May 17, 2008

Shooting Sports on TV

Shooting Sports on TV

Can shooting get televised coverage? How much spectator interest can shooting possibly generate?

Consider the Biathlon in the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was televised. In fact, MSNBC was so anti-gun they had an actual champion shooter (Josh Thompson) do their coverage, featured Magdalena Forsberg in an "Athlete's Voice" segment and had a PDF brochure of Biathlon training centers, among other articles, all positive.

Both men's and women's biathlon races earned airtime. One biathlete competitor informed me that he felt, “…the coverage was good and the races were fantastic.”

The Today Show featured a segment with anchorman Matt Lauer receiving instruction on Biathlon. The piece had him learning to both ski and shoot. At the end he stated, on national television, that the sport deserves more media attention in the US.

Then there was Yahoo!’s coverage on the “emerging” sport of biathlon.

Best quotes:
"There might be no other Winter Olympic sport as thoroughly pragmatic as biathlon."

"Biathlon is the most watched winter sport in Europe on television..."

It is true! I visited Europe months prior to the 2002 Olympics I learned that finding a Biathlon on 'EuroSport' was as easy as finding football or basketball on ESPN.

Why are shooting sports, like Biathlon, ignored by the American mainstream media? Let's ask Rachel Steer, a top-ranked U.S. biathlete from Anchorage, Alaska:

"You come home to America to compete, and people aren't quite sure what the two sports are, or often they think it's three different sports."

According to this Olympian, the real problem in promoting shooting as a mainstream activity is the lack of public demand and knowledge of the events. So if a televised gun game can be popular in anti-gun Europe, why aren't American gun organizations and owners demanding it over here?

I challenged anyone to find an anti-gun bias toward shooting in MSNBC or Yahoo's Biathlon coverage, and nobody reported anything. During this same time period there was no Biathlon coverage at from the NRA. In fact the "Top Sports Stories of the Day" reported on their website featured Figure Skating and NCCA basketball.

Why should the NRA care? Biathlon is a shooting sport that earned some positive coverage nationwide in the "anti-gun" media. Why didn’t they capitalize on it? You would think the NRA would be at least as supportive of Biathlon as NBC is...

I am NOT saying NBC is now the gun owner’s best friend and that we should stop supporting the NRA. This demonstrates that shooters can get positive coverage in a hostile medium. And I have to chuckle when the NRA hits me up for a donation so they can fight the anti-gun media when a national mass media outlet did more to promote shooting in a major venue then the NRA did.

I wanted to be sure these media outlets knew at least somebody appreciated their efforts, so I sent them this:

Subject: Olympic Biathlon

Great Job!

Your coverage of the Biathlon at the 2002 Winter Olympics was quite good.

As a marksman, I find that coverage of shooting events is lacking. On behalf of the 80 million law-abiding gun owners in the United States, thank you!

Fast X,
John M. Buol Jr.
Director, HunterShooter

I wonder how many gun owners bothered to send any feedback to these outlets about this positive shooting event? Probably too busy complaining about how they’re so biased and never will support us.

Lesson (hopefully) Learned: The media WILL show shooting in a positive light, if the story is big enough and presented properly and enough people show that they really care about it. What the gun industry needs to work on is creating more shooting events of "Olympic proportions" backed by enough enthusiastic participants and fans.

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