Strangers have sometimes stopped Sweden’s Emma Holmsen around Lausanne over the past fortnight, each with the same question: Are you from Netherlands?
Little wonder, given the eye-catching orange jackets she and 14 others on the IOC’s Young
Reporters Programme have been sporting at Winter Youth Olympic Games.
They may not have competed on the slopes or ice, but like the other young athletes, they will be graduates of the Games when it concludes on 22 January. They were handpicked from a group of 34 who were part of the Class of 2018 during the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games.
The difference: rather than arriving as cadets learning on the job, this time they are out and about in the sometimes chaotic and often challenging world of covering a Games with little to no hand-holding.
“It’s more difficult, the tempo is really fast,” said 24-year-old Holmsen, a recent journalism graduate. “I think that the expectations from us, it’s more like you’re here to be a reporter, not so much a student.”
The young reporters specialise in print, photographic or broadcast journalism, with Holmsen in the latter category.
“You’re figuring a lot of stuff out yourself, just being out of your comfort zone 24/7,” she said.
Mentors of the programme, which began in 2010 alongside the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, say they have been pleasantly surprised by how these budding sports journalists have held their own despite being thrown in at the deep end.
“The change has been phenomenal,” veteran broadcast journalist Tracey Holmes said. “They’ve been much more able to work completely independently. They’ve found their own stories, they’ve gone and shot their own stories, they’ve edited their own stories.”
Focusing on one area has meant the ability to go deep, say the young reporters.
“It allowed me to develop my writing skills even more. I felt like I did a better job in finding interesting stories and news angles as a result,” said Dutchman Jeroen Adriaanse, 22, who spent most of his time in St. Moritz writing stories for print.
Photojournalism mentor Nick Didlick has also been impressed by how well his young proteges have taken advice.
“Their performance has been the highlight of these Games for me,” he said. “I didn’t want them to shoot just the action and the reaction. I wanted them to look around for patterns, interesting pictures and they’ve done extremely well.”
These young reporters have a new-found appreciation for the gruelling work that comes with covering a Games.
“It helped me change the way I see journalism, its secrets and tools,” said 22-year-old Lucas Marinelli from Argentina, who is focused on photojournalism. “I understood the process behind photography, the analysis and preparation it takes, and how tough the job is, something I didn’t really think much of before.”
Looking ahead to the Dakar 2022 YOG, mentors are keen on helping young reporters realise the changing demands of the industry, without giving up the fundamentals of good journalism.
“It’s no longer good enough just to be an expert in still photography, said Didlick. “You need to be a multimedia, multi-faceted reporter, and that’s what I would hope that they would come away with.”
“A good story is a good story, and all we’re really dealing with now are different platforms,” said Holmes. “You’re still just telling a story and so those great skills in crafting a good story are still as relevant today. Those vital principles are still the same.”