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Good on ya Aussie: Paralympics media coverage soars

This contribution has been submitted to Webdiary by a student in the Online Journalism unit for the Masters in Media Practice and Masters in Publishing courses at The University of Sydney as part of the unit's assessment. The topics covered in the pieces awaiting publication are interesting – and diverse. We hope that Webdiarists will enjoy reading them, as well as giving these aspiring journalists plenty of constructive commentary.


Good on ya Aussie: Paralympics media coverage soars
by Lisa Knox

Over the past 12 days I have been attracted to the ABC network, watching all the coverage on the Paralympics. I suddenly realized that I had never seen coverage on these Games and began to wonder why.

The Paralympians head home this week with their heads held high after winning 23 gold medals, 29 silver medals and 27 bronze medals, taking fifth place in the overall tally. These Games also take Australia's total Paralympics tally to over 1000 medals since the first Paralympics in 1960. No shock that our athletes represent our country with great sportsmanship and pride, however, what is shocking is that our media devoted respectable airtime and represented them.

If you can believe it, Australia takes the media cake being the country with the most Paralympics media coverage of all participating nations. Over 100 hours of live and updated coverage was held over the 12 days on ABC, ABC 1, ABC 2 and ABC HD.

The ABC and the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) came together and decided to make sure every Australian household had the chance to be a part of the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.

"We are excited to be there to show viewers every medal won by Australia's elite Paralympic athletes," says Kim Dalton, ABC's Director of Television, to the Telstra Paralympic Education Program.

Joan Zolnierek, a nurse working with persons who are physically and mentally disabled, says the fact that mainstream media is covering the Paralympics at all is a major victory and a very positive thing for the athletes and the causes they represent.

"To be a part of a nation with so much pride and support for all of their athletes, especially those with physical and mental limitations, is incredible," she says.

Zolnierek says there are those who may still be offended with the lack of coverage in comparison to the Olympic Games; however, the Paralympic Games have only been around since 1960 while the Olympic Games date back to the Ancient Greeks.

The Paralympics officially began in 1960 with 400 athletes from 23 countries competing in only eight events. Today, nearly 140 countries, with nearly 4,000 athletes, sent their athletes to Beijing to represent their nation. "The Paralympics are still new, but the growth and participation is gratifying," Zolnierek says.

Adrian Gilderdale, a volunteer for persons with mental disabilities, says the coverage has continuously risen each year and with Kim Dalton and the ABC's commitment to the Paralympics, the coverage will continue to rise.

Similar to Channel Seven's online coverage of the Olympic Games, ABC has also dedicated a webpage to the Paralympics with highlights, medal tallies, consistent updates, video clips and interviews with the athletes.

What an amazing victory for Australian media. Connecting Australia to the heartwarming stories which demonstrate the strength of the human spirit to rise above physical and mental challenges shows our dedication to all of our athletes, limitations or not.

So, good on ya Aussie.

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Simple English is good English

Hi, dear guys, I found your discussion on the standard use of English is quite interesting to me, as a bystander from a non-English speaking country.Every language has its grammar and widely accepted rules, and localized accents or slangs as well. But to have a certain standard of quality in writing and speaking could never be a bad thing, isn’t it? The use of slang and abbreviation is more a habit rather than something related to being high educated or not. To be frank, I really didn’t understand “Good on ya” until I read these comments.  So, thank you, guys.

Becoming comparable

F. Kendall, I have to apologize that you are totally "bored" by sport; however, it is a massive part of Australian culture, as well as Australia's participation in an international culture. I do understand what you mean when you read article after article about particular rugby matches or AFL games; however, the Paralympics and the Olympics are international and of interest beyond the sport itself. This article was not about the sports involved in the Games but the coverage that Australian media gave to them. I wonder how closely you even read my article with the heated debate on the title alone (which I think Joanna answered nicely...thank you).

Joanna, I actually began this piece focusing on the negative coverage of the Paralympics in comparison to the Olympics; however, once I started researching, I was moved to know that Australia did put in the effort to ultimately have the most coverage of al lthe participating nations. I do agree with the post made by Jillian about a lot of the coverage being on pay-TV, which I think over the upcoming years will change, but, it was there and there have been measurable improvments from the previous Paralympics. It is an interesting event because while it is easy to compare it to the widely celebrated Olympic Games, the Paralympics haven't been around as long, and lets face it...there are those who are "judgmental" to the athletes and aren't as interested in these games. I think this is changing, but it is still a factor.

well said, Joanna

"You" is often unaccented in speech...for example,  written as "ye" in Shakespeare..(and pronounced as 'yee' by the stupid).  On the other hand, "youse" is often colloquially used here, but corrected in newspapers.

In the Cook Islands, on the other hand, "youse" is used in print....causing patronising mirth to visitors.

It's just a matter of standards.  You choose your own.  What goes in the Cook Islands won't necessarily be ok to readers of The Times or The New York Times.  In the popular press Australians do seem to be quite happy with a low standard.


F Kendall, I don't think I would say a question of standards, perhaps taste is a better term. Who says that English has to be conventional? I like that journalism can be allowed a little creativity from time to time, when it is in context and adds to the story. 

Besides, there are plenty of words that are spelt/spelled differently depending on where you go, even interchangably as you stay in the one place. Using your analogy of the Cook Islands use of the word 'youse': The Times  wouldn't publish it purely because 'youse' is dialectical. Similarly, we in Australia, would never write 'color' or 'standardize' as it is dialectically American English. This doesn't make it wrong, or of a lower standard - it's vernacular, and thus wouldn't suit any audience that doesn't speak that particular version of English.  

