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NFL plans for media coverage rankle some newspapers

By The Associated Press
07.31.07

MINNEAPOLIS — Some news organizations are protesting the NFL's plan to make photographers wear red, ad-emblazoned vests during games, saying the move will make photographers look like they've been bought.

The Chicago Tribune wrote in an editorial that it may pull its photo staffers from games, and the editors of the Twin Cities' two newspapers both wrote to the league to protest.

"We're not going to comply with the rule," George de Lama, the Tribune's managing editor for news, said on July 26. "It violates our code of ethics for journalists." His comments didn't go as far as a July 22 Tribune editorial, which read: "If the rule doesn't change, the paper will cover the NFL without visuals."

The NFL said it just wants to make sure it's easy for security staff to tell who belongs on the sidelines and who doesn't. Spokesman Brian McCarthy said photographers who had a problem with the rule could turn the vests inside-out.

"We have no intention of pulling professional photographers off the field if they don't comply with the policy," he said.

Editors have been concerned that the vests, with its logos for Canon and Reebok, will turn photographers into walking billboards, hurting their credibility. The Associated Press Managing Editors Association, a group of newspaper editors, wrote to the league earlier this month to protest the vests. The vests even brought together the editors of Minnesota's two largest newspapers, which are feuding over the alleged theft of trade secrets.

St. Paul Pioneer Press Editor Thom Fladung and Star Tribune Managing Editor Scott Gillespie recently sent a joint letter to the NFL saying "we have no intention of having our journalists wear sponsor logos while doing their jobs."

The NFL also pointed out that many other sporting events require photographers to wear vests with logos on them, including the last Super Bowl. Perhaps unaware of that, the Tribune editorial used a photo from that game as an example of how its professional standards would be imperiled if the NFL didn't back down on the vest issue.

AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon said he reserved judgment until seeing that each logo is less than an inch tall. He noted that photographers are required to wear vests with logos at many other sporting events. Photographers at the World Cup last year wore vests with 2-inch high Fujifilm lettering.

"We don't think it's an issue," he said on July 26. He wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on July 24 to say bigger logos would concern him.

Lyon said he was more worried about another NFL move that has rankled newspapers this year: limits on online video.

The league has begun limiting news-media organizations to 45 seconds of online video per day of team personnel shot on club property. Media outlets can show their own reporters as much as they want, and the rules don't cover interviews conducted outside team facilities. However, clips cannot continuously remain on sites for more than 24 hours and can't have their own advertising sponsors.

The sports leagues have always closely guarded the rights to live broadcasts of games, but video shot by newspapers who have discovered the Web as a new outlet for their work has fallen into a gray area.

The letter from the two Twin Cities editors also addressed the video restrictions.

"Ultimately, we have a shared interest in serving our readers who also are your fans," they wrote. "Let's put those fans first."


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