SEC finalizes media sports credentialing policy

After three revisions, a controversialsports media credential policy from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has been finalized, though media leaders and student journalists remain upset over its restrictive language.

The SEC released its finalized credentialpolicy Thursday after several rounds of discussions with major newsorganizations.

The original policy caused an outcry when itwas released in early August because of language that journalists argued wouldprevent them from covering athletic teams effectively. The SEC released itsfirst revision of the policy Aug. 14.

The Associated Press (AP) and Gannett bothrefused to sign on until the policy was changed. Both organizations have nowleft it up to individual newspapers to decide whether to agree to the changes.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors(ASNE), the AP Managing Editors and the AP Sports Editors associations sent a letter to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive in protest of the originalpolicy.

In it, the organizations asked the SEC torevisit the policy and make further changes to rules that they called a”stranglehold” on information.

Some of the disputed language includedrestricting the use of photos on newspaper Web sites, a virtual ban on alluser-generated videography, limited blogging ability and a stipulation that onlyfull-time salaried employees were eligible for credentials.

Slive said in a statement Thursday that hewas interested in working with the news outlets in coming to anagreement.

“The SEC has always had a positiverelationship with the media,” Slive said. “When contacted by majormedia associations, we immediately began constructive dialogue to address theirconcerns. While there were a few changes we could not meet, there was agreementon many of the issues.”

The ASNE announced following the finalrevision that individual newspapers must decide for themselves if they want toaccept the conditions of the policy.

Through the revisions, the SEC has made someconcessions that include easing the limitations on photo use, clarifying thatroutine blogging is permitted and expanding who can apply for credentials. Itdid not address the video issue, however. The conference will be providingofficial video from its Web site for the media’s use.

For student newspapers covering teams in theSEC, the policy can still harm their coverage.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of theStudent Press Law Center said he does not believe the SEC drafted the policywith student media in mind.

“What the SEC failed to consider is thatblogging and videotaping is essential to a student journalist’s education,”LoMonte said. “They (students) are going to be disadvantaged in the jobmarket.”

LoMonte also sent a letter to Slive beforethe latest revision urging the SEC to consider student media.

“It does not appear that the Conferenceconsidered the unique impact on the student media when formulating theseproposed rules,” LoMonte wrote.

While some of the language may still becontested, LoMonte said the SEC did make a “huge step forward” by making itclear it is legal to sell commemorative issues and reprints of the newspaper,something that could have been prevented under older versions of thepolicy.

Robert Stewart, sports editor for theDaily Reveille at Louisiana State University, said he expects the policyto change the way his department covers school athletics.

While Stewart signed off on an early versionof the policy and received five of the six credentials he requested for theReveille, he said he believes the original versions of the agreement are”slightly unconstitutional.” He said his newspaper’s plans of extending theamount of video content online would be useless if the rules were enacted. Theone credential not granted to Stewart was for a videographer.

“It’s kind of an unfair treatment to newsoutlets,” Stewart said. He said the limitations could critically effect the waythe newspaper relayed important information to readers. “I think it couldcertainly hurt our coverage, hurt our credibility.”

Ben Jones, sports editor of the KentuckyKernel, the student newspaper at the University of Kentucky in Lexingtonsaid he is concerned with the lack of video options.

Jones said the Kernel was opposed tosigning on to the agreement before it was revised, but said the newspaper willaccept the finalized version.

The newspaper had been planning to “step up”the video presence on its Web site with clips from every football and basketballgame during the year but the new policy would prevent that, according toJones.

Jones said he does not know if the newspaperwill choose to use the SEC-branded coverage. He said the newspaper may opt outof running any game footage and instead upload post-game press conferences andinterviews.

Jones said he was grateful for theconcessions made on the blogging language and said the terms seemed “back towhat it was” before the new rules were introduced. He said that while he doesnot anticipate any problems, the one thing that still bothers him is the lack ofclarity on how often is too often when it comes to updating gameinformation.

“It seems like if you’re competing with TVtoo well, they might shut you down,” Jones said.

Erin Prah, editorial fellow for Vanderbiltstudent communications, said the policy will adversely affect the coverage bystudent media. Prah, who works jointly with all aspects of student media on theVanderbilt campus, said she expects the Web content to be the mostaffected.

“It really kind of cuts the legs out fromunderneath us,” Prah said. “It’s upsetting because there is nothing we cando.”

She said a new student multimedia positionwas created recently but that the new policy could severely limit thatpersoncs ability to perform her job.

“Her hands are going to be tied trying tofigure out how to disseminate multimedia to students used to seeing things sovisually now,” Prah said.

Vanderbilt’s football team has created a lotof hype on campus having come off a successful season but the students lookingfor content online this time around might be disappointed, Prah said. She saidthe SEC-provided content likely won’t be taken as seriously

“It won’t be completely our product,”Prah said. “I’m sure it will hurt our credibility.”