AS a sports­writer, Ital­ian Gianni Merlo has seen it all. The for­mer La Gazzetta dello Sport jour­nal­ist and cur­rent In­ter­na­tional Sports Press As­so­ci­a­tion (AIPS) president shares his thoughts with Time­s­port’s FABIAN PETER.

New Straits Times - - Sport -

Ques­tion: How long have you been in sports writ­ing?

An­swer: I would like to say since the Juras­sic age, but my first in­ter­na­tional job was at the Euro­pean Ath­letic Cham­pi­onships in 1969. I was just a young guy run­ning around get­ting news for the older jour­nal­ists. I later joined an Ital­ian tele­vi­sion sta­tion as an as­sis­tant com­men­ta­tor be­fore land­ing the job at La Gazzetta dello Sport in 1974. Since then I was the man there be­fore re­tir­ing in 2010. Now I am full time with AIPS.

Q: What would you say was most chal­leng­ing dur­ing your time as a sports jour­nal­ist?

A: The most chal­leng­ing part of the job was the con­tin­u­ous fight against cor­rup­tion and to pro­mote the real feel­ing and spirit of sports. It was also a chal­lenge to help the new gen­er­a­tion of jour­nal­ists un­der­stand how things work be­cause uni­ver­si­ties teach you the­ory but when you start work­ing, it’s all hands on.

Q: Are you still in­volved with train­ing young jour­nal­ists? A: At AIPS, we have a pro­gramme

for young jour­nal­ists. Ev­ery year we or­gan­ise it about two to three times, where we al­low young jour­nal­ists from around the world to be part of an in­ter­na­tional sport­ing event. We ed­u­cate them on the­ory and also give them the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the job on field. They grad­u­ate as high level jour­nal­ists go­ing into writ­ing or even broad­cast. The first pro­gramme was in Shen­zen, China in 2011 dur­ing the World Uni­ver­sity Games. We have since con­ducted about 12 of them.

Q: What was one of your most

mem­o­rable events?

A: Un­for­tu­nately, it was my first Olympics in 1972 in Mu­nich. The ter­ror­ist at­tack is still fresh in my mind be­cause it was shock­ing. At that time it was nor­mal for us to en­ter the ath­letes vil­lage and live in the same build­ing. How­ever, af­ter the at­tack we lost all pos­si­bil­ity to be close to ath­letes. The ap­proach to our sources have changed dra­mat­i­cally. It has changed our work to­day.

Q: Why do you say so?

A: Af­ter the in­ci­dent, se­cu­rity has height­ened, and most ath­letes now use this as an ex­cuse to avoid speak­ing to us. This is dan­ger­ous to sports. Back then, when we min­gled with the play­ers — say football for ex­am­ple — we would know if there was any il­le­gal bet­ting or match fix­ing go­ing on, be­cause you will hear other play­ers speak­ing or through their body lan­guage on how they were un­happy with a par­tic­u­lar team­mate. Now, one player comes for the press con­fer­ence and you won’t know any­thing, every­thing is hid­den. Peo­ple go on­line to get their facts, but how is it news if there is no di­rect con­tact to un­der­stand things bet­ter? Plus ev­ery­one writes the same thing on­line and it is bor­ing.

Q: In your opin­ion, how can we change this?


It is up to the new gen­er­a­tion, they have to make a choice. They must study more and fight to give mean­ing to their work. They must not just ac­cept what the ma­chine (web) tells them. They must use the ma­chine and not be used by it. I know go­ing out to search for news is dif­fi­cult, but that is part of the job. If you want to be a jour­nal­ist, and not be will­ing to do a dif­fi­cult job, then you might as well go work in a phar­macy or some­thing else. If you are hon­est and want to do a good job, then yes you can do it.

Q: What is the big chal­lenge for the new gen­er­a­tion of sports jour­nal­ists?


The big chal­lenge is def­i­nitely mul­ti­task­ing. Be­fore we used only the type­writer, but now you have to write for the news­pa­per, then on­line while some re­quire you to take pic­tures and even record videos. This means you have less time for your life and less time to study. We need to de­velop young jour­nal­ists to be­come cham­pi­ons or else they will only de­pend on Google.

Q: Most ma­jor news­pa­pers are mov­ing on­line now, how do we tackle this?

A: I know most peo­ple think that news­pa­pers around the world are dy­ing but if you look at the CEO of RCS Me­dia Group (Ur­bano Cairo), the one who owns La

Gazzetta dello Sport, he has just in­vested a huge sum of money into news­pa­per and the same is also done by the Washington

Post. The news­pa­per in­dus­try is not dy­ing but it is a niche mar­ket. You need high level jour­nal­ists writ­ing qual­ity re­ports. It must be strong opin­ions and re­ac­tions.

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