College level sports organizations are not the only ones getting involvedin re-working press credential requirements. In recent years, high school sportsassociations across the country have seen an increase in dialogue, and evencourt cases, dealing with regulations tied to press credentials.
In Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, the issue has been debated recently dueto credential requirements put in place by high school athletic associationsoften seeking to protect potential income.
In Indiana, Stephen Key, the general counsel for the Hoosier State PressAssociation, a trade organization of in-state newspapers, fought restrictivepress policies when a high school athletic director wanted to include in thepress credential agreement a clause that would prohibit sales of any of thephotos taken at sporting events.
“They don’t want to lessen the value … of what they will makewith their contract with their vendor,” Key said. “So they’veadded into their credentials the requirement that the person who gets [the presspass] won’t sell photos taken.”
Key said students should be concerned about credentialing issues because itcan impact their coverage and revenue.
“I think, looking down the road, that student publications should bein the habit of looking at what restrictions are on these credentials,”Key said. “As the digital age continues to change how we cover things …it will be important.”
He also said it is important for high school students to be involved andinformed so they can gain necessary experience.
“Where an athletic association wants to limit what photos can go onthe Web site or how much video can be used, it can be difficult, from a newsposition, for students to do innovative and new things like slideshows or gameclips or highlights, etc.,” he said.
Josh Sharp, assistant director of government relations for the IllinoisPress Association, said restrictive press policies at the high school level aredifferent from those at the NCAA because high school athletic associations areusually considered by courts to be state actors.
As state actors — persons or organizations acting on behalf of agovernment body — high school athletic organizations are held to FirstAmendment standards, where the NCAA and collegiate conferences may not be.”We’ve had prior case precedent stating that [the Illinois HighSchool Association] is a state actor,” Sharp said. “With themulti-state situation of organizations like the NCAA or its conferences, theyare not similarly situated. From cases we’ve seen, they’re notconsidered state actors.”
The fact that high school sports associations are regularly consideredstate actors, Sharp said, is a game changer. “These are for the mostpart taxpayer funded events,” Sharp said.
“The uniforms are public, the fields are public. These are publicevents, paid for in large part by tax dollars.”Sharp was involved inthe issue working for the Illinois Press Association in 2008 when the IllinoisHigh School Association (IHSA), which credentials media for high schooltournament events, instituted requirements that would essentially give themownership of photographs produced at games.
After photographers were kicked out of games, legislation was drafted onthe state level to bar any members of the IHSA from controlling content at gamesor from giving preferential treatment to any of their in-house photographers,Sharp said.The legislation was eventually dropped because the IHSA decidedto change the policy without being compelled by the legislature. Sharp said thechange represented a victory for members of the press, including students.
“Say your school had a game-winning touchdown. If students wanted tomake T-shirts with a photo of that on them — even if you didn’t wantto sell them — the rules said you couldn’t,” Sharp said.”What the IHSA was trying to do was ridiculous.”
Sharp said in his view, it is important for students to have rights tofreely cover sporting events.”The students have every right to coverwhat’s happening at their school and report to the student bodywhat’s going on,” he said.
“High school sports are a big part of high school student culture andstudent life.”
With journalists’ methods of disseminating information changing,credentialing bodies have been caused to take a new look at what they considerfair use of content.
“One of the issues that we are dealing with right now we have not hadto face before — that is where schools will have Facebook or MySpacepages.” said Tim Stried, the director of information services for the OhioHigh School Athletic Association.
“If I credential a student to take pictures, can they upload them toa Facebook or MySpace page? Our rules say they can use them on school Web site.We haven’t determined an answer yet, but it’s something we’retalking about.”
Stried also said space issues are a concern, because with an increasingnumber of people and organizations generating content, it is not always easy toallot a limited number of press spaces at sporting events.