7.20.2007

In support of photojournalists,
SND joins protest of NFL rules

The Society for News Design's executive committee, on behalf of the Society's more than 2,500 members, expresses deep concern about the National Football League's new restrictive rules on gathering video, which the league asks be limited to 45 seconds per day, per team, as well as a restriction on news organizations archiving that material.

The Society also protests another new NFL rule for the upcoming season that requires photographers at games to wear red vests with Canon and Reebok logos on them, effectively putting the journalists covering the sport in the awkward role of appearing to endorse products.

"We are worried, of course, that the NFL rules put visual journalists in a terrible position," said Scott Goldman, the Society's president and an assistant managing editor at The Indianapolis Star. "The rules are absolutely unethical given our profession's need for objectivity and critical distance. Journalists should not have limits on coverage of public events just because we're evolving our medium, and we certainly should not become walking advertisements."

The Society has joined an effort by The Newspaper Association of America to work with the NFL on less-restrictive rules for all games, as well as practices, press conferences and any other event related to coverage.

The Society also supports the National Press Photographers Association, which has launched an initiative to try to help the NFL see why these rules cannot stand and has gone on record in protest.

"It totally goes against our Code of Ethics to force photographers to advertise as if they were some sort of NASCAR vehicle," John Long, the chair of the Ethics & Standards Committee for NPPA. "We are independent gatherers of news, storytellers with no agendas. Our integrity comes from objectivity. Do reporters put up with this kind of disrespect from the NFL?"

The Society's Code of Ethical Standards also helps supports the position on the new NFL rules, said Bill Gaspard, who was a chair on the committee that drafed the code, as well as the president of the Society's foundation and a senior editor at the Las Vegas Sun.

"Our code says 'We will strive to keep news content free of special interests' and this NFL rule on wearing advertising-laden vests is in direct opposition to that," Gaspard said. "It's pretty easy to see this was not thought about deeply enough by the NFL. Our hope is that they will understand this was a mistake."

The Society welcomes comments on this posting and invites you to share your thoughts on the NFL rules.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Denise Reagan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Friday, July 20, 2007 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger Denise Reagan said...

Of course I support this effort. The rules are outrageous and continue a trend the NFL has made toward total control of their product.

My question is this: What will we in the news industry do if they say it's our way or the highway on issues such as the photographer vests?

Do we have enough guts to say "no thank you" and stop covering the NFL?

What will the wire services do? If AP continues to cover the NFL by the NFL's rules and publications that have stopped covering the NFL personally continue to use AP, what does that say about our standards? (By the way, for those of us in smaller NFL markets such as Jacksonville, no one else really covers our home games.)

Do the appetites of our readers matter more than our ethical standards?

I don't have any definitive answers. I don't know if the NFL feels it needs the news industry as much as we might need them.

Friday, July 20, 2007 11:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Brown said...

Pro football is an industry, and the NFL’s image is one of its most important assets. Stories and images of players in trouble with the law, or fighting during training camp threaten the NFL’s money making ability by damaging its image. I doubt the NFL cares about journalistic integrity or truthful representation of its product unless that representation is a favorable one.

If photojournalists boycott coverage of games, as I believe they should, rather than wear an ad-covered vest, I would not be surprised if it did not create a stir within the NFL. I think they would prefer to supply photos to media outlets through their own photographers, who shoot with the NFL’s image in mind. With their ban on sideline video last year and their 45 second restriction this year, the NFL obviously doesn’t need local television to promote what it’s selling. I think it’s only a matter of time before still shooters who have ethical problems with their policies are banned from the sidelines, too. Or, how about banning Nikon shooters and Nike wearers?

By the way, I’m curious if anyone at Sports Illustrated will have a problem with wearing the vests, since the entire photo staff appeared in an ad for Canon following the 2007 Super Bowl.

Denise, I think your question “Do the appetites of our readers matter more than our ethical standards?” is an excellent one, and I hope we have the guts to answer it honestly.

Monday, July 23, 2007 11:42:00 AM  

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