Meeting AIJC – Vuelta a España (Unipublic) 2017-2018

By Alisdair Fotheringham

On November 23rd the AIJC held its annual meeting with Unipublic to discuss improvements for the working conditions for the media in the Vuelta a España. Alasdair Fotheringham represented the AIJC, whilst Laura Cueto, Unipublic press officer, and Sergio Fernández from the Unipublic Production department, were present for the Vuelta a España.

The Vuelta continues to set a great example for many other races. Notable improvements this year included the new mobile press tent, both practical in itself and which allows for a degree of access to difficult summit finishes for the media which enabled us all to work more efficiently, and, therefore, produce more reports and photographs on the race. The new media guide is another big new plus, as are the press department Wattsapp group for the media (an innoviation to be extended to French and English next year) the results on-line, the history section of the Vuelta, and the much improved Internet service.

Amongst the key areas that need revising, however, are the shuttle system for difficult finishes, the printed out results, the parking at starts, and the rest day press rooms.

There are numerous areas that now function smoothly in the Vuelta and did not need any discussion: these include accreditation, signalling to the Grand Depart press room and permanence, press`parking at finishes, catering and water supplies in the pressroom, press conferences, signalling (in general), the website and Radio Vuelta. It was also agreed that the overall winner’s final press conference would continue to be on the evening of the second last stage of the race.

History section: finally, we have the return of the history section on the Vuelta’s webpage, a long-standing request. Many thanks.

Results on line: these appear now as fast as they are published, and with the new improved Internet, access is much improved.

New media guide: an innovation for which we have to thank Laura Cueto, and which is a) well put together b) informative c) easy to use. Please continue!

Internet: a little wobby in the first week, after which it worked very well. The fact that it is free of charge is an example that other Grand Tours would do well to follow.

Wattsapp group for journalists: a new idea that works well and which contains much useful information in Spanish about changes to starts, finishes, transfers, etctera. This will be extended into French and English in 2018 and journalists will be asked when they get accreditation which Wattsapp group they wish to belong to.

New mobile Vuelta pressroom: overall, this has proved a resounding success, allowing the journalists and photographers much greater access to tricky summit finishes like Los Machucos and Calar Alto. Without it, and in both these cases, working there in the very difficult weather conditions would have been even tougher than it proved to be. Then in Madrid, the new mobile Vuelta pressroom allowed journalists to be very close to the finish line and podium area. Overall the facilities offered inside were of excellent quality, and we will welcome its return in the years to come, but there are some improvements to be made.
1. The televisions need moving to somewhere where they are not overshadowed by the bright lights.
2. More mobile toilets needed outside.
3. In one or two finishes, notably Los Machucos, with so many journalists present, there just wasn’t enough space. The Vuelta is getting too successful!

Other areas in need of revision

Shuttles: this was one area which needs much more detailed information beforehand, in all languages and sooner, and Unipublic agreed to provide it in the Wattsapp groups next year.

Route book needs revising, with possible adaptions from other race route book guides. Discussions to be continued year on year.

Parking at starts: Press avant and press arriere systems, introduced rather haphazardly last year, still need further revising. Any last minute changes to their locations following discussions with local start organisers and police will be communicated via the Wattsapp groups run by the press department, ideally the day before.

Transfers to finish: it was agreed that the route alternatif would have its own indicating arrows next year.

Rest Day Press Rooms: Unipublic commented that on the first rest day the press room was not used by a single journalist. It was agreed that in subsequent years the press room for rest days would be reviewed on a case-by-case scenario, basically studying the logistics, or if there were other reasons why and when it should remain open. It was also agreed that if the press room was closed on a rest day then a ‘mobile permanence’ would be opened so journalists could have somewhere to pick up accreditations or deal with other questions arising like needing new stickers for the car.

Press room schedules: it was agreed to maintain the press room opening times from 12 midday to 2100 with the exception of when the mobile press room was used, in which case it would close at 2030 given the logistical complications of dismantling it. If however, there was an exceptional reason for the press room to remain open, such as a press conference or a breaking news story, then it would remain open til 2100.

Pressroom truck interview video conference. The sound quality of some of the questions and answers, notably in the first week and the third, was very poor in the press room. This needs revising.

Zone mixte media: Attempts were made to set up a zone mixte for flash questions at the finish for the written press, but with very mixed results. It was agreed to try to improve on this, but that under no circumstances would it replace the traditional ‘sit-down’ press conference held later on for all the written press.

Printed results: it was agreed that with the much-improved new Internet service and the access to all the documents from each stage – medical, commissaires, secondary classifications – that the only results delivered in printed format would be the stage results and the overall classification. However, Unipublic agreed that the service for handing over these results would be reviewed next year, given the printed results service operated very unevenly last September.

Accreditations: The Vuelta promised to look harder at the question of race accreditations for journalists. There are still, in the AIJC’s opinion, work to be done on establishing a clear difference between professional and amateur journalists on the race and preventing the latter from gaining access to the race.

Accreditation deadline: Unipublic requested that the deadlines for accreditation be respected more rigorously by the media. They said exact dates will be published on the website.

Conclusion: It was agreed to keep open the lines of communication between the Vuelta and AIJC for what has become a very productive working relationship, with big improvements year-on-year in working conditions.