Vancouver Olympics 2010: Media and the Web

The winner of women's slalom Maria Riesch - shot in jpg and raw

I had thought of writing a funny piece about all the things one should NOT do in the olympics, but I decided to let it pass. Somehow it is drifting into the past already. I promise to do it some later date, in some other context.

Instead I thought I take a quick look at our (Finnish)  media and the coverage of these olympics, because that is something I have been curious about ever since I got the assignment to do these games (about a year ago). I saw these olympics as a perfect opportunity to win in the net – but was it? Did anyone make real use of it?

But, before that, I quickly answer to an email I got asking about  jpg vs. raw and the dynamic range.

Yes, I do shoot 95% raw. I am pretty fluent with photoshop and I don’t think it slows down me a bit, you just have to establish your correct workflow. The only exceptions really when I shoot jpg is  a situation which is very uniform, e.g. hockey (where I have 15 min to scroll thru c. 300-400 images, edit, caption, transmit, have a coffee  and be back to my seat before the next period starts). The other case is when I transmit directly from the camera – but even then, I usually shoot both small/medium jpg and raw to separate cards.

I thought the pair of images above illustrate the need for this nicely. Exposed correctly, the one on the left shows the dynamic range achieved in the flat light, thru the fog and the  falling snow. If I had transmitted the image directly out of the camera, that is what my client would have had. Even if they had proficient editors in the receiving end , stretching the histogram of a compressed jpg image would have degraded the image quality very much. The one on the right was processed thru ACR and then thru photoshop before compression into jpg. It is not brilliant, but definitely better what a straight jpg would have been. Processing time doing it this way thru RAW? Around a minute maybe. Definitely not a significant increase to slow the paper down back home.


But, to my real subject:

How did the Finnish (printed )media cover these games?

No, I won’t say “good” nor “badly”. I choose to say “traditionally”. We had a ten hour time difference against us – the majority of the Europe had 8-9 hours. Lots of concern and complaint about this before the games – but very little action. The papers printed your traditional sports stories – with the drama and results – when they had the time to do so, i.e. when the event was over before the deadline. If it wasn’t, they ran it a day late – maybe in a bit different form. Maybe a bit less space, but I would still argue that it was classic sports journalism – the usual.

I won’t discuss this further, that’s not the point. The point is this: it was a perfect opportunity to scoop the net. A three week “learning period” or “acclimatation” to the readers that the actual news happen in the net. Did we make use that? Judge for yourself – if you are living in Finland. And if not, I’ll do it for you: no, we did not.

There were some efforts: we (Iltalehti, Aamulehti, ALMAMEDIA in general) made an effort to the right direction. My “multimedia” pieces – or whatever you choose to call them –  were  a part of this. As was the use of Twitter in reporting. But, on the whole: the core content in the net was still what it had always been: a story and an image to give some color to the page. That’s it.

Helsingin Sanomat (our biggest national daily) tried something, but very elementary. No offence. Apu (a weekly magazine) had a brave concept (they sent a journalist and a photographer, both really good professionals) to blog daily from the games as their main objective. But the webdesign and support from the actual publication was – well, lets say it was below par – as I do not want to make a professional suicide in this country… ;-). Readers who found these pages were few and the service/blog was off the air before the games were over.  Suomen Kuvalehti , our most respected weekly magazine, had one very lame slideshow with agency images – that was all I could find.

I say I couldn’t find anything more – and I am a media professional. Maybe there was mindboggling journalism – something totally new around during these games, but I seriously doubt it. In other terms: even if it did exist, I don’t think your average reader could find it either.  Couple of slideshows here and there (e.g. Keskisuomalainen) – that’s about it.

When I told beforehand what I had planned to do from these games – I had two kinds of responses: “You have to watch that you don’t tire yourself as the main thing (i.e. the paper) cannot be compromised”.  The second was: “Great. You do that, that’s nice… now let’s talk about real work”.

I underline: I think Iltalehti (my primary client) did the best coverage in this country on these games by far. They did a record: over million readers in the net during the first week and even better during the second week. In a country of five point something million people, that’s a lot. And I am proud to have been part of that – even if it has been a small part (my server shows some 100 000 different IPs on the multimedias).

But: the coverage on an event like this could be so much more. And it should be much more.  I repeatedly  say that these games were a perfect opportunity to scoop – but I don’t think anybody really made any use of that. We – the traditional printed media – did what we always have – but that is not enough. If we want to stay in business, that is.

To put it in one sentence: I am strongly of the opinion that we have to start seeing the web as the primary platform – not as “something extra”.

I realize that my wordcount is about to hit four digits – and I feel I’m only getting warmed up now – so I save the rest of my preaching for another day. But I will continue, as this is a very important subject.

Let me finish with a quote of Terry Heaton – a regular contributor to the Digital Journalist – a quote which I have chosen actually to the sidebar of my facebookprofile:

“Media companies attempting to reinvent themselves in the face of disruptive innovations must feel like they’re playing cards with a 5-year old who keeps changing the rules to avoid losing.”

He is right. And it’s damn hard. But the only way to try to win this – and to survive – is to play the game.


  1. Leena Jääskeläinen
    March 9, 2010

    Loistavia kuvia. Harmi, ettei lehdissä ole ollut niitä enempää. Olen kuitenkin ihastellut niitä linkkien kautta.

    Terveiset keväisestä Lapista

    Leena Jääskeläinen
    liikuntaneuvos, Urheilut. liiton jäsen

  2. kkuukka
    March 9, 2010

    Kiitos Leena –

    olen useaan otteeseen sanonut, että näitä hetkiä varten sitä oikeasti tekee työtä: herää aamulla ja huomaa, että joku on oikeasti katsonut työtäsi ja vaivautunut vielä kommentoimaan.

    Lehtiin mahtuu vain rajattu määrä – ja hyvä niin. Painopiste on jo nyt siirtymässä ja osittain siirtynyt netin puolelle – jossa mahdollisuudet ovat täysin rajattomat.

    Vielä kun mediatalot yrittäisivät niitä mahdollisuuksia edes vähän hyödyntää… ;-)

    Hyvää kevään jatkoa Lapin hangille.

    ystv. terv.


  3. Tommi
    March 10, 2010


    I have visited your blog several times during the Olympics and enjoyed greatly your photos. I have liked the photos better on your site than the ones on news papers. It has been partly because of the quantity, but also about the quality. Large screen makes the photos come alive in a different way and the panoramas have been fun to watch. Internet makes it possible to publish also some “behind the scenes” photos, which I think is a good way to add some depth to the traditional sport stories.

    It’s not just photos, but I have liked your posts too. I hope you keep up with this in upcoming events.


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