Penalty Flag

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The NFL says it won’t reconsider, or at least isn’t at the moment, the decision to limit TVstation’s online use of team press conferences to 45 seconds within the first 24 hours after the event.

That means stations, whose online news extensions are increasingly important, will have their Web news coverage micromanaged by those making the news. Not sure that is the best image for big time sports leagues, whose troubled stars’ bubblegum card pictures may soon have to carry the smokinggun.com logo in the corner. Do they still put bubblegum in those cards by the way, or is that asking too much?

The league was less definitive, but still defending, its decision to require still photographers on the sidelines to wear vests branded with the Canon logo, one of the league’s sponsors. There was some dispute over whether there was also a Reebok logo on the vests, which the journalists would have to wear in order to get credentials. The National Press Photographers Association thought there was. The NFL didn’t. Not that it really matters. One corporate plug foisted on journalists is a sufficient ding to their professional pride, thank you very much.

This is in a Washington blog because the Radio-Television News Directors Association is calling for the policies to be reversed, pointing out that limiting news coverage and turning journalists into walking billboards is a bad policy.

"A station’s Internet site is an extension of its local brand and yet another way to reach viewers and listeners with its own news content," said RTNDA President  Barbara Cochran in a protest to the league. "Web site users expect the same quality, depth of coverage and editorial integrity that they get from over-the-air newscasts. They expect that content is chosen through independent editorial decision-making and is not managed by those who make the news."

My guess is that the NFL will find a way to relent on the vest issue–it has also gotten pushback from the National Press Photographers Association. The online limits will be harder to reverse, hardly a stretch given that its chief spokesperson said it was not reconsidering the policy..

I will leave the last word on the sideline vest issue to one industry wag who is no fan of the rule: "Not too worry, all the good NFL coverage will probably be from the courthouse, anyway," an–ouch–reference to the legal troubles of quarterbakc and alleged dog fight impressario Michael Vick.

By John Eggerton

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