It’s rare that my interests in media democracy and tennis coincide, but a recent post on a tennis blog truly raised alarm bells.
Peter Bodo reports that many of the members of the International Tennis Writers Association are fighting plans by the Association of Tennis Professionals to provide live video feeds to websites from press interview rooms. To add to the absurdity of this rear-guard action, ITWA also advocates a policy of keeping press conference transcripts from being posts for at least 24 hours. Bodo, who is a leading professional tennis writer as well as a blogger, comments: “This is an attempt by the dead-tree media to keep a proprietary stake in the information dissemination business.”
He goes further:
I am adamantly and deeply opposed to these protectionist practices, and to the underlying premise that the news media can or should be in the business of controlling the flow of information or news in order to mollify a part or all of its constituency. There is a huge ethical issue at the root of this, and I think it makes the press in general and the ITWA in this case look deeply conflicted. It’s too bad, because ITWA does a great job in many other ways that I may no longer experience if I get kicked out for being a whistle-blower.
The bottom line is that nothing should impede the flow of information to the public in any way whatsoever (at least in this broad context of sports journalism). Sure, I’m an internet guy now (actually I also write for Tennis, a monthly, which is a pretty schizoid combo). But I’m new to the web, and I like to think I know print, inside and out.
I like and respect print. But I don’t think I’ve ever read anything because I know the reporter had access to embargoed information. I read for one or both of two reasons: I want the news (facts) of a specific story, and/or I really like the voice, style, point-of-view, or opinions of the writer.
Bodo is of course right. What he doesn’t mention is that restrictive attempts like this are bound to fail. It is plainly in the interests of tournaments to give as many people as possible access to their information. Why do they need mediation?
The public parts of the ITWA site don’t have any word of these policies.