Part of the 35-strong International Olympic Committee’s Young Reporters delegation selected to cover the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Nanjing 2014, David Lozada has replicated the model in his native Philippines to help inspire a new generation of socially-aware journalists. Here, he reflects on the profound impact the YOG have made on his life and career.
The beauty of the human spirit
“I can still remember the day in 2013 when I saw the IOC website asking for young reporters to apply to cover the YOG in Nanjing. I was in my eighth month as a journalist covering development issues and human rights for a Manila-based news website called Rappler when I wrote to the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) asking for their blessing to forward my application to the IOC. I received a favourable response and the rest was history.
“Prior to Nanjing, my only experience of covering sports was during my internship with Rappler when I reported on the 2012 Palarong Pambansa in Lingayen. It is the biggest grassroots multi-sports event for young athletes in the Philippines, annually drawing more than 10,000 athletes and coaches from the country’s 18 regions.
“This is when I fell in love with sports reporting. I realised that sports writing is not just about the numbers and statistics, but about the stories of success and the failures of athletes. It’s about capturing moments where the human spirit is at its highest – and sometimes lowest – point. I saw athletes competing in races and marathons without any shoes. I wrote stories about nine-year-old boxers who persevere in their sport in the hope they can raise their families out of poverty.”
Épée and arrows in China
“It was this excitement and passion for sports journalism that I brought to Nanjing in 2014. If I fell in love with sports reporting in 2012, it was in Nanjing where I was able to fully express this love. The 13 days of intense competition created a treasure trove of stories. I remember interviewing a Syrian fencer who was fighting to represent his country even though it was being torn apart by civil war. I remember covering the Filipino archer who made history by winning his country’s first YOG medal in the mixed team event. I remember talking to the numerous Chinese volunteers who did everything they could to help us foreigners despite speaking little English.
“After Nanjing, I was invited to cover the next edition of the YOG in Lillehammer in 2016. It was perhaps the most challenging coverage I have ever done – and I cover a lot of typhoons and protests in the Philippines. I was not used to the Norwegian winter, and it was the first time I have ever written about winter sports.
“Looking back, covering two YOGs were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I was able to hone my journalistic skills and make great friends across continents. This is why I don’t want my experience to end there.”
Media for the masses
“After Nanjing, I spearheaded a series of citizen journalism workshops for elementary and high-school students under Rappler’s civic engagement arm, MovePH. Our goal is to empower a new generation of journalists by showing them they have a voice in social media, that they can use this platform to discuss key issues in their communities. Since June 2015, we have trained more than 1,000 young people in 20 provinces across the Philippines.”
Young Reporters in the Philippines
“In December 2014, four months after my first YOG, I was thrust into my first leadership role when I led the coverage of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Schools Games in the Philippines. To augment our small team, I created a sports reporting training programme, which involved creating a partnership with the Department of Education. I trained high-school students and we published their works on Rappler.
“This was the beginning of what will become the Philippines’ leading sports reporting training programme for young journalists. During the 2015 Palarong Pambansa in Davao del Norte, we created a similar project for local campus journalists.
“In 2017 we decided to scale up the programme. Following the format of the IOC’s Young Reporters Programme, we selected four of the best campus journalists from every region in the Philippines to cover the 2017 Palarong Pambansa in Antique. Dubbed the ‘Palaro Movers Programme’ and in partnership with the Department of Education, we trained and managed 100 young journalists and their advisers during the week-long Games.
“The participants were aged between 9 and 17 years old, and all of them were first-timers in covering a multi-sports event. We trained them for three days in four different media disciplines – writing, photography, video production and social media – before we sent them out to file stories from the 24 different sports.”
An Olympic legacy
“The ‘Palaro Movers Programme’ would not have been possible if not for my experience in Nanjing and Lillehammer. The YOG inspired me to share my experiences and pass on the torch to younger journalists. In the hundreds of workshops I have given to Filipino youngsters, I always look back and cite my experiences covering the YOG.”
“Sports can bring the world together”
“I have no doubt that my career was jumpstarted by my experiences as a Young Reporter. Not only did I learn the skills needed to cover an Olympic event, but I also saw that development can be achieved through different fields, even in journalism and sports.“In 2014, I wrote a blog on Rappler entitled ‘Covering Nanjing: How sports can bring the world together’ and I would like to end with a quote from that blog. ‘In my experience covering the YOG, I can say that there is hope for a better world. With the right empowerment and push, the youth can achieve great things for themselves, for their countries, and for others’.”