Only one local newspaper in London so far appears to have gained accreditation to cover the London 2012 Olympics, Press Gazette has learned.
We contacted the six leading newspaper publishers in the capital yesterday (not including the Evening Standard) and found only Archant London’s Newham Recorder had an application approved by the British Olympic Association (BOA).
A total of 400 accreditations were up for grabs for UK national and regional press (not including broadcast journalists) but the BOA was inundated with more than 3,000 applications for press passes to cover the games.
The BOA declined to give a breakdown of how the 400 accreditations were allocated – or how they are divided up between national and regional newspapers. It said it would only discuss allocation with the media organisations that had been accredited.
But it appears certain that only a tiny proportion of press passes are being made available to the UK’s 1,300-odd local newspapers.
Earlier this month it was reported that the entire Scottish press had been handed just four press passes for the games: one reporter each for The Herald, The Scotsman and The Daily Record and one freelance photographer.
The Newspaper Society has been lobbying to increase the number of accreditations for the regional press since they were allocated in May.
It is currently in talks with the BOA about creating a pool of around 12 reporters that will provide copy to the 150 or so regional and local newspapers which applied for accreditation prior to the deadline.
The distribution of passes will be decided by the BOA and the NS will assist in facilitating it.
A spokesperson for the BOA defended the allocation process and highlighted alternative arrangements for access available to non-accredited news organisations.
The level of demand for the UK media made it an ‘exceptionally challenging assignment’which made it ‘impossible for us to satisfy everyone’s wishes”, said the BOA.
A spokesperson said: ‘We very much appreciate the dedicated work that local and regional papers carry out in covering their 2012 hopefuls and we respect and understand their desire to be accredited to the Olympic Games in 2012.”
If the BOA receives a second allocation of media accreditations from the International Olympic Committee then local and regional papers will receive ‘due consideration”.
The organisation is also looking at several alternative services to help out the local press.
Non-accredited journalists will be able to access reporters via a Team GB area which will host one-to-one interviews and press conferences, and every sporting event will have a dedicated press officer on hand to arrange interviews and provide quotes.
Newsquest, which publishes more than 30 newspapers in London, has no press passes to cover the games.
‘There’s going to be some great local news stories and no one there to tell them,’said Richard Firth, the editor of Newsquest weekly the News Shopper.
‘We’ve pitched in and helped with things like recruiting volunteers and we’ve got nothing to show for it.”
The Press Association has been selected as the official national agency for the Olympics – but not all local papers subscribe to PA. Many weeklies, like the News Shopper, do not.
Even it did, Firth argued that PA would not have the man-power to interview every competitor and family member of interest to local newspapers in the capital.
Firth is now campaigning to get the support of local MPs and to get a question about the issue tabled in Parliament.
Bob Crawley, editorial director at Archant at London, said that while he was grateful the Newham Recorder had landed one accreditation spot the company had applied for five and was disappointed it didn’t have more.
‘If we had none I would obviously be extremely disappointed,’he told Press Gazette.
‘But I would have thought we’d have a couple given we have papers in most of the Olympic boroughs.”
He added: ‘Personally I think the regional press has been given a bit of a raw deal.”