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NFL Denies Blogosphere Super Bowl Media Credentials

Bloggers Blacked Out by NFL
Record Media Credentials Do Not Include Little Guys

Tucked within an Associated Press Super Bowl notes compilation:

MEDIA OVERLOAD:@ A record 4,786 media credentials have been issued for this year's Super Bowl.

The old mark of 4,516 was set last season in Miami.

Reporters, photographers and broadcasters come from around the world.

The game will be televised to 223 countries and territories. The telecasts include networks from Britain, Canada, China, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Latin America, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Thailand.

To my knowledge, not a single one of those 4,516 credentials went to an independent blogger.

Way back, early in the season, I applied for media credentials for Patriots games. I'm a trained journalist, technically a freelancer now but I worked professionally for several years, and figured that my background would suffice to qualify. However, I received no reply to my application.

The season drew on, and in mid-November I decided to try to follow up. I reapplied and sent a follow-up email. I received the following reply from Stacey James, Patriots' vice president of media relations:

Thanks for your interest in covering the New England Patriots, but your request for credentials has been declined. Our team policy, and I believe the policy of most NFL teams, is to only credential traditional news gathering media outlets, many of whom have their own blogs which provide fans instant access to information on the team.
Fine. Weak, but fine.

I mean, I've read other blogs out there, and if you allow one, regardless of his own impeccable credentials, in the spirit of fairness you have to allow them all. And there are a slew of bloggers with whom no NFL team would choose to associate. "Traditional" outlets, while often staffed with less qualified reporters, can be held to a standard by trusted organizations.

It's unfortunate that bad apples, which in the blogosphere may outnumber good apples, disqualify the rest of us, but that's the way it is in the first decade of the new millennium.

While the Patriots offered no access at all, the NFL at least offered access to their media website, which has been an invaluable resource. Access to that website allows access to applications for various NFL events, including the Super Bowl.

So, I submitted a request toward the end of November and received acknowledgment of that submission. I specified that I would be interested in credentials only if the Patriots were in the game.

About 2 weeks later, I received the following canned email:

Dear Tom:

We have received your request for credentials to Super Bowl XLII on Sunday, February 03, 2008 in Arizona.

We will be pleased to consider your application if the following team(s) advance to this year's NFL title game:

  • New England Patriots
Thank you for your interest and best wishes.
Hey, at least they'll consider it, right? Otherwise, it's the first week of December. You'd think if there was something in the application that automatically disqualifies you, they'd just say "no."

The Patriots won the AFC Championship game on January 20, and three days later I received the following:

Dear Tom:

We have received your request for credentials to Super Bowl XLII in Arizona. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate your request.

Super Bowl media accreditation is based on several factors. The most significant one is coverage of an NFL team on a regular basis. As you can imagine, the NFL has hundreds and hundreds of media members who cover their local teams and the NFL each week during the season - onsite at practices, games, and press conferences - plus other times of the year (NFL Draft, Training Camp, Community Service events).

Even then, we cannot accommodate everyone who falls into that category at every team.

We suggest that next year you contact your local teams regarding credentials and coverage at their events, games, etc.

We appreciate your email and thank you for your interest in the National Football League.

I don't think I'm the only one that recognizes the obvious discrimination here.

First, the "most significant" factor is "coverage of an NFL team on a regular basis." Later followed bhy "We suggest that next year you contact your local teams regarding credentials and coverage ..."

I'm going to guess that the league is aware of what James said was "Our team policy, and I believe the policy of most NFL teams, is to only credential traditional news gathering media outlets ..."

Now it sounds like both the Patriots and the league are just making excuses.

But the league's argument rings utterly hollow.

I've seen Super Bowl Media Day in the past, and I saw highlights from this morning's sessions. I'm fairly certain they guy dressed as a swami and the Spanish reporter in a wedding dress -- among a huge collection of others -- do not cover any team on a regular basis. Every "traditional" media outlet in the world mocks the ridiculousness of Media Day and the collection of idiots that are there asking moronic questions.

And let's be honest, there are dozens of huge events that provide bloggers with media credentials -- everything from political debates and conventions to Hollywood award galas.

It's a shame really. But the blogosphere, populated with proprietors who believe that free speech means saying anything at any time with or without cause or reason -- or ethics, or decorum -- is it's own worst enemy, and the teams and the league have found an easy excuse to impose a webwide blackout.

This Editor and Publisher story implies that the web is making huge inroads. It's BS. If a "blog" (e.g. Mike Reiss's) isn't tied to a "traditional" media organization -- and most of those "blogs" are maintained by people who are already staff reporters, they're not independent writers -- they don't qualify.

The industry is giving itself a big pat on the back for being so inclusive. As Ernest Hemingway said ultimately in The Sun Also Rises, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"