Contacts: Ray Marcano, SPJ president, 937/225-2323 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Ian Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee chairman, 406/542-4400 or email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS — Major League Baseball should immediately halt all attempts to place restrictions on journalists covering its games, says the Society of Professional Journalists.
The league is trying to limit how often journalists can transmit information and send out photographs while the game is still in progress. Major League Baseball also wants to prevent news organizations from using photos taken at a game for promotional materials or for other uses.
"This is an outrageous attempt to control how a free press does its job," said Ray Marcano, SPJ president and an assistant managing editor at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. "These restrictions have wide-ranging implications, from the ability of news organizations to update their Web sites in a timely manner to offer the most up-to-date information to its readers. And, these restrictions are a slap at the First Amendment."
Baseball season opened April 1. Sports editors across the nation are refusing to sign a Major League Baseball reporter credential, contending that the sport is trying to impose restrictions on covering games and to control content in the news media.
Sports reporters are using temporary game passes to cover the games until lawyers for Major League Baseball and several news organizations can reach an agreement on credential language.
"In recent years, we have seen repeated efforts in major sports to exercise tighter control over their ‘product.’ This comes at a time when journalism and media are diversifying and expanding," said Ian Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information chairman and special projects editor for KPAX TV in Montana. "Let’s remember that Major League Baseball has benefited from every expansion of coverage in the last century. To put the clamps on now, in the information age, would be a mistake."
Baseball’s proposed coverage restrictions are the latest in a series of attempts by sports organizations to control what information reporters are allowed to gather and transmit at sporting events. The May issue of Quill, the official magazine of SPJ, will further investigate this issue.