USC Professor Alan Abrahamson has covered a total of seven Summer and Winter Games throughout his journalism career, and this month’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will be his eighth. But Abrahamson is the first to admit that each event is unique — and these Winter Olympics will surely present new situations for journalists.
“When I was working for the Los Angeles Times [covering the Sydney Olympics] in 2000, I was expected to write one story a day,” said Abrahamson, who will be covering the Winter Games from Feb. 7 to 23. “Now, I’m expected to write three or four a day, plus Facebook, plus Twitter. The workload is far more significant and intense.”
Abrahamson, a faculty member at the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, will be covering the Winter Olympics for NBCOlympics.com. He has written online sports columns for NBC since 2006; he also runs his own website, 3wiresports.com. Before that, he spent 17 years as a sports and news reporter for the L.A. Times. Abrahamson also holds the distinction of being the sole U.S.-based writer on the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Press Commission.
In addition to online coverage, Abrahamson will be reporting on the Olympics for NBC platforms such as MSNBC and Today, as well as supervising two USC Annenberg master’s students who will also be covering the Games.
Long hours ahead for all
Lawrence Murray and Kimiya Shokoohi, both second-year journalism graduate students, were chosen by Abrahamson to attend the Winter Olympics, and they are believed to be the only students from a U.S. university credentialed as working journalists at the Sochi Games.
“They’re both exceptionally bright and capable students,” Abrahamson said. “I’ve known Kimiya since she was an IOC ‘Young Reporter’ in Singapore in 2010, and in Law’s case, he has the ability to do sports analytics, which is a truly unique, breakthrough kind of thing. What he does for pro football and pro basketball simply is not being done in the Olympics sphere, so I want to see him bring this kind of analysis to the Olympic Games.”
The students’ presence at the Sochi Olympics is the product of a joint effort of USC Annenberg and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC).
“The USOC can be just as committed to helping American journalists succeed as they are to helping American athletes succeed,” Abrahamson said. “It takes a great deal of time, effort and understanding on everyone’s part to have student-journalists covering the Olympic Games. They’re going to be working incredibly long hours for 17 straight days, but this will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Though Abrahamson himself has been to Sochi three times, he’s excited about the new opportunities the upcoming Games will present to the two promising USC Annenberg students. And the fact that USC is the only U.S. university sending student-journalists to cover the event speaks volumes about the school’s commitment to training students to be journalists both inside and outside the classroom, according to Abrahamson.
“This is exactly the kind of thing that prepares our students for what is most important, which is getting a job in the real world,” Abrahamson said. “I’ve worked at Annenberg for three years now, and we’re doing some crazy, exciting stuff. We prepare our young people to walk into the work-a-day world and kill it. We prepare them to excel from the moment they get their diploma.”
Long before he was a Olympics reporter, Abrahamson, a Dayton, Ohio, native and Northwestern University graduate, found his interest in sports sparked by the 1972 Munich Games.
“I’ve loved the Olympics ever since I was a little boy,” he said. “I grew up following basketball and football, and the Olympics opened my eyes to other kinds of sports and athletes like Jesse Owens and other people who became my childhood heroes.”
Abrahamson currently teaches graduate-level sports journalism at USC Annenberg and also helps to direct the USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media & Society (AISMS) with Clinical Professor Daniel Durbin.
“Professor Durbin and I believe that this institute is one of the truly novel initiatives in the U.S.,” Abrahamson said of the AISMS. “It has the potential to become a major force in the way sports are viewed and in original sports programming, and he and I are super excited to see where this can take us.”
As for much-talked about political issues surrounding the Sochi Olympics, Abrahamson has seen controversies leading up to the Games before, and he said most everything has a way of fading away as soon as the opening ceremony begins.
“The Olympics are usually marked by all manner of controversy,” he said. “But once the sport itself starts, the focus almost always shifts to the athletes themselves and their stories.”