Paralympics and Olympics

Hi Lisa, I found your article really interesting because I was considering writing about how underexposed the Beijing paralympics were in Australia's media.

After having the Olympics thrust down my throat steadily for their two-week life-span (and then a good few weeks before and after), the Paralympics seemed poorly covered. My angle was to be more a comparison of the Paralympics compared to the Olympics so it was much different in that respect - but at any rate, I think they were largely overlooked.

The only footage I saw was  when I happened to flick over to ABC2 or SBS, and I saw hardly any coverage in the papers. The only television news I saw about them was on the ABC, and SBS.  I don't know if it was just me (I didn't end up researching the story properly), but it felt like the media coverage of past Paralympics was much greater.

It would be interesting to see how the commercial television stations justify their disinterest/lack of coverage in the Paralympics, especially in their news programs. 

As for your use of 'ya' as opposed to 'you' as pointed out by F Kendall, I think it is fine to occassionally change words to suit specific purposes. The point of contracting the word to 'ya' in this context is because it emits a type of energy and candour that the seemingly formal 'you' doesn't allow. It is rarely used, except conversationally, and I can't see any problem with translating that for print. People know that it is colloquial. I think you made the point you were trying to make: when talking about sport (many) Aussies say " Good on ya, mate!" not "Good on you, mate." I, for one, make no apologies for that.

Richard: To be fair, Joanna, the ABC were doing a couple of hours each night (though really late) and were broadcastion updates across the Local Radio network.  As to the commercials, would it be commercially viable?  Last night Ten were broadcasting women's netball...

I stand corrected

Thanks Richard. As I said though, I didn't end up properly researching the story, and even still ABC's coverage was minimal. The idea I had was based purely on my own experiences, which made Lisa's article all the more interesting.

Part of my interest was in why the Paralympics aren't 'commercially viable' whilst the Olympics are the ultimate seller. What makes them so much more interesting or important? Especially to such a great extent? I think if the commercial stations had put effort into promoting the Paralympics, they could have proved profitable.

Good on ya

Lisa Knox: I am totally bored by "sport", and I can only echo William McIness's comment that he is sick to death of the way it is shoved down our throats.

I understand its role in the USA and Australia as the path by which the underprivileged could force their way up the ladder. Still very pertinent where I am, unfortunately.

But, I cannot tolerate their apparent determination to debase basic literacy, as in "Good on ya". Which you, apparently, endorse. Why is this?

The ABC sometimes airs a bit from the Edinburgh Comedy Festival, where the USA comic says, to wild cheers, .."...er, I jes can't get that Aussie accent.... Because I'm educated."

Why do sports commentators, or journalists such as yourself, Lisa, equate being good at sport with, um, bad grammar and illiteracy? Why do you perpetuate the idea that Australians are uneducated? Or, that sport and education are mutually exclusive?

Why don't you just say, "Good on you."? Is that hard?

Audience demand or interest?

Good point Heidi.

I believe there was definitely an audience interest as opposed to an audience demand.  The Australian people were quite taken and to some extent transfixed by the coverage though didn't necessarily demand it like they do the Olympics.

Lisa, I think an important part to note is that most of the coverage was on ABC 2, the broadcaster's digital arm that not all Australian households have access to. The quotes that you have used (though relevant and strong) are perhaps a little self-serving.

It would also be interesting to see how much print coverage was given to the paralympics.

It was refreshing to read your very positive view on the coverage and the link to ABC's online coverage was also a useful tool.

Heidi, thanks for your comments

Hey Heidi, thanks for those questions and comments. Great points to bring up after reading this article.

In regards to reason for so much media coverage, Kim Dalton, the Director of Television at ABC, never directly said the reason for the amount of coverage; however, ABC is thrilled to be involved with the Paralympics so I would actually say that both suggestions are correct. While the Paralympics are for the disabled, ABC doesn't see this as a reason to deny the event coverage. As well, Australia is a sport driven country, and while there are those that are discriminatory towards the disabled, Australians, in general, take pride in their country and follow all sport, again limitations or not.

In regards to the amount of coverage, listed below are other countries, and their stations, that also aired a notable amount of coverage, but clearly not passing 100 hours a week.

BBC (England), CCTV and BTV (China), CBC (Canada), SportTV Channel (Brazil), NHK (Japan), RTVE (Spain),  ARD and ZDF (Germany), and 32 other European Broadcasting Union members.

These countries had a mix of the Opening/Closing Ceremonies, highlights, live coverage, documentaries, news and interviews.


Very interesting...

Lisa, this article brings up an interesting idea and many interesting questions. Some of mine were:

  • Why did the media have so much coverage? Was it an equal opportunity mandated thing, or was it because there was an audience demand for the coverage?
  • What about other coverage? How much did other parts of the world cover this event? There wasnt anything stated about other networks or countries.

The only thing I could suggest to add would be more links. Other than that I thought the article was solid. I enjoyed the multiple quotes, from multiple sources. That always helps with credibility and with your argument. The flow was smooth and the format was easily read and understood.


Fiona: Whoa, Heidi - you don't have to get all your course commitments finished in one day. Besides, we do have a limit of 10 posts per Webdiarist per day, and this is your sixth. All that aside, I am sure that your fellow students are appreciating your feedback - so how about some of you try to emulate Heidi's sterling efforts?

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