Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Who owns sports coverage?

Admittedly, this a day late (an eternity in the blogosphere), but Tim Arango of the New York Times had an interesting piece Monday regarding "Tension over sports blogging." At the heart of the discussion, Who owns sports coverage?

I have advocated sport organizations should credential bloggers, or at least embrace the individuals who author blogs specific to a team or organization. My logic is that bloggers, and the people who read the blgos, are highly identified customers of the organization who purchase tickets, merchandise, etc. These are the consumers that marketers covet.

Not everyone agrees with that point of view, but there are no laws which tell us what the ramifications of treating bloggers as equals to the mainstream media might be. This is an important angle to Arango's story - the role of the First Amendment. Arango cites an unnamed hockey executive who thought the Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on this and quotes Frank Hawkins of the NFL as saying "The First Amendment only applies to government. Even if it is played in a publicly financed stadium it is a private event."

I touched on the First Amendment issue in a previous post after the IOC approved athlete blogging from the Olympic Village this summer in Beijing. In my mind, it is necessary to distinguish between the "function" of journalism and the "profession" of journalism. If the First Amendment were only to apply to the profession of journalism, than obviously most bloggers would be excluded. Bloggers have altered the business of gathering news and information previously restricted to the "profession" of journalism. Even the editor at large for Hearst, Phil Bronstein, admits in the piece, that "we don't agree on what the future of journalism is."

League governing bodies such as MLB, NCAA and NFL have imposed restrictions on blogging, online video, and even the number of photographs. Those restrictions are impeding the "profession" of journalism from effectively doing its job, or so the mainstream media think. As John Cherwa of the Associated Press Sports Editors and Orlando Sentinel says, "We're getting tire of everyone trying to tell us how to do our business." But what is the business of the mainstream media today?

I concede Mr. Hawkins' point (or the interpretation of his comment) that the NFL is a private entity and can do what it wishes regarding credentials and the NFL owns the pictures and marks of the league. But does it own the accounts of those games? As Terry McDonell of the Sports Illustrated Group wrote to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, "S.I. does not own the sports history, but neither does Major League Baseball. That history belongs to everyone who loves the game."

Here are some additional takes on the New York Times article from around the sports blogosphere:
Christopher Byrne of Eye on Sports Media
The Big Lead focuses on following the money trail


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