shows the value of putting your best effort out there.”
Coverage of the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games is made possible in part by BA 2018
Written by Aaron Bauer in Buenos Aires
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