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Online sports journalists strike out

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From the Summer 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 50.

From the Summer 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 50.

While obtaining press credentials is a battle in itself for online journalists, online sports reporters must deal with a few more hurdles. Some say that conflict occurs because journalists may pose as competition to teams and organizations who sponsor their own Web sites. Independent Web sites may intrude on the commercial gains of the sports organizations hosting events or who have a Web site for their specific teams. The Summer Olympics in Australia aroused criticism when the International Olympic Committee imposed its monopoly on broadcasting rights to the games. Not a single media credential was granted to an online journalist.

“That sort of commercial-inspired restriction is a bit more insidious, than the ‘we just don’t deal with online journalists,'” said Rich Jaroslovsky, Online News Association president and The Wall Street Journal senior editor said. “It simply is self-defeating.”

ESPN does issue press credentials to online journalists, but with certain restrictions that bind possibilities of competition for their own events. Live broadcasting is the paramount concern, said Chris Stiepock, general manager of ESPN’s creation management department, which organizes events to attract a young male audience who are also primary Internet browsers.

“These days they can come in with a digital camera and get onto their Web sites footage of our events quicker than we can get them onto our network,” Stiepock said.

Greg Gough, spokesman for AllianceSports.com, a national network of college and recruiting sites which contains collegiate sports news and recruiting content, understood why some teams and organizations fight with the media.

“These teams have gone out in a lot of cases and spent a lot of money on their official Web site so they don’t want other people going elsewhere,” Gough said.

The investment into the team’s designated site is something worth protecting, Gough said, but there are particular advantages when other media can divulge information regarding the team. Recruiting information, for example, cannot be posted on college sports Web sites according to NCAA regulations. AllianceSports.com seeks to be a vital recruiting resource for colleges and athletes who need information that the NCAA won’t allow the schools to post.

ESPN recognized the advantages of boosted coverage by other sites. For events such as the X Games, a series of sports competitions such as skateboarding, wakeboarding, and biking, ESPN targets typically a young and computer savvy audience. Extensive coverage by Web sites offers more exposure to an audience constantly surfing the Web, Stiepock said.

“It’s all really a give and take relationship,” Stiepock said. — EU