Thursday, October 16, 2008

Climbing and the Media

As mentioned in Dougald MacDonald's blog and also at UK Climbing, there is a media summit of sorts at the American Alpine Club in Golden. As Dougald describes it:

"I'm organizing a "summit meeting" of editors of international climbing magazines, journals, and websites. We've got 13 foreign editors, along with representatives of Alpinist, Climbing, and Rock & Ice..."

and UKClimbing:

"Climbing website and magazine editors from all across the globe will be joining Jack as well as fellow UK climbing editors Steve Goodwin (Editor, Alpine Journal) and Lindsay Griffin (Editor Mountain Info/Climb, Assoc. Ed. American Alpine Journal and BMC Mountain News Editor) to discuss climbing media issues, to improve communication and cooperation among mountain publications worldwide, and to learn more about each other's climbing and media cultures."

I think this summit is a great idea. The only issue I have with it is the way in which it exemplifies an increasingly obsolete mentality regarding the climbing media. That is, the way to discuss the topic of climbing and the media is to get together website and magazine editors who seem to assume they control how news and other aspects of climbing are disseminated. I am finding for example, that commercial considerations are outweighing larger questions these days, to the point that significant ascents are either omitted in one magazine (the other paying for an "exclusive"?) or limited to minimal coverage. Not only are magazines not useful for understanding what's actually going on but they are becoming more and more vehicles for selling products besides themselves, not just through advertising but also through content. The examples are too numerous to count.

If the organizers had thought to include bloggers, and there are many who would qualify, who look at the whole scene from a distance and not through the lens of traditional media, whether print or online, a vital perspective would be gained. While there is a prominent role for traditional media in climbing, the new content out there is simply staggering and is completely changing the landscape. It's surprising for instance that no-one is blogging about the summit itself. We are fed a tidbit or two by John Harlin regarding topics:

"Climbing news in the Internet age: What are our guidelines for publishing photos and text found on the Web (copyrights)?

What about fact-checking information, publishing photos with route lines that haven't been climbed, and reporting illegal or unwelcome ascents?

What do we think about “exclusivity” in first ascents, where media sponsors “lock up” information about an expedition until they have reported it first?"

Who is "we" and what is "our" in this instance? It's a very different world from even 5 years ago. What constitutes news and its reception is very much changed from when I started seeing things online. Anyway this is an important topic of conversation. It would have been nice to see a lot more transparency and participation.


chuffer said...

good stuff mr beal!

Peter Beal said...

Thanks Chip! BTW, I'm going to to try for a Flagstaff session this evening.

Dougald MacDonald said...


Interesting thoughts about the editors' summit and blogs. I agree that blogs and other community media have completely changed the landscape (and that landscape has changed further this week with Alpinist folding). This summit was spearheaded by the American Alpine Journal editors, and the AAJ, as an annual "journal of record" is sort of a different medium than mainstream magazines, and this colored the invitee list and the agenda. But I can tell you that the influence of the Internet and how to use it to magazines' and climbers' advantage was a huge topic of discussion (and several of our guests have only websites; no print pub at all). And, secondly, there was so much enthusiasm for the event that I'm sure it will happen again in one or two years, probably in Europe next time, and I'm certain that blogs, etc., will form a big part of our ongoing conversations. I'll try to write up more about the meeting soon, but I'm headed to Nepal on Wednesday, so....


Jamie Emerson said...

Peter Id be psyched to try windowshopper with you sometime, i did the "stand start" not realizing it started lower a while back and would love to finish it up. when do you get out there?

Peter Beal said...

Hi Dougald,
Thanks for responding and I look forward to seeing your summary. As I said, I think the summit was a great idea. Have a great time in Nepal (trying not to sound too jealous)!

Jamie, I am trying the problem this evening, 5-ish, if you want to meet. You have my number if you want to call.