SI’s photo hurdles at the Olympics

By Juliet Liu, J Camp Live! staff

As the world gears up for the Beijing Olympics,

Credit Sports Illustrated

Credit Sports Illustrated

financial constraints have forced Sports Illustrated magazine to cut back on its planned presence in China, according to SI Photography Editor James Colton.

“Unfortunately, there have been a lot of cutbacks in the business because of money and a lack of advertisements,” Colton said Saturday after a J Camp presentation. “Now there’s not as much money and not as much interest.”

This year, Sports Illustrated’s photo department will send a photo editor, three photo technicians and 10 photographers to Beijing. It’s a significant decrease from previous years when Sports Illustrated sent almost its entire office to the Olympic games.

“Normally we would send a whole crew editing on scene—the art department, the editor of the magazine, like we did in Salt Lake City and Greece,” Colton said in an interview.

At previous Olympics Games, Sports Illustrated would publish on-scene from the location of the games. However, Colton said, this year the magazine will be publishing from its offices in New York.

The time difference between the United States and China will present some difficulties for the Sports Illustrated editors. Time-sensitive photographs that Sports Illustrated will post immediately on its website,, will require photo editors to be available 24 hours a day for the 17 days of the Olympics.

However, Colton does not believe that the reduction in the number of photographers and editors will hinder Sports Illustrated’s Olympic coverage.

“I’m sure we’ll have good material to publish and there will be good visibility for it,” he said. “It may not be as big as it was in Atlanta or Salt Lake City, but we’ll still have a very strong presence.”

Sports Illustrated also subscribes to photography agencies and wire services that will feed their Olympic photos to the magazine. These associations, said Colton, will grant SI the “luxury of having a fall-back position in case we miss something.”

Due to a decreased budget at the magazine, Colton will not be flying to Beijing this summer, but he will instead work from New York. Beat editors who gather photographs from a specific sport will compile their images and send them to Colton, who will then review the entire collection.

“It’ll be my job to winnow down the big pile to the small pile,” said Colton. “I have to cut that edit to something that’s presentable to the editor, because the editor will not want to see 40,000 pictures. He’ll want to see the 20 best.”

According to Colton, Sports Illustrated will select and publish photographs that are “geared towards what the editor of the magazine thinks is appropriate for the market and also how much money the advertising people can support.”

Colton said that readers can expect to see a few big names in swimming, such as six-time gold medalist Michael Phelps, and in gymnastics, such as 2008 U.S. All-Around Champion Shawn Johnson.


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