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Friday, July 27, 2007

NFL Wants Journos To Wear Ads On Sidelines: Journos Protest

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A national organization of journalists wants the NFL to scrap a proposed game day rule that would force newspaper, magazine and TV photographers to wear bright-red vests with Canon and Reebok ad logos displayed on the vests. The two companies sponsor pro football, and working journos on the sidelines are concerned they would resemble NASCAR drivers, or Olympic skiers, while covering the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and other franchises across the U.S.

Of course, the photojournalists don't work for the NFL. They work for independent publications like The Plain Dealer and Cincinnati Enquirer, or Sports Illustrated, or local TV. The NFL probably doesn't need them anymore -- it is so rich and successful that it can hire its own photogs and put them on the sidelines, then put their pictures online or find ways to distribute them through print channels that will pop up instantly. The old MSM will be squeezed out, and the dispute demonstrates how far their clout has eroded.

The Society of Professional Journalists is raising cane about the NFL plan and says the NFL should abandon the proposal before the preseason begins next month. Today, it sent a protest letter to the commissioner's office and all 32 teams. The journalist group's president, Christine Tatum of the Denver Post, explains:

"For the sake of the almighty dollar, the NFL is clearly willing to compromise press freedom and independence. The League should be ashamed. Journalists should refused to cover games before allowing themselves to become walking billboards. Defending a free press is a public service infinitely more valuable than play-by-play reporting from the sidelines."

Beg to differ. The news biz is built on advertising. The trucks that TV journos drive to the games are painted with signs touting the networks and stations that own them, logos that say, "Where the news comes first" and such. Is it such a stretch to wear a Canon vest?

Meanwhile, the newspapers are looking for new revenue streams as they decline. They should have sold logos for ads years ago. A real estate company, a motel chain, a car dealer would have paid dearly to have a highly visible logo in a stadium before 60,000 or more Browns, Bengals or Buckeye fans. Think of the logo decorating an Ohio newspaper photogs jacket or shirt, somehow clearly marked as an advertisement.

Or the paper should have put its photog in a jacket or shirt that proclaimed: Read The Dispatch!!!

But they never thought like that. And now that somebody is, they are p'oed. C'mon Society of Professional Journalists, do you think that the Americans who watch and attend football games are such dummies they won't recognize the ads for what they are -- paid product placement pitches that are not endorsements.

Hell, if I was running a newspaper I'd be talking to Budweiser right now about hats, pants and shoes.

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