Friday, September 04, 2009

Here's Brian's ethics post. I'd put this as my first question. What are the ethical implications *for the news organizations*? Is there any ethical concern for them? Brian raises some important legal questions. But is there an ethical dimension?????

From Brian:

Journalism Organizations Protest Big Ten Restrictions on Game Coverage

Yes another sports story but very interesting. They are putting restrictions on what journalists can use, including pictures and video, from college football games. They are severely restricting online journalists and bloggers.

Can these journalists argue based on their first amendment rights? / Do they have a realistic argument for protest?
Why are they being restricted in the first place?
What are the implications if they continue to be restricted?
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caitlindee said...

This is so interesting! And such a serious ethical question, considering our line of work. In response to Brian's questions, yes, I do believe the journalists can argue on behalf of their First Amendment rights. For them, these rights are definitely being restricted because as American journalists, they do possess the right to free speech and press. And yes, I do believe they have a realistic right to protest because their rights like:

1. posting video and audio game highlights on newspaper websites
2. having unlimited time to show post and pre game video and audio
3. selling their photos to archival websites and
4. blogging about games during the game on newspaper websites

are all getting cut. I don't find it necessary to take away any of the above, however I do think the SEC and universities should have licenses to use newspaper photos for their own news coverage. This seems fair. It also seems that both parties' biggest concern is that the opposing "side" is trying to control the video, images, and audio and how it is displayed in print, online, or during a broadcast. I can only guess journalists are being restricted because of those who abused their rights and used certain photos or film to their advantage. They have the right to print or edit whatever and however they want, but when someone in the SEC doesn't like the way they or their team is being portrayed, they also have the right to complain and take action.

If the protest falls through and the restrictions continue, I think there will definitely be a decrease in game news coverage. This, in turn, can also decrease team popularity, event publicity, and interest all together.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Let me repeat. The media folk certainly have the right to protest, and the law may well be on their side. But what's the ethical question here? Are they ethically obligated to challenge the restrictions? Is it their duty????

Meghan Raab said...

Ethically speaking, these journalists definitely have an obligation to protest the restrictions. I believe journalists have the responsibility of keeping a fair arena to report in, one that allows the public access to the information they need and desire. As said in the letter,

“Our goal in this letter is to restore the balance that has worked so well for so many years. We hope that, at the very least, representatives of both organizations can meet to discuss the common ground that we know exists and which will ensure quality coverage that, ultimately, strengthens the already stalwart product that exists in the SEC's athletic programs.”

This makes sense; however, I can’t help but wonder if this “balance” that “worked so well” was ever revamped to accommodate the every-growing influence the Internet has on the public intake of information. One thing I notice about the restrictions is that the majority involve online content—what can be posted, when, and for how long. To me, this reflects an internet-driven fiscal war, rather than an ethical dilemma. Since the implementation of the Internet, much information has been more or less free for the public to feast on. Many industries, especially news, have not yet figured out a way to make their websites financially viable. The Internet also has aroused another issue: people have become accustomed to getting their information immediately. The web opened up the door for journalists to give the public minute-by-minute updates on what is going on. This is an incredible service—and it’s free! While it’s an extraordinary convenience to the public, it is a logistical nightmare for companies who have not yet adapted their business models.

It does not surprise me that the SEC’s athletic programs are trying to tighten the amount of videos, photos, and live coverage that is let loose online. Sports teams are, as much as it pains me to say it, a brand. If fans can find endless clips of the games; detailed, live commentary from bloggers; and more or less experience the game for free online, that team’s brand is not making any money. (While you can argue that the Internet is free advertising for the team… to what extent does it matter if a sports team is highly publicized if all of the fans feed their sports craving for free online?) Before the internet, fans relied on having to pay for a ticket to these various games, and at the very least, pay for the cable channel that airs college football or the newspaper that reports on it the next day. (I’m assuming the sports teams sold rights to footage of their games.) But this was during a time when information was limited… Now, there is a wealth of material available instantly. The media organizations that wrote the letter note the impact of new online media:

“We understand that media coverage of sports is changing. New media and channels for disseminating information, including ownership of distribution channels by leagues or teams themselves, require adjustments to the league/team/media partnerships that have existed for years. But the new credentials go beyond "adjustments"; they are wholesale changes that restrain our members from covering your teams in ways that serve fans without harming league interests.”

