Journalist Loses Credentials, Evicted For Blogging

I saw this on Deadspin.  Brian Bennett, an accredited reporter from The Courier Journal covering the University of Louisville baseball team, lost his media credential and was ejected for live-blogging the U of L game at the NCAA tournament on Friday.  It’s going to be interesting as there are more collisions of big Media/big Sports with whomever they think is trespassing on their property. A statement from the Courier-Journal’s attorney: "It’s a real question that we’re being deprived our right to report
within the first amendment from a public facility. Once a player hits a
home run, that’s a fact. It’s on TV, everybody sees it. They (the NCAA)
can’t copyright that fact. The blog wasn’t a simulcast or a recreation
of the game. It was an analysis."

I like typing play-by-play; I really do.  Though some think live-blogging is the least productive (or most wasteful) of all sporting blog activities, an argument in which I can see a cogent point, no matter; it’s opt-in reading.  Anyway, the whole "analysis" defense is extraneous and the first part of the attorney’s comment is spot on.  Once it’s happened and has been seen by thousands upon thousands, you can’t stuff that toothpaste back in the tube.  It’s history.  Also, to cover "analysis", I really can’t imagine replacing "The 1-2: Jeter scores Damon on a single to right off his hands, advancing to second on the throw to the plate; tie game," with "Mr. Jeter, the consumate professional, bravely knots the desperate contest with a hard-won victory over his opponent against formidable odds in the firey cauldron of the battle, a veritable furnace of conflict stoked by the race for the pennant as much as by the unforgiving August sun."  Yeah, right.  Ick.

Speaking of the NCAA tournament, did anybody catch that University of Oregon/Michigan game?  Incredible stuff.

6 comments… add one
  • Nice call on the OSU/UofM game. Hell of a game. Those Beavers sure are mean.

    nate June 11, 2007, 3:08 pm
  • This appears to be an incredibly slippery slope down which sports agencies are willfully — almost gleefully — throwing themselves.
    MLB tried a similar action when it sued a company providing baseball statistics for non-MLB-sanctioned fantasy league play. To me, both these actions impinge on free speech in that the agencies, MLB and NCAA, attempt to restrict the free flow of information and data about an event to which those agencies allow the public access.
    The big question, of course, is whether these agencies have the right to do that. MLB is a private entity, so it likely could strip the media credentials of live bloggers if it so chose, at the risk of alienating fans, causing an outcry among the public and Congress, and losing its antitrust exemption. The issue with the statistics was in the realm of copyright because there are plenty of sanctioend sources reporting those exact same statistics, and you don’t need to be at the game to access them.
    Similarly, you don’t need to be at a nationally televised college baseball game to live-blog the play-by-play, so this move by the NCAA seems downright idiotic — extremely short-sighted, at best, when you consider the outrage this will cause.
    The NCAA is made up of universities that are publicly funded, including the University of Louisville. Though the NCAA as an organization may not be (and I honestly don’t know), those universities certainly are bound by the First Amendment, and the stripping of press credentials because of something — anything — those reporters print strikes me as problematic. I wonder whether the Supreme Court would go so far as to say universities could not be bound by rules set up under private organizations when those rules run counter to the requirements of the Constitution. I would guess so. In essence, the University of Louisville is not allowing that reporter to have a press pass for reasons directly related to the content of his reporting. Monetary considerations always take a back seat to freedom of the press. Always.
    It’s certainly reprehensible, and without doing further research, I also question its legality.

    Paul SF June 11, 2007, 3:18 pm
  • that’s our boy bpud…at it again to make sure he ruins the sport for all fans…gee, why the beef?…why should baseball fans have access to information about the sport we finance?…bpud must be forgetting that he works for us…

    dc June 11, 2007, 3:52 pm
  • Researching a bit:
    In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the NCAA’s receipt of federal funding does not automatically place it under the constraints of Title IX — because simply receiving federal dollars doesn’t necessarily make it a federally funded entity for purposes of governance.
    It seems that might be the precedent the Court could use to allow the NCAA to essentially make its own rules when it comes to governing its sporting events.
    In 1989, the Court ruled against Jerry Tarkanian when he sued the NCAA for suspending him, arguing that because UNLV ceded “controlling authority” to the NCAA. The Court said UNLV could have chosen not to discipline its employee.
    On this basis, it seems the ultimate decision still lies with the university, which as a public institution could be in violation of the Constitution for stripping the press passes. But on a neutral site in a tournament, which school gets that pleasure? The home team?
    In 2000, the Court ruled in a high school case that a Tenneessee interscholastic athletics association was essentially a “state actor” in enforcing a rule about undue influence on student-athletes. In that case, it said, the association was state-based, so was “entwined” with its member schools.
    No such case like that here. But aren’t most members of the NCAA public institutions falling under the Constitution, and the NCAA “entwined” with them? I would say so, considering the extent to which the NCAA manages those sporting events. I’ll dig around some more…

    Paul SF June 11, 2007, 3:54 pm
  • Paul SF, also relevant to the discussion is 1997’s NBA v Motorola case, where the NBA unsuccessfully sued Motorola and Stats, Inc., for, among other things, copyright infringement for sending real time game stats to users via pager. I’ll be curious if the NCAA takes any action should this reporter continue live blogging from in front of his own television. I expect not, and that this is more of a misguided power play than anything else.

    Matt SF June 11, 2007, 4:13 pm
  • Paul: I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not sure how public funding matters here. Even public institutions can set parameters on how they distribute information. Our current executive branch seems to have a very narrow view of this.
    It’s a disturbing trend, though, and foolish. These kinds of rules are especially disturbing for those of us who run sports blogs. The good news is that MLB has pretty much kept a hands free attitude toward bloggers. I think that’s smart business on their part; the League has achieved its status through coverage in the press. But we all know the small-minded have a habit of missing the big picture.

    YF June 11, 2007, 7:38 pm

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