Grand, But Invisible
While the 2008 Olympic Games have been underway in Beijing, China for what seems like the last six or eight weeks, the airwaves, internet, and cable have been saturated with a variety of competitions. Notably absent, as expected, the shooting sports.
It's a commonly accepted fact in the industry that, when it comes to shooting, any coverage, but most especially television coverage is difficult to come by. Unless, of course, it involves a tragedy or a challenge to the right of firearms ownership.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that one major shooting event had turned away television coverage. Coverage from a group that has proven for the past fifteen years that they're decidedly pro-shooting.
The Amateur Trapshooting Association's Grand American event is, to many, the biggest trap event of the year. More than 7,000 shooters and tens of thousands of spectators had gathered at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois from August 6-16. The 1,600 acre facility is literally crammed with shooters and fans.
Imagine the surprise when Shooting USA producer Michael Irvine showed up with his crew, ready to tape the competition and was denied permission to shoot.
"We'd arranged this four months in advance," Irvine told me, "the when, what and particulars were all supposed to have been approved, including our setting cameras about six feet behind the shooters so we could actually get an over-the-shoulder shot that actually showed the clay targets breaking. "
Apparently, that was a bit close for some of the shooters - and that's when the trouble began.
"Some of the shooters broke open their shotguns and said they wouldn't shoot until we left," Irvine says, "so we went trap house to trap house and the same thing kept happening. Then the Range Officers started yelling at us about not being entitled to be there."
Staying calm, Irvine then explained they were pre-approved, had everything arranged in advance, and weren't trying to cause problems. Calm didn't work.
Instead, the crew was told to move to a position nearly half a football field from the shooters. To Irvine, that was unacceptable. "You've gotta see what they're shooting at," he explained, "otherwise, you have no idea what's happening."
That argument didn't cut any ice with officials, who then suggested the crew move to the practice fields and shoot there. "Couldn't do that," Irvine said, "I told them that ethically that wouldn't work, and that if something couldn't be worked out, then we'd jut have no coverage."
Ultimately, that's exactly what happened. The Shooting USA crew, denied access to the competition fields, packed up and returned to Nashville.
And the reaction from Jim Scoutten, host and honcho of Shooting USA? "Dumbfounded," he says, "I was just dumbfounded. It's the first time in 15 years that's ever happened."
In 1993, Scoutten explained, it wasn't common to see a television crew at a shooting event, but since then, a variety of production groups and TV programs routinely attend - and tape- competitions. "It took a while for people to warm up to the idea," he said, "but eventually, they realized we were helping get the word out."
Around the industry, word of this incident has started to spread. I asked Scoutten what kind of response he's gotten from other events. "Come here," he laughed, "lots of events have called and said, we have a great event, and we'd love to have you."
In an election year, it would seem anyone involved in shooting would be more than willing to get a little positive television time, but, it seems, that's not always the case.
We'll keep you posted.