Sports Law Blog
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Friday, May 04, 2007
Credentialing Sports Bloggers
[Updated with corrected link to Bucco Blog.]
I received a link the other day to Bucco Blog, a blog devoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates. From May 2, Jake discusses his efforts to gain press credentials for the 2006 All-Star Game at Pittsburgh's PNC Park.
Jake sought credentials with the help of some MSM outlets, but was denied. But MLB Senior VP of Public Relations Richard Levin told him that, while current MLB rules do not allow bloggers to receive press credentials, MLB is evaluating those policies and trying to figure out how to treat bloggers.
The issue of credentialing bloggers is interesting from two ends. From one end is how MLB (and other leagues) can and should consider bloggers when deciding who gets media credentials. The sheer volume of sports blogs and bloggers means teams and leagues cannot accommodate everyone who might seek credentials, requiring some sorting and priority mechanism.
But based on what--readership, influence, impact, first-come/first-serve, lottery? The latter two cannot work, obviously, because the league wants (and needs) the biggest and most powerful media outlets to have access. And although it is easy enough for MLB to say that, for example, Deadspin or Kissing Suzy Kolber, the biggest of the sports blogs, can be treated the same as The New York Times or Sports Illustrated. But what about smaller blogs, which are having as much of an impact and are doing as much important reporting and speaking about sports?
Of course, being private entities, the leagues can do what they want. Unless the use of public sports facilities changes that. The one case in which a court has held that the use of a public sports facility by a private league made the league a state actor involved media rules. In Ludtke v. Kuhn, a district court held that MLB's rule barring female reports from the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium during the 1977 World Series violated the Equal Protection Clause. So, perhaps a blogger, denied credentials at an event at a public stadium, could cobble together a First Amendment argument.
From the other end, there is the question of whether many bloggers even want press credentials. Part of the essence of blogging and on-line sports reporting is the distance that writers keep from the players and coaches by not traveling with the team, being in the locker room, etc. Many believe that distance enables them to write more objectively and critically (when necessary and appropriate, of course) than they would if they had a personal relationship with the players. Certainly Bill Simmons of ESPN trumpets the fact that, when he was getting his start and building his reputation, he was writing from outside the players' inner sphere.
The credentialing issue may force sports leagues to grapple more quickly than other fields with the question of "who is a journalist".