China Open Supervisors Recognize MU Students’ Performance

“Everyone’s performance has been great.” -Yanan Wu about the reporting students’ work.

“They have excellent communication skills. They can get along with WTA/ATP officers very well without me. This is really helpful.” -Jenna Li on the performance of students doing media/player relations.

By Erin Meyer and Stefan Bellm

The ten MU students who traveled from Columbia, MO, to Beijing to work at the 2011 China Open come from various backgrounds with varying academic and professional interests. With students on the magazine, broadcast, strategic communication and even agricultural journalism tracks, program director Carolina Escudero had the difficult task of ensuring the experience would be beneficial to the students’ goals. After interviewing the team, she worked with China Open officials to place each student.

The reporting team consisted of a group of six burgeoning journalists. Melissa Gilstrap, Suet Lee, Stefan Bellm, Danny Matteson, Molly Bullock and Julia Boudreau immediately got to work covering tennis matches and various activities around the China Open.

“Everyone’s performance has been great.” Yanan Wu, China Open media manager and supervisor of reporting team. Wu also said she was impressed with the high quality of writing produced by some students.

Being more interested in PR and media relations as opposed to traditional journalism, Erin Meyer, Nina Bolka and Peter Schmidt joined the PR team to assist China Open and WTA/ATP officials in coordinating player activities, press conferences and media interviews.

“They have excellent communication skills. They can get along with WTA/ATP officers very well without me. This is really helpful.” Jenna Li, Marketing manager and manager of PR team.

Broadcast student Chloe Dake was asked early on to join the upper management of the tournament and assumed the role of personal assistant to Charles Hsiung, one of the tournament directors. This position was more appealing to Dake’s interests.

Although they took on varying roles throughout the tournament, everyone’s experiences shared some commonalities. For two weeks, all ten students spent long hours at the tennis center receiving extensive, challenging and rewarding experience in communicating and working in media with people from different cultures and language backgrounds.

MU students review results of time in Beijing

By Erin Meyer

As the 2011 China Open comes to an end, our group of 10 MU journalism students that traveled to Beijing to volunteer at the 10-day tournament has dedicated the last few weeks to immersing ourselves into a new culture and to living and breathing tennis.

 

The reporting team has logged long hours covering matches and events around the venue and writing articles on them in the Media Center while the PR team has facilitated countless press conferences, interviews and player activities.

 

As if the bags beneath our eyes and the frequent yawning is not enough proof of our dedication and tireless effort, we’ve generated the following statistics to help put into perspective just how much our group has accomplished over the last 15 days.

 

Since day one of our time in Beijing, members of the reporting team have been hard at work covering events and writing articles to be published on the 2011 China Open’s website. They’ve spent long days and nights at the tournament ensuring the public receives fair and accurate information on the tournament. Thanks to their unwavering dedication to high-quality journalism (and plenty of packets of instant coffee), the team has generated over 79% of all the English-language articles published on the China Open website during the tournament.

    “I knew we were working hard, I’m really impressed with the amount of the tournament’s news coverage that our group produced,” said Danny Matteson of the reporting team. “I feel like I’m leaving with great sports-writing experience.”

 

The China Open categorizes articles as either “News” or “Match Reports.” The reporting group significantly contributed to both categories. Below is a categorical breakdown of the articles published during the China Open.

The students on the reporting team weren’t the only ones toiling away during the tournament. Members of the PR team had to be available at each match in order coordinate the post-match press conferences and organize player activities. The PR team had a hand in facilitating over 91 percent of the press conferences held during the tournament.

     “It was awesome to see all the efforts that go on behind-the-scenes in such a big tournament with player and media relations,” said Peter Schmidt of the PR team. “Now, I understand why public relations practitioners are considered gatekeepers of information.”

 

Although we did spend the majority of our time at the tennis center, we each also had a great time exploring Beijing, familiarizing ourselves with Chinese culture and getting to know each other in our free time. This, combined with the invaluable experience obtained through our roles at the tournament, has contributed to making the 2011 China Open study abroad program a truly unforgettable experience for all.

