Ah, the liveblog. It’s like TV for the cheap, and radio for the deaf. One man sits at a computer and writes what he watches, much like Randy Newman in that one episode of Family Guy. Nobody knows for sure the exact worth of of a liveblog, but they’re not only a fun alternative for the reader, it’s darn fun for the blogger itself.
That is, until you’re ejected from the premises.
That’s what happened to Louisville Courier-Journal staff writer Brian Bennett, who was covering the U. of Louisville’s game against Oklahoma State in the NCAA baseball tournament. Bennett was posting updates about the game from the press box, and was told by an NCAA official that, essentially, liveblogging goes against the NCAA policies. His media credential was revoked, and he was no longer able to cover Louisville’s 20-2 victory. The NCAA’s rationale was that a liveblog acts as a live representation of the game, something for which ESPN paid exclusive rights.
Rarely can I personally relate to a sports story. Anyone who’s seen me attempt something athletically can vouch for this. But when it comes to blogging from a press box, that hits home. However, I wasn’t at NCAA games. I was at minor league baseball.
Twice in the past I requested and was granted media credentials to cover (read: liveblog) games for the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate for the Detroit Tigers. These weren’t just regular season games. One game was Opening Day, where nearly every local radio and TV station showed up along with a sellout crowd. The other game was last year’s Game 3 of the Governors’ Cup, the International League’s version of the World Series.
I wasn’t even a beat writer. Just a local blogger-slash-newspaper columnist. My credential was handed to me with full disclosure what I was doing a liveblog for my sports website The Futon Report, not an article for the Toledo Free Press newspaper.
Obviously NCAA Baseball and International League are two separate bodies, but probably equal on several fronts, including popularity. They clearly differ on how they handle bloggers. While the NCAA bans it, the IL has no policy whatsoever. The Mud Hens told me they handle requests on a case-by-case basis, and I can only assume that’s how it is for the other 13 IL teams. The other difference is that while ESPN exclusive rights for the Louisville-Oklahome State game, nobody had that right over the Hens games I attended (although they were broadcast on multiple radio stations and a regional TV channel).
Brian Bennett, the ejected reporter, callously pointed out that he wouldn’t have gotten in trouble had he liveblogged the game from his hotel room watching ESPN. I would also venture that a non-credentialed fan could also liveblog the game from his BlackBerry.
The publicity this incident spurned may seem like we’re headed for a messy conclusion (what’s the saying again about never pissing someone off who buys ink by the barrel?) but this can be so easily resolved. While “pressblogging” may be in violation of exclusive broadcasting rights in the strictest sense, anyone who’s tracked a liveblog knows it absolutely poses no threat to live video feed.
Hey, this is easy, guys. Just change the rule.
If a reporter is going to include live game updates on their website from the cozy press box, present full disclosure. Just like my Mud Hens media credential had checkmarks for certain clearance areas (press box, locker room, field level), include “live Internet updates” (but better worded) as a fourth level of clearance. And if the networks and radio stations get all huffy and play the Well-We-Have-Exclusive-Rights card, then compromise by restricting inning updates until the inning has come to completion.
Then everyone still has fun.