Opinion: Why the AIPS Sport Media Awards are an insurance policy for our profession

  • May 11, 2018
The presentation of the AIPS Sport Media Awards during the 81st AIPS Congress in Brussels.

by Martin Mazur

One of the many aspects AIPS teaches in its Young Reporters Programmes is the importance of being invisible, letting the story and the reader interact naturally without any interruptions. Forgive me, then, because this column, written in first person, will make me visible. But I see no other way to express my gratitude than being part of the story I am about to tell, which is the story of the AIPS Sport Media Awards.

For the last months I have felt privileged. In the sports media industry, it's rare to be the bearer of good news. The industry has been hit hard, financially, ethically, technologically, philosophically. On some occasions, in the first moments of conversations with journalists, I felt I was being mistaken for a telemarketer of an insurance company. Except, of course, that I was not trying to sell anything. I was reaching out to colleagues to present AIPS's new, exciting project.

It is not difficult to understand why good news in journalism is frowned upon. It virtually doesn't exist, and if it does, there’s always a catch.

But, as I keep promising, there is no fine print with the AIPS Sport Media Awards. Any professional can participate, with up to two submissions per person. There are no entrance fees, or submission fees, or any fees at all. There is no language barrier, because stories in all languages are accepted. And there are prizes, significant money in prizes. The Awards will culminate with a gala in Lausanne, where the finalists will be rewarded with 8,000, 3,000 or 2,000 dollar checks respectively, depending on the decision of a prestigious jury.

Social media will not be for promoting the Awards, but for sharing inspirational stories and interviews, so the celebration can be daily.

As I said during my presentation at the 81st Congress in Brussels, it’s time to make some noise. We are too used to being silent. We mainly use Twitter to criticise, rather than to praise. When we see something great, we barely share it, as if there is no need. Our colleagues are not getting enough recognition for what they do.

The real celebration is not once-a-year, in a fancy gala, but every day, in our social media accounts, in our newsrooms, in our TV sets or radio studios. Praising and sharing quality content. Being inspired by meaningful articles, and inspiring others in the process, as opposed to being prisoners of news that have the equivalent nutritional values of fast food.

These days the difference between “outstanding” and “discrete” is sometimes blurred, or seen as not important, due to the frenetic pace that forces us to jump from one article to the next, both as writers or as readers, without having time to understand if what we are doing really has the required quality.

But here come the AIPS Sport Media Awards, raising the flags of sport media excellence. With the potential of inspiring a new generation and the power of identifying real examples of outstanding work that can act as a lighthouse for better journalism. Many people and journalists resist change, but sooner or later, they will have to adapt.

“Destroying is very easy," Mexico manager Ricardo La Volpe told me once. "You give me a hammer and a mallet, and I can tear down a wall. Now, building, that’s another thing. You need bricks, cement, calculations, technique, taste. Everyone can destroy a house, but not everybody can build it”.

The best storytellers, the builders of our profession, need to be rewarded.

It is not the same to simply fill an article with words rather than to choose words carefully. It is not the same to review 200 photographs in order to pick one than to pick the first one that comes up in a search. It is not the same to produce excellent video work than to turn on the camera and became a YouTuber. It is not the same to tweet than to create a blog and build a community. It is not the same to be a professional or an enthusiast. It is not the same to be praised than to receive silence. We want to reward those that are trying hard, despite the difficult circumstances, despite not getting enough credit in their media outlets, or in their countries.

The AIPS Sport Media Awards have been and will be travelling to all regions in order to understand the challenges of our profession.

The very existence of this Award will force us to review our work (in this case, since July 1st, 2017 to September 17th, 2018) and see which are the articles, photographs, audio bits or videos that we can submit. For some it could be easier than for others. Some might start reflecting if there is, perhaps, quality work that for some reason they have been putting off, and now it is the time to produce. If that is the case, the Awards would already be a success, because they would be acting as a reminder of the value of quality content.

Perhaps, I am a telemarketer of an insurance company after all. But what I am offering is a free insurance for our profession.

A day before I was about to present the AIPS Sport Media Awards in front of an audience of more than 200 people, among presidents, delegates and observers of the vast AIPS network, Marca’s director, Juan Ignacio Gallardo, made an interesting remark. “In our newsrooms, internet has been what the meteorite was for dinosaurs, and only the ones that understood it could evolve," said Gallardo. "However, despite all the changes, I believe we are still in the prehistoric times of our profession, trying to understand the model of the future. We are all there, in the tunnel, knowing that there is some light in the end, but trying to understand what to do, how to do it, seeing what others do, and at the same time letting others see what we do in order to reach the other end”.

The Awards are hoping to be a guidance for reaching that future. A bridge to the future of sport journalism.

For more information and to submit your work, please go to www.aipsawards.com


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