 

Picture Us at the Great Wall

By Molly Bullock

Just before we leave the hotel for the Great Wall of China on October 4, our guide mentions traffic could be a problem because it is National Day Golden Week, a holiday. There is some traffic on the highway as we draw near the Great Wall, but no amount of traffic will prepare us.

Our first stop after the parking lot is the restroom. As a few of us approach the entrance to the women’s we are engulfed in a shoulder-to-shoulder crush of other women pushing, squeezing, cutting one another off and very slowly advancing forward into the facility. It gets worse from there as we inch further into the jam and are squished, body-checked and purse-knocked from all sides.

There is an officer stationed inside, holding her arms at an angle to allow a modicum of space for the lucky survivors who make it into and out of a stall to maneuver around the edge of the bulge and out to safety.

Travel is one of the few things that prompt me to consider the customs so ingrained in my own society that I hardly see them at all. An observation imprinting on my brain today at the stalls: In America people make fantastic use of single-file lines. Also, occupancy limits. Then, less related to culture: If something bad happens in here we may not be able to get out.

This bit with the restroom foreshadows what we encounter on the Great Wall.

Once we make it inside the visitors’ gate, we begin climbing the steps to the wall amidst a heavy crowd of people. We may think – and we will be mistaken – that as the climb grows higher and steeper the crowds will thin out. As we climb higher and look across at a stretch of wall to which we are apparently heading, we see the crowd actually becomes denser. The wall is jammed with humans from side to side and end to end, and from our vantage point it almost appears they are at a stand-still. As we soon discover they are actually moving, very slowly.

When we look to the section of wall behind us, there are far fewer people. For some reason we do not just take that route instead, maybe because we are following the guide. This matter is later filed away will all the other Beijing unsolved mysteries.

We proceed slowly with the crowd as we are again squished, pushed and body-checked. Several times we stop to decide how much further to travel – by my estimation we ultimately only walk about a quarter-mile on the wall.

When you can steal a moment free of elbows of all shapes and sizes, which is almost never, the view from the wall is beautiful. Sloping tree-lined ridges cascade into valleys, and then someone smacks you with her backpack as she trudges past you up the wall.

Technology Behind the Scenes at the 2011 China Open

Text and Photos by Danny Matteson

As a graduate convergence journalism student I am, of course, interested in the role of technology in the production of media. Everywhere I go I like to see how how people personally interact with technology to acquire or distribute information. For this reason working as a volunteer English-speaking match reporter at the 2011 China Open has been a rather intriguing people watching experience. From my rolling office chair, one of over a hundred, in the long rectangular media center at Bejing’s National Tennis Center I can see people telling stories through media all around me. Here is what I see everyday:

The Media Center within Beijing's National Tennis Center during the 2011 China Open.

Whenever I am not covering a match, I am here, in the media center. The media center is where, (go figure), all of the media gather to work on their stories, photos, videos, etc. Here are some shots I took around the room.

With his camera at his side, a photographer works at his laptop in the media center.

This is generally the scene in the media center. The long tables are littered with laptops, tablets and phones with journalists working diligently to get their stories in quickly.

A giant photo lens sits on the table as a photographer address a colleague.

Generally the back of the room is where the photo journalists hang out, usually with their monstrous photo lenses out on the table. These guys get to wear special red vests when they go out on the court. I have no idea why.

TVs around the room show live tennis action and updated scores so journalists can stay up to date on the tournament.

There’s about six of these TVs around the room in the media center. They are a total lifesaver. Whenever we need scores or need to know when a match is about to end so we can get to the next one on time this is where we look.

Andy Roddick doing a press conference after his first round loss at the 2011 China Open.

Just off of the media center, in this large room, all of the press conferences take place. This room is normally filled with cameramen videotaping the conferences while print journalists ask questions and take notes. Because there are both Chinese and English speaking journalists in the room all of the questions and answers have to go through a translator (at left, behind the podium) who then translates the question into English or the answer into Chinese. There is also a woman who sits in the front who transcribes all of the press conferences using a funny looking machine that kind of looks like a little piano. I really need to ask her how that works.

