Last week, in the aftermath of the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao fight and Mayweather’s banning of Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle from covering the fight, Ryan Glasspiegel posed a question on The Big Lead: Why Should Media Members Be Entitled to Free Admittance to Sporting Events?
Glasspiegel raised some very good questions about reporters’ need for access in covering events - primarily spectacles like last week’s fight.
What’s less clear is what so many outlets — and not just the ones whose reporters were denied access — had to gain from sending so many people to cover this boxing match
In my ideal dream world, the press conference credentialing process would be similar to the way it is now, but media members or their outlets would have to purchase tickets to the game at face value.
Why do media fetishize access-based coverage of these events? Is it the story, in and of itself? The networking opportunities, amongst each other as well as the myriad movers and shakers in attendance, that can enhance coverage down the road? The cachet of being an outlet that is there, akin to being a celebrity seen at the spectacle? Again, the point of this is not to criticize Michelle Beadle or Rachel Nichols, who were discriminated against for unfavorable reporting, but to question a status quo that feels progressively antiquated and at odds with the tenets of journalism.
These are really good questions. I’ve raised similar ones here before. Sports departments shouldn’t be covering big games just for the sake of organizational ego.
Glasspiegel invited responses for why reporters should get free access, and he got some good responses. I’m a week late, but here are some thoughts:
- Access is important for two reasons. The first is so that reporters can do interviews. Asking questions is a core part of a reporters’ job. Just because some (or a lot, depending on your perspective) do so poorly doesn’t mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.
- More importantly, access is important so reporters can see and hear things for ourselves. To cover a game on TV (or webstream) is to cover a mediated experience. I only see what the director wants me to see, hear what the commentators want me to hear. I have no control to look around and report what I see. So what value do I bring to readers as a reporter and journalist if I’m just rewriting what we’re all seeing? My value as a reporter should be to give the reader what he or she doesn’t know yet or didn’t see.
- As far as paying for tickets, I don’t have a great answer other than it just feels wrong to me. But let me try: I feel that requiring media to pay for press-row access would lead to more restrictions on coverage - the same crap Mayweather tried to pull, only at a larger scale. Perceived as a team-friendly media market? Come cover games for free or super cheap. Starting to ask some difficult questions, or just not writing very positive stuff? The price just went up. I also feel like charging media outlets would mean coverage would be restricted only to media that can afford those seats. Smaller papers would be squeezed out of covering events, or coverage of more minor sports would be sacrificed in order to pay for pro coverage. It’s an important question - one we should ask more.