By: Joe Strupp
The number of media credentials issued for the Super Bowl is down for the first time in recent memory, according to the National Football League, which revealed there were simply fewer requests.
Although there are more media outlets receiving credentials than ever before — 633 this year compared to 576 last year — the number of specific credentials requested dropped from 4,786 for last year’s game in Phoenix, Ariz., to 4,589 for Sunday’s game in Tampa, Fla.
“The reason there are fewer individuals credentialed than last year — though still the second-greatest number in Super Bowl history — can be attributed to the staffing decisions of the individual organizations,” Michael Signora, NFL spokesman, stated in an e-mail.
NFL officials said they did not keep records of credentials for all 42 previous Super Bowls, but believed this was the first time the credential demand had dropped.
Several newspapers that regularly send numerous staffers to the game admitted they had cut back due to economics. At least two major newspapers, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Hartford Courant, are not sending any journalists to the game for the first time ever.
“Financial considerations and without a [local] team in it, we decided not to go,” said Chris Vivlamore, Journal-Constitution pro sports editor. “Part of it is the cost and we want to do more local stories.”
Courant sports editor Jeff Otterbein, whose paper stopped staffing the New England Patriots for the first time this past fall, offered similar reasons: “There are certainly plenty of Super Bowl stories out there,” he said, citing wire options. “Without a team from our area involved, the decision was made not to go.”
This year’s game has the Pittsburgh Steelers playing the Arizona Cardinals.
Other newspapers from markets outside Pittsburgh and Arizona that routinely send several staffers to the big game said they have cut back the number this year for financial and other reasons.
The Los Angeles Times, which sent four people to last year’s game in Arizona between the Patriots and New York Giants, is sending only two this year, according to Sports Editor Randy Harvey.
“Part of it is economics,” he said, adding that other Tribune papers can provide some coverage as well. “There has been more of an effort not to do a lot of duplication.”
Harvey estimated it costs his paper about $3,500 to send someone to the game for a week.
The Chicago Tribune, which sent four people to the 2008 game, is cutting back to three according to Sports Editor Mike Kellams, while the Dallas Morning News is also down one, from five to four.
“It is an expense and that is a lot of the consideration,” said the Tribune’s Kellams. “But it has not become one person, yet.”
Morning News Sports Editor Garry Leavell said he might have cut his staffing even further but wanted to have an extra writer there in case Dallas Cowboys’ legend Bob Hayes is among those chosen for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an announcement that will occur this week.
“It certainly bolsters the reasons for us to have our own folks there,” he said.
But not everyone is cutting back. Editors from The New York Times and USA Today said their coverage will include the same credentialing, with the Times revealing it has 11 such game passes. “If there are fewer credentials being issued, it is just a reflection of the industry,” said Times Sport Editor Tom Jolly.