One surprising technology problem we have run into here in China is communication. Because of roaming charges from our cell phone carriers we’ve all been forced to use “China phones” (see below) provided to us by the University. While they work well for what they are. They are definitely no iPhone. 1997, anyone?

"China phones" used by student volunteers at the 2011 China Open.

We’ve also had issues with the internet. Because of the Chinese government’s massive internet firewall all sites not pre-approved by the government must be screened before being allowed to load. Put more simply, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube. Instead China has state approved services that are similar but go by different names. Because I was in charge of the Video gallery section of this blog I got fairly familiar with the Chinese version of YouTube, YouKu. Check out the screen shot below.

Screen shot of China's answer to YouTube, YouKu.

Luckily, Google Chrome would translate the site into English so I wouldn’t to navigate it as seen above but it was still a tricky process.

 

Fans rally around favorites as tournament enters final rounds

By Stefan Bellm and Erin Meyer

Courtesy of Danny Matteson

A major stop on the WTA and ATP circuits, the 2010 China Open brought in 251,000 fans, and, with the newly built Diamond Court, the 2011 tournament expects 300,000.

About 80 percent of attendees come from the Beijing area, according to 2010 China Open Final Report. Ask these fans who their favorite player is, and the response will likely be recent Grand Slam winner and Chinese favorite Li Na.

“I only know her because she’s Chinese,” said Wang Yuwei, 19, in reference to her favorite player.

According to the same report, the China Open’s high level of competition is what keeps fans coming back each year.

David Andrew, a Scottish expatriate living in Beijing was hoping to see this level of competition in last year’s men’s singles champion Novak Djokovic.

“Djokavic not being here is a bit unfortunate,” said Andrew who purchased a centre-court pass for the China Open hoping to see the Serbian player who pulled out of the 2011 China Open due to injury. To the dismay of many fans, injuries also kept top-ranked women’s players American Serena Williams and Russian Maria Sharapova out of Beijing for the 2011 tournament.

With these top-ranked players cancelling and the Chinese hometown favorites being knocked out in the first few rounds, Chinese and foreign fans alike have been rooting for other contenders, such as defending China Open champions Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and America’s Mike and Bob Bryan who are drawing big crowds and fan support as the tournament enters the quarterfinals.

Fans are guaranteed to see some exciting tennis in the last days of the tournament as top-ranked players and underdogs face off in the final matches.

MU volunteers make their official tournament picks.

Today, the group got together and we all made our official picks to win the tournament; the closest to the actual result will get a free dinner, courtesy of the rest of the group. The winner will also receive ultimate bragging rights as the greatest tennis journalist/forecaster of our time.

These picks are official; some of us used a very logical, in-depth prediction method; analyzing first serves percentages and top spin velocity, while some of the group used the “who is the best looking” method.

May the best picks win.

 

Danny’s picks: WTA Singles- Andrea Petkovic.                                                             Danny liked the way the Petkovic looked in the opening round and he told me that Petkovic is a lead-pipe lock to win it all here in Beijing.
ATP Singles- Jo Wilfried-Tsonga.
Danny likes the way Tsonga has played in Grand Slams and he really likes the fact that Tsonga has defeated Federer in the past. He likes the Frenchman to go to the big dance and take home the gold.

Stefan’s Picks: WTA Singles- Caroline Wozniacki
Stefan has the World’s number one woman, and returning China Open Champion, in the finals against Sam Stosur. He’s got Wozniacki winning it all because she’s number one for a reason.
ATP Singles- Gael Monfils
Stefan’s got an all French Men’s Finals with Tsonga and Monfils in the final match. But he likes Monfils to come from behind and beat Tsonga to take home the trophy and the purse.

Erin’s Picks: WTA Singles- Sam Stosur
Erin’s got a good feeling about the reigning US Open Champion here in China. She likes Stosur’s aggressive style and fast start. She’s got the Aussie as the winner here.
ATP Singles- Tsonga
Top-ranked and top-seeded Tsonga is creating a lot of hype here in the Media Center. Erin is onboard this bandwagon and likes him in this competition.

