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Game changers #8 Peter Frei, the journalist who has seen it all

Swiss journalist Peter Frei covered the 2018 European Athletics Championships at Olympic Stadium in Berlin. (Photo by Maria Pia Beltran)
by Maria Pia Beltran

BERLIN, August 16, 2018 - During the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships AIPS had the opportunity to speak with Peter Frei, 74 years old and former SDA editor. The Swiss journalist has enjoyed a long career covering sports at 360 degrees.

-What do you think about this first edition of European unified Championships? -It’s a good idea that has brought a lot of progress to smaller sports, like rowing and gymnastics, and that has also been positive for the bigger ones like swimming and athletics. Online media and TV have had more space to cover the competition and I think that putting several sports together is a good way to generate a bigger audience.

-What was you first international competition? -I started as sport journalist with an athletics meeting in Zurich in the early 60s, I was 19 years old. My very first international competition was the European Athletics Championships in 1969 in Athens . I remember that it was the first time for me to see real security gates: at that time in Greece there was the Colonel’s government, a dictatorship and you couldn’t leave any of your personal effect anywhere. I was moved to be there of course and our national team got a very unusual triplet of gold, silver and bronze…


Peter Frei at work in the organized chaos of his home near Zurich. (Photo by Peter Frei)

-What was the most intense memory of your long career?-I have lived many tense moments in terms of sport but in our career, as sport journalist, sometimes you also have to face historic and tragic moments. I was in Munich in 1972 for the Olympics and with another colleague I decided to go to see what happened exactly in Fürstenfeldbruck, the military airport from where the kidnappers and the athletes were supposed to leave. He had all received the message that athletes had been released but we wanted to see it with our eyes. We arrived by car and witnessed the massacre that took place. I have experienced darkness. The same night, in Fürstenfeldbruck I wrote an entire page for the biggest Swiss newspaper detailing that tragic event.

- How do you think sports journalism has changed over time?-You have less time now to do more things. In a way there are more possibilities for the media and of course some facilitation passing from the typewriter to internet. On the other hand you also have new criteria to evaluate the job and it sometimes it seems that how many clicks you bring to your website is the only important thing.

-What about the reality newspapers face today?-There have been many changes also in the written press: you have more background and colour stories and less chronicles. For a good writer that is an immense opportunity to work with creativity!

-How important can the AIPS Sports Media Awards be for sport journalists to be recognized at international level?-Internet has reduced the geographical distances and the world of sports itself: today a very good sports journalist can have an international audience and that’s why we need to install a new culture between our colleagues. These awards are definitely a good innovation in our world: international recognition can be really helpful also in your own country, as you say: nemo propheta in patria.


Peter Frei at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece in 2004. (Photo by Peter Frei)

-How have globalization and social media changed the profession?-The change had been amazing and it’s on-going. Journalists need to be aware that now they are fundamental to guide the public and explain things. People have the right to be able to distinguish between fact and fake news and here the journalists come into play and must lead [the audience] to the truth.

-What is the secret to become a top sports journalist?-You have to be able to write. You have to be creative. But most importantly you have to be passionate about what you do and be totally in love with sports.

Game changers is presented by AIPS Sport Media Awards, a bridge to the future of sport journalism. Divided in 6 main categories, the Awards are a celebration of the best sport storytellers from around the world. Submissions for professionals are free and open until September 17, 2018. Find more and submit your work in https://aipsawards.com/

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