I agree that the restrictions are much too harsh and that the public has a right to receive wanted information. But for me, this article brought up a much more important question… Why aren’t these media corporations trying to tighten the accessibility of the information they provide? If more news agencies required payment for online coverage, it would lessen the amount of people who could mooch off all the Internet provides. In turn, I think outside industries, like college athletics, would be more willing to let such journalists publish more information. There was a level of control over radio, television, and newspaper reporting that does not exist in the realm of new media… In this, I believe, lies the problem.

Chloe Schildhause said...

I think it is a journalists duty to challenge these restrictions, if they do care this much about covering college sports. I personally don't think it's worthy of covering and could care less, but for those who do and see it as essential news coverage then they should challenge the restrictions.
And Caitlin is absolutely right, limiting what journalists can do can only hurt. People will lose interest if a sport is not being covered to its utmost potential.

These restrictions remind me of what it's like trying to interview people who are so obviously trained in giving the most generic PR responses - like those Disney kids who are trained to not talk about anything genuine or interesting, but instead give scripted answers. These restrictions are going to lead to boring, press release style coverage that is overall uninteresting and could lead to loss of interest in the college sports world.

Meghan brings up a good point, this may be just an issue of the internet and loss or revenue for the teams. As a reader of online news I would be disappointed if we suddenly had to pay for online news, and I don't think news outlets can make this shift after giving it away for free for so long.

And the fact that this had turned into such a money making business makes me feel like it's not even news worthy at this point. I hate reading magazines that basically write stories that are advertisements in disguise - which is what this whole college football ordeal seems to be.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

You guys are touching on a very interesting aspect of ethics-at-work. If a news organization thinks its survival is necessary -- we can talk about the value of that survival in terms of Potter "loyalties" and basic journalism "values" -- then making sure those organizations make money is the ethical thing to do. And that raises the whole Huffington Post issue: Is it ethical of HuffPo to build a business on free content? Isn't that exploiting its contributors?

Lauren said...

I do think it's a journalists job to challenge this. Submitting to these rules and regulations that have never previously been implemented is allowing them to take away their rights. People get really excited for these games and expect to see a fair amount of coverage. The SEC is controlling and limiting the media which completely goes against the first amendment. This is a highly anticipated broadcast event and the organization should understand that all kinds of press will be present. Journalists should really defend their rights here. If they don't start here who knows what other kind of restrictions could come in the future...

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Lauren makes a nice point. Sometimes we need to fight for the principle even if the current application of the principle does not seem, in itself, important to our deep journalistic mission.

Laura L said...

I also think journalist should fight for these rights, as it is not fair their work is being limited. If these journalist truly care about the work they do, and providing news to the public, then it is only fair that they fight for these rights not only for themselves, but for the readers as well. The journalists' work shouldn't be limited, and the amount of news sports fans are looking for shouldn't be limited, so yes, the journalist should complain.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

An ethical *duty* to complain then? Would it be "ethical" not to figh??

stephanie said...

Journalists do have a right to challenge. As Lauren and Laura claimed, a journalist's job is to report as much information as possible to distribute to the public, and the restriction of First Amendment rights for journalists hinders the profession of journalism. If the journalists do have a professional ethic for the development and progression of the profession, like what Altschull was arguing, then it would be unethical not to fight for their First Amendment rights as reporters.

Melissa said...

I think it's ethically essential that journalists challenge this for several reasons. The first obviously being that these rules prohibit journalists from adequately doing what I believe is their job -- communication with their readers without influence from the outside, especially influence from what they're covering. What if I tried to review a band and couldn't blog about what they played or use photos I took at the show? Would that honestly communicate my experience? Probably not. Ethically these journalists have to challenge on principle, like my classmates said.

Another clear reason for protest is because this might just be the tip of the iceberg. We already have restrictions for military coverage, political coverage, now sports coverage. What field can people decide to limit next? How can sources further regulate their content? The beauty (and scary aspect) of the internet is the ability to interact with a viewing/reading public. Is it really ethical to create conservative policies to account for an expanding communication arena?

....J.Michael Robertson said...

I might as well admit I don't fully understand the nature of all these limitations and have failed to find a detailed analysis that is easier to figure out. It sounds as if the "owners" of the performance, of the actual game, are saying that if they credential journalists that is a kind of contract that allows the credentialed journalist to be limited in what she/he does with the images collected. Well, I'm pretty sure it's illegal to go to a movie and videotape it and sell the videotape. But I'm wandering off ethical analysis. I think I agree with all of your that, broadly speaking, it is ethically sound to push back when a journalist is told that what I would consider news coverage can be limited. But I'm also sure that, as the Potter Box tells us, I need to understand all this better before making it a question on the midterm.

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