Illinois Papers Win Right To Photograph High School Events Freely

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

A settlement between Illinois newspapers and the state’s scholastic sports authority gives papers everything they were seeking in getting close access to interscholastic competitions and the right to sell the photos to the public, the executive director of the Illinois Press Association (IPA) said Wednesday.

“I’d say that’s a fair statement — we did get everything we wanted,” David L. Bennett said. “There are probably some out there who would have liked to have seen it handled through the legislature, but that’s just a showier way to do it, a little more demonstrative. The fact of the matter is everything we wanted in the legislature, we got in this settlement.”

The Illinois dispute over news photographer access to high school tournaments was closely watched by newspapers and scholastic sports authorities in several states that have also attempted to limit photojournalist access or the post-publication sale of photos by newspapers.

In a court settlement to be made official shortly, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) agreed that “Illinois newspapers have the right to floor, field, or site-level access at IHSA-sponsored high school interscholastic athletic, academic, or other forms of competition.”

The agreement gives IHSA the right to issue credentials to photographers for events, but cannot assert a right to control the photographer’s access, except for safety considerations.

The IHSA last year gave exclusive tournament access to a Wisconsin photography company, who sells the photos to the general public. In the settlement, the IHSA can hire a photographer but cannot grant exclusive access.

“There’s no question people on both sides (around the country) were watching how this played out in Illinois,” IPA’s Bennett said. “So we’re happy to be the poster boy for what others do now. I think we’ve set an important policy statement.”

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