Credential Dispute Sparks Editors Meeting With MLB

By: Joe Strupp

A group of top news and sports editors is planning to meet with Major League Baseball this week to discuss a string of new restrictions on media credentials that editors contend are an unfair limitation on Web-related reporting.

The new restrictions, which take effect later this month when the 2008 season begins, include: a 72-hour limit on posting photos after games; a seven-photo limit on the number of photos posted from a game while it is in progress; a 120-second limit on video length from game-related events; and a ban on live or recorded audio and video from game-related events posted 45 minutes before the start of a game through the end.

“I am really unclear about what they are trying to accomplish with that one,” John Cherwa, Tribune Company sports coordinator and sports special projects editor at the Orlando Sentinel, said about the 45-minute rule.

Cherwa, who is also chief legal affairs coordinator for Associated Press Sports Editors, is one of several APSE officials planning to meet Wednesday with MLB executives. Others include AP Sports Editor Terry Taylor; Mike Fannin, Kansas City Star managing editor/sports and features; Editor Tim Franklin of The Sun in Baltimore; Editor Henry Freeman of The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y.; and Garry Howard, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel assistant managing editor/sports.

“This is all about limiting what any of us can do on the Internet with our property,” says Taylor of AP. “It is no different than telling a newspaper what it can print.”

The Sun’s Franklin, who said he was attending as a representative of American Society of Newspaper Editors, said the rules end up hurting fans: “These teams have a wide fan base that turn to local media for coverage of their team.”

Cherwa said the editors will first gather Tuesday in New York to plan strategy for the Wednesday meeting. “We are going to throw around ideas and solutions to see if we are best prepared,” he said.

Pat Courtney, a Major League Baseball spokesman, said the league is open to meeting with the editors. He said the restrictions are aimed at providing some rules for the Internet age. “The whole area of the Internet has had no rules, no rules as there are if someone is putting something on TV or radio,” Courtney said. “You would have people setting a recorder down when a manager is speaking and post 12 to 15 minutes of unedited audio online.”

Courtney also cited instances of foul language being posted, as well as other images MLB objects to, but offered no specifics.

Cherwa believes baseball executives are open to listening to the editors’ objections, while the news leaders are seeking more information about why the changes were implemented. “We have signs that Major League Baseball is open to talking to us; we are hoping we can come to an understanding,” he said. “It is also our wanting to understand where they are coming from.”

Courtney’s response: “It is tough to say, prior to the meeting, what will happen. We will hear what they say.”

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