Wednesday column discussion

In my Wednesday column, I take on the Southeastern Conference over its new media policy. You can read it here.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying the SEC owes newspapers or bloggers or anybody a free seat and all the postgame interviews they can do.

But I am saying that if the SEC allows media into its games to cover them, then it ought to allow those outlets to cover the games.

The SEC, in response to complaints, softened its media policy a bit this week. That still didn’t satisfy Gannett, the parent company of The Courier-Journal, nor The Associated Press, nor The New York Times Co., which owns a couple of newspapers in Florida. None of those organizations has signed credential agreements yet.

To let newspapers send photographers in, and then to try to dictate what the paper can and can’t do with those pictures, is crossing a line.

And here’s my main point, and my closing point in the column. If the SEC wants to operate like a professional sports league, then it should be treated like a pro sports league. It should be treated like the for-profit company it is acting like it is. It should be taxed. Donations to its programs should in no way be tax deductible. Its unpaid professional work force (athletes) should be accorded the same rights as workers in this country.

But wait, you may say. This is college sports. Well, that’s a good point. These are educational institutions, all but one of them in the SEC public schools, engaging in this collective game of corporate hardball.

It’d be an interesting legal question as to whether a public university owes the same access to its athletic events as it does to other university proceedings.

But all this is needless. The SEC’s brand is under no threat from media organizations reporting on its events. In fact, the SEC built that brand on media organizations reporting on its events.

I can understand the SEC coming down on media outlets who are using homeristic web sites that are barely distinguishable from the school sites themselves. But to bar legitimate media outlets from using whatever platforms they use to report on their games is short-sighted and greedy.

Does it break my heart that the SEC may not want me live-blogging from games? Absolutely not. It’s nearly impossible to write a game column and live blog at the same time.

But I also know that we’re reaching a critical state in this country where the press as we know it, in terms of indpendence, is changing. And it’s about more than just sports. The last thing anybody needs is for the newsmakers to control the news.

In the end, the SEC can report on its events all it wants. It can put up video highlights and full replays of its games on its new digital network. And it will be successful. But the SEC, in the end, can’t be the only voice on SEC sports. Maybe it can keep news organizations out of its games, but it can’t dictate to news organizations how to do their jobs.


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