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Today's word on journalism

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dueling masters on words:

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."

--William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962), on Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

--Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961), on William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962)

Did the Olympic flame go out early?

By Kristen Weller

March 10, 2006 | According to Fast National TV ratings American Idol beat out the Olympics for 2006's Winter Olympics, which has faced a huge decrease in ratings but NBC remains hopeful. Dick Ebersol said, during a press conference, that while ratings are down considerably from Salt Lake City in 2002 and Nagano in 1998, they continue to meet projections. The prime time ratings for the Turin Olympics were down more than 30 percent from the Salt Lake Olympics.

An article released on the Scripps Howard News Service acknowledges the main reason for the slump is the time delay. "Some folks won't bother to watch a sporting event, even something as grand as the Olympics, if they already know the outcome," the article said.

That sentiment seems to echo throughout many students at Utah State University, which stay informed with Olympic news by checking the Internet every few days.

"That way you can know about the Olympics and still watch your favorite shows," Lindsey Curtis, a junior majoring in journalism, said.

Ultimately, the issue boils down to image. The Olympics have been around for years, and are not as trendy to the younger population. US A Today has offered 10 ways for the Olympics to boost their image.

Put more 'reality' in Olympic TV. As is shown by the ratings, American viewers prefer hype and details to actual reality. Some suggestions from the article include having hidden cameras to catch the late-night activities of the athletes, and streaming that content to sites that are already popular like

Let the viewers have a vote, even if it isn't the final answer. The popularity of American Idol demonstrates the American desire to have a say in what goes on, even if it has no bearing on the outcome. Perhaps an online or text message voting system would boost Olympic ratings. Other suggestions include a Web site for viewers to post their feelings, gripes, favorite moments of the games.

Tap the technology. Catherine Mullen, general manager of the TV music network Fuse suggests distributing the games through other media like podcasting, or with live broadcasting on cellphones.

Highlight the rivalries. Americans are big on competition. Michael Lynch, senior vice president of marketing for Visa USA, an Olympic sponsor, points to the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" when the U.S. hockey team overcame the Russian team for an incredible gold medal win. "We could do a much better job building up the rivalries," he said.

Decide some events head-to-head. To often, sports activities are drawn out over days or weeks of competition. Working less by the clock and more head-to-head will increase the excitement of the games, and hopefully the ratings. Including more background on the top three finalists will make this one final race more exciting, and allow viewers to feel more in touch with the athletes.

More music, less talk. The Olympics cannot hope to reach the young American population with the same music it has been using for decades. Taking a step toward more diverse musical genres will give more people the opportunity to connect with the games. While decreasing the amount of talk, it is also time to make the talk more hip. It is time to find some younger, hipper commentators. Katie Paine, a consultant for business reputations, said, "Instead of someone translating snowboard-ese into English, you need someone who actually speaks snowboard-ese."

Go back to the 4-year wait. Having some form of Olympic games every two years could be too much too often. In 1986, the International Olympic Committee decided to change the schedule of the Olympics. The Summer and Winter games were originally held in the same year. This has created a disinterest in the Olympics. The importance of the games is diluted by the frequency, said Pam Murtaugh, a management consultant.

Be less predictable. This tip can work especially well when dealing with the opening and closing ceremonies. Even little secrets like who will be the final torch bearer can be enough to keep the viewers interested.

Incorporate the extreme. With the increasing success of ESPN's x Games it is clear that what the viewers want are more exciting events. A revamped snowboarding competition to include skate park terrain complete with jumps and sliding rails is that the Olympics need said Ron Semiao, creator of the X Games.

Rethink the Olympic mission. Many criticize the Olympics for being addicted to the corporate dollar. It is time to make the Olympics about the athletes and events again. The decisions need to be made not by the sponsors but by the participants. According to the IOC, the Games have always brought people together in peace to respect universal moral principles. It does not say that the Olympics were started to make big money. It's time to get back to the basics in this regard.

The Olympics are not completely lost the way they are now. There are plenty of people who are watching the games. Ben Jackson, a junior studying engineering at Utah State University said, "I think we are more grown up then most people out there. American Idol is no big deal. But the Olympics- now that is important."


Copyright 1997-2006 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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