Melissa’s Picks: WTA Singes- Sam Stosur
Melissa had Stosur meeting Wozniacki in the finals, and she too has Stosur beating the No.1 to win it all here in the Far East. According to Melissa, if Stosur can beat Serena Williams, she can beat anyone.
ATP Singles- Andy Roddick
Melissa believes in a strong serve and who’s got a stronger serve than Andy Roddick? She likes to him to blow people off the court with that strong first serve and is a lock to win this one.

Molly’s Picks: WTA Singles- Christina McHale
Molly’s got the dark horse of all dark horses to win the 2011 Beijing China Open. 19 year-old McHale had to earn the right to play here in Beijing and Molly likes her “nothing to lose” style and believes in this rising star.
ATP Singles-
Molly doesn’t have a Men’s Singles Pick this time around.

Julia’s Picks: WTA Singles- Caroline Wozniacki
Julia likes the defending China Open champion to win because she’s number one for a reason. Wozniacki’s refuse to lose attitude has Julia picking her to defend her crown this year.
ATP Singles- Andy Roddick
Big serves mean big success according to Julia. She likes the American to serve up the heat and win the China Open this year.

Chloe’s Picks: WTA Singles- Wozniacki
Chloe thinks the blonde from Denmark has got it in her to repeat and win the title this year.
ATP Singles- John Isner
Not only is he tall, strong and handsome; the guy can play tennis too. Chloe wants her ATP crush to win it all this year in Beijing.

Suet’s Picks: WTA Singles-  Tamira Paszek
Suet thinks it’s going to come down to the a Wozniacki-Paszek final. She likes the underdog in this one and is picking an Paszek to upset the No. 1 woman this year in Beijing.
ATP Singles- Joel Simon
The MU group loves the French players on the mens side and Suet is no different. She likes Simon to blow past the talented field of men and take the trophy home.

Peter’s Picks: WTA Singles- Sam Stosur
The Aussie is confident, she’s on a hot streak and she’s playing with a chip on her shoulder. After watching her blow Pironkova off the court last night, I think Stosur has a date with destiny here in Beijing.
ATP Singles- John Isner
I think this is Isner’s coming out party. The guy had the best major of his career in last month’s US Open and I think playing like that only breeds confidence. Look for the 6’10 mountain of a man to hoist the trophy on October 9th.

Going to win it all;
Pete

Gender disparities in tennis as an institution

As observed by Erin Meyer

Naturally, the associations for world tennis are divided by gender in that women and men rely on different organizations, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) respectively, to handle their media relations and administer their world tours. Just upon inspection of the organizations’ names, one sees the disparity between the two groups. For instance, although the female nature of the WTA is apparent in the extended form of its acronym, the ATP does not assert the gender that its organization represents but simply references itself as the “Association of Tennis Professionals.” Are women not to be considered “tennis professionals?” The names of the organizations at least seem to suggest so.

Upon viewing the WTA and ATP websites, the difference in the coverage of men and women tennis players becomes apparent. For example, the banner on the top of the ATP website gives scores of recent matches. Although the WTA banner also gives scores of recent matches, the scores are provided next to advertisements for a “Strong is Beautiful” WTA advertising campaign which features prominent female athletes dressed in evening gowns and wielding tennis rackets.

WTA's website header

            Although this campaign appears to be attempting to positively promote the strength of WTA athletes, it also emphasizes their beauty and perpetuates stereotypes. One has to wonder if the same emphasis on appearance would ever be placed on male athletes. Why do certain media and organizations tend to focus on the beauty or appearance of female athletes in addition to their accomplishments in the sport?

            The news coverage of the players on the WTA and ATP sites further exemplifies the gender incongruities in these organizations. For example, the news headlines on the ATP home page predominantly include stories on their players’ accomplishments in the sport. Similarly, the WTA headlines include stories about recent matches and player accomplishments such as Paszek’s recent defeat of Jankovic in the first round of the 2011 China Open. Also included, however, are stories emphasizing the physical beauty of the female players such as a recent WTA article entitled “Heather Watson & Her First Magazine Cover” that discusses Watson’s recent photo shoot.

Although the differences in these organizations may seem subtle, they contribute to gender stereotypes and inequalities through their focus on physical appearance and portrayal of some female athletes as sex symbols.