Reuters editor calls for reform of Olympics accreditation

The rules governing who can report from the Olympic Games are outdated in the age of Twitter, Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger has told the event’s organisers.

In a speech to the International Olympics Committee Press Commission, Schlesinger said it was no longer right to make the distinction between text and images, professional reporting and citizen journalism.

“The old means of control don’t work. The old categories don’t work. The old ways of thinking don’t work. We need to come to terms with that,” Schlesinger said.

“Fundamentally, the old media won’t control news dissemination in the future. And organisations can’t control access using old forms of accreditation any more.”

Schlesinger said he had been ordered by the IOC press authorities to take down a blog post he wrote at last summer’s Beijing Games because it included a photo and he was only accredited to write and edit text.

“You’d have thought I’d mixed the water with the wine, or served beef at a vegetarian banquet. The full weight of the disapproval from the IOC came down upon us,” he said.

“This isn’t a distinction that made sense any more in 2008 and it makes less sense by the day as news organisations radically reshape newsrooms and roles.

“Frankly, your issues a much more serious. You need to deal with the almost impossible question of who is a journalist, and what does it mean to report.”

Schlesinger said the first reports to come out of the 2012 London Olympics events would not be from Reuters, AP or AFP – but from “Twitterers sitting in the stadium banging out the result in a Tweet from their mobile phone”.

“It means working with the mobile phone and digital camera and media-enabled public, and not against them,” he said.

“Working against them would be crazy. Could you imagine gun-toting guards trying to confiscate every phone off every spectator?

“That would become the story of the Games and it would ultimately fail.”

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