Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Worst Thing Since the Extra Innings DirectTV Deal

As much fun as sports blogs are, most of us don't do any real reporting. We rely in large part on working journalists (and no, I don't mean Stephen A.) to provide the straight news and content that we can then distill into slanderous half-truths and mockery fuel. (The rest of our content we just rip off wholesale from YouTube.) Everyone has a role in today's digital media; the journos are like the wise farmers carefully tending to their wheat and hops in the field, and we're like the crime syndicate brewery that takes those noble grains, pisses on them, and sells the run-off as Steel Reserve.

The point is that we need journalists. Sure, we kid them, but they're giving us the news that we need in order to engage in ill-informed sports banter. At the core of sports reporting, of course, is the idea that it is just that: reporting news events to a public that needs to be informed about news. And just like CNN doesn't have to pay the Kucinich campaign to let Candy Crowley eat danishes while taking notes on the Keebler Elf's latest speech about stardust vistors from the fifth dimension, sports journalists have never needed to pay sports teams or leagues for the privilege of reporting on their games.

Hell, even Mariotti gets a press pass allowing him to enter Soldiers Field without paying Da Bears or the NFL. And the same goes for the infinitely more talented Sun-Times news photographer who allows us to witness gritty, timeless images of triumph and defeat like that seen on the right. Honestly, could we truly appreciate the magic that is Rex Grossman without having seen him violated by a Packer? No, my friends, we could not. We simply could not understand his greatness without having viewed that picture. And we owe it all to a news photographer.

Unfortunately, the basic journalistic right of news photographers to document sporting events without having to pay off sports league suits may be in peril. The douches at Cricket Australia want to require photogs to pay a licensing fee to the organization in exchange for their press accreditation. In essence, they are requiring journalists to pay for the right to cover news. The response of the major news agencies has -- understandably -- been to boycott coverage of the current Test series between Australia and Sri Lanka. Why in god's name, they ask, should we pay to gather news? After all, it would set a terrible precedent. Yet Cricket Australia is persisting in its attempt to squeeze every dollar, pound, rand, and rupee out of the game, and AFP, Reuters, and the AP are continuing to boycott the Tests.

"Reuters remains adamant on its right to distribute sports news pictures freely," Monique Villa, the managing director of Reuters Media, told Reuters. "I met with Cricket Australia last Sunday in London and nothing has really changed. They want to control our news and who can receive it, which is totally unacceptable."

The biggest losers, of course, are that sorry number among us who happen to be cricket fans. And unforunately, it appears that the greedheadedness might not be limited to CA -- the BCCI, India's governing cricket board, apparently is as short-sighted as the Aussies. Which goes to prove the old axiom -- if the BCCI supports you, you know that you're wrong.

Lest you think that "it can't happen here," remember that Bud Selig and Gary Bettman bow to no one in their short-sighted pursuit of cash. Unless this is nipped in the bud Down Under, I fully expect that the American sports leagues are goling to begin charging journalists for the right to report sports news. And when that happens, instead of seeing glorious full-color pictures of Sexy Rexy being sodomized on the cover of USA Today, we're likely to see a lot of notices like this:

Don't say you weren't warned.