July 24th, 2007

APME And ASNE Hit NFL Policy on Photog Vests -- With Ads

By Joe Strupp
Editor & Publisher

The Associated Press Managing Editors and the American Society of Newspaper Editors have fired off letters to the National Football League criticizing the recent requirement that sideline photographers wear vests sporting logos for two advertisers.

The APME letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says editors oppose the mandate because it goes against “our desire not to have our working press photographers become unwilling participants in any commercial and marketing arrangements the NFL has with its sponsors.”

ASNE’s missive said, “we work assiduously to avoid conflicts of interest, or appearances of them. For that reason it is anathema to us that our employees should be put in the position of becoming walking billboards or be viewed as troublemakers for refusing to wear advertising materials just to do their jobs.”

NFL officials did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

APME President Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president-news at the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle, wrote her group’s letter, the second in less than a month opposing an NFL restriction. The first criticized new rules regarding the use of online video clips of NFL events that limit each clip to 45 seconds, require them to be removed after 24 hours, and bar archiving.

“As I stated in my previous letter, coverage of the National Football League is a major priority for many of our members,” Magnuson added. “We view it as a win-win situation for both the league and its fans, who also are our readers. But the working press should not be incorporated into the marketing apparatus of the NFL and its individual teams. It compromises our objectivity, our independence and our ethics.”

Gilbert Bailon, ASNE president and editor of Al Dia in Dallas, Tex., penned that group’s complaint, which said in part, “It is our hope that the NFL will simply credential our representatives and let them go about their work.”

Each letter is posted below:

*******************************

Mr. Roger Goodell
Commissioner
National Football League
280 Park Ave.
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Goodell:

Less than a month ago, I wrote to you on behalf of the board of directors and membership of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association to voice our opposition to rules announced by the National Football League that severely limit online coverage of NFL teams by our member newspapers.

This letter is to express equally strong opposition to a new league rule requiring press photographers covering games to wear red vests with Canon and Reebok logos on them. Commissioner Goodell, our objections to his rule are grounded in our desire not to have our working press photographers become unwilling participants in any commercial and marketing arrangements the NFL has with its sponsors.

We feel that requiring our photographers to wear this equipment with logos clearly visible on them compromises our independence as working journalists. In effect, the photographers will become walking billboards for NFL sponsors.

We realize that some kind of clearly visible method must be in place to easily identify members of the media who are credentialed to cover the games. But we don’t understand the need to require our employees to help advertise products for the league’s sponsors.

As I stated in my previous letter, coverage of the National Football League is a major priority for many of our members. We view it as a win-win situation for both the league and its fans, who also are our readers. But the working press should not be incorporated into the marketing apparatus of the NFL and its individual teams. It compromises our objectivity, our independence and our ethics.

We strong urge the NFL to reconsider this rule requiring photographers to wear vests with logos of sponsors on them. Thank you again, sir, for your time.

Sincerely,

Karen Magnuson
President, Associated Press Managing Editors Association
Editor and Vice President-News, Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle

Mr. Roger Goodell
Commissioner
National Football League
280 Park Ave.
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Goodell:

It has come to our attention that the NFL is proposing to require photographers covering NFL games to wear identifying vests that advertise a maker or makers of NFL-endorsed equipment.

I write as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors to ask you to reconsider any plans to require identification carrying advertising messages.

We know that the NFL is interested in maintaining the integrity of its game. We understand you have responsibilities to your marketing partners. For instance, we know that many photographers have in recent seasons courteously complied with NFL requests and taped over commercial images on their equipment that would conflict with marketing arrangements at your venues.

Likewise, newspapers are committed to maintaining their integrity as independent voices of news and opinion. We separate advertising messages in our pages from news and editorial content for that reason. We work assiduously to avoid conflicts of interest, or appearances of them. For that reason it is anathema to us that our employees should be put in the position of becoming walking billboards or be viewed as troublemakers for refusing to wear advertising materials just to do their jobs.

It is our hope that the NFL will simply credential our representatives and let them go about their work.

I know this letter arrives following another letter from ASNE, the largest and most prominent organization of directing newspaper editors in the Americas. We appreciated being involved in a conversation with your office on our concerns, which mostly dealt with Internet content policies. We know your staff is reviewing those issues and, along with the AP Sports Editors and others, we await a response on matters we discussed.

We would appreciate, separately, an expeditious response on the issue of photographer vests. We donít want to enter the exhibition season without a clear understanding to share with our members. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Gilbert Bailon
President

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