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“The 1996 Olympics was absolutely amazing… and stressful, fun, exciting. It was a roller coaster of experiences throughout the training leading up to the Games and then, of course the competition itself. I was certainly aware, to some degree, of the magnitude of the event. However, you have to fight the urge to be overwhelmed and, instead, focus on each routine.”
The quote is from famed Olympian Shannon Miller, who was an integral part of the 1996 female Olympic gymnastics team known as “The Magnificent Seven.”
If Miller was living in the limelight in the late nineties, imagine how her fame would have been magnified if there were hashtags, social media or Web 2.0 (though she may have preferred a time before her business was at everyone’s fingertips).
New technologies have certainly changed media over 20 years, but so have deeper issues, like race, gender and economics. To understand sports media in an ever-connected, ever-changing world, journalists need to engage with society today, but also learn from the past. And what better a case study than the 1996 Olympics?
On February 19, a number of Montclair State University’s Sports Media and Journalism students will travel to Atlanta for a one-day symposium, “Atlanta, 20 Years Later: Lessons in Sports Media from the Last American Summer Olympic Games.” The SCM students are Emma Cimo, Fabricio Costa, Jayna Gugliucci, Thomas Formoso and Daniel Falkenheim.
The event is part of the Sports Media Consortium, a five-school coalition that holds national events on key sports issues.
Sports Media and Journalism Professor, Kelly Whiteside, will be moderating the panel with the keynote speaker, Briana Scurry, the women’s soccer goalkeeper at the 1996 Olympics, who has also done broadcast work for the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.
Attendees will also hear from an expert panel of leading Olympic reporters, including Christine Brennan of USA Today, Phil Hersh, former Chicago Tribune writer, and Kevin Blackistone, Washington Post columnist.
“I hope the students attending take away a deeper understanding of issues involving gender, race, media coverage and business surrounding the Olympics,” Whiteside said.
Montclair State’s student-journalists will use the event as an opportunity to conduct research, get footage of the 1996 Olympic arena and interview Scurry for a larger project they are conducting on the devastating effects Olympic games can have on a host city’s economy.
“I am personally really excited to hear the answers to the questions that we will be asking the speakers about economic instability and what they saw when they went to the different Olympics,” student Emma Cimo explained. “I want to know if the economic hardships were evident and I am very eager to hear all that they have to tell me.”
Shannon Miller became the first American to win the balance beam at the Olympics as well as the first United States woman to win an individual gold medal at a non-boycotted Olympics and the first to win any individual apparatus in a non-boycotted Olympics. Miller concluded her career with seven Olympic medals, becoming the most highly decorated US Olympian gymnast of all time. As she recalls, “I didn’t really have the opportunity to see any other events or watch media (it was also before I had a cell phone or internet, and way before social media, so word didn’t travel quite as fast), Miller recounts.
“Winning gold at the Olympics certainly forced me into the limelight. The visibility I received at the time gave me a larger platform to help people in the way that I do today.”
The Monclair State students will present their project at Montclair State’s Student Research Symposium this April.