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Panpa Bulletin : November 2011
with Agfa Graphics, the standard in newspaper prepress production Prepare for Take-Off www.agfa.com/graphics Ag fA grAphics 439533AdvPaperplane.indd 1 17/01/11 10:58 www.panpa.org.au The PANPA Bulletin | NOVEMBER 2011 | 11 Blindside coverage A STOUSH between major Austral- ian publishers and the International Rugby Board forced sports reporters to think outside the press box this Rugby World Cup. Denied accreditation to the tourna- ment in New Zealand, News Limited and Fairfax Media reporters found a new way to cover the matches. They watched from the punters’ stands, met players on their own turf and filed from hotel rooms. After weeks of negotiating with the IRB, being locked out “made no difference” to the quality of the coverage, Courier-Mail sports editor Brian Burke told The Bulletin. And at Fairfax, Sydney Morning Her- ald and Sun-Herald managing sports editor Ian Fuge said his team had already decided to move away from old school coverage, reliant on press box reporting and post-match press conferences, in favour of bringing users “unique content and analysis that complements what they see on TV, rather than repeats it”. At stake in the accreditation stand- off was the publishers’ right to show video highlights on their digital platforms. The IRB wanted to limit the amount of footage shown on news websites to 90 seconds and geo-block the content to restrict international users from viewing the video, citing pre-existing sponsorship and rights agreements. Fairfax and News Ltd said this re- striction was out of line with Austral- ian fair use laws – as the tournament progressed, the IRB itself didn’t stick to the 90-second limit, hosting up to six minutes of game highlights on its own website. Australian Associated Press editor- in-chief Tony Gillies, whose team was accredited, said the IRB itself might be hit by the episode harder than publishers or audiences. “The IRB made it hard for media but audiences are still getting their print and website coverage regard- less,” Mr Gillies said. “The question is how much of the IRB’s broadcast and net rights have been affected by News and Fairfax working outside of the accreditation process. “The fact that IRB is plastering video all over their own website sug- gests no sponsorship or rights agree- ments have been compromised, or they don’t really place a value on it anyway.” Ian Fuge, of the Sun-Herald and Sydney Morning Herald, said the ex- perience of his rugby writing team ensured the papers were not greatly disadvantaged. The biggest obstacles were not match-side, but closer to home, Mr Fuge said. “The fact we did not sign the ac- creditation had the greatest impact here as we could not attend training sessions or matches, at least not in a working capacity,” he says. “That means there would have been very little value in sending them and was a definite gap in our coverage as we had to rely on other sources for photographs and video. “We were not able to bring read- ers exclusive photos from training sessions or exclusive insights and observations from training sessions – but we covered off any issues around team tactics through interviews, talk- ing to contacts and watching games. “But I don’t think the fact we were not accredited would have been noticed by the vast majority of readers of the Sydney Morning Herald or RugbyHeaven.com.au and we were determined that would not be the case.” Brian Burke at the Courier-Mail agreed accreditation would have been better than none. “[Having no accreditation] did make it more difficult in terms of filing to edition times, due to access to quotes, but in terms of actually covering the games, it made no dif- ference,” he says. “A couple of times our reporters bought tickets to the games and rocked up as ordinary punters or watched it on television next to the ground. “We also organised with the Australian Rugby Union for access to coaches and playing staff after the games involving Australia. Our reporters would either meet the Aus- tralian guys back at their team hotel or outside the ground, depending on which was more convenient. Amid the furore surrounding the row with the IRB, Mr Burke said he hasn’t heard from any readers un- happy with his reporters’ coverage. “We explained at the start of our coverage that we didn’t have ac- creditation. We were upfront with our readers and told them exactly what the situation was,” Mr Burke said. To bolster their cup coverage, both the Sydney Morning Herald and Courier-Mail relied on their online and digital platforms to engage read- ers, with live updates and real-time Twitter posts from its reporters. The Courier-Mail’s tournament portal Rugby Gold featured regular updates and video interviews. Fairfax had its RugbyHeaven site with in-game live blogging, as well as a dedicated world cup section in its Sydney Morning Herald and Age iPad apps, with an innovative hub to display the tournament’s matches and results. “We treated the Rugby World Cup as a multimedia event and ran con- tent across print, online and on the iPad,” said Mr Fuge. On the subject of future media accreditation clashes, Mr Fuge said a precedent had not been set by the IRB for other sports but it would become a concern for news organi- sations. “This is going to be one of the defining issues of sports journalism over the next few years and I imag- ine discussions on whether media organisations are prepared to accept certain conditions around accredita- tion will become much more com- mon,” he said. And they’d do it all again. Mr Fuge said the company would “respond in a similar manner” if a similar accreditation row were to crop up in future. “This is seen very much as an issue that affects Fairfax’s right to cover the news via online video in accordance with what we believe are our rights under copyright law.” At the Courier-Mail, Mr Burke ad- mitted that he would prefer to have his team gain access to the press conference but it wasn’t essential. “It just showed we could do it without accreditation. We’d obvi- ously prefer to have accreditation,” he said. “But we have commercial inter- ests. We can’t have sports telling us what we can or can’t have on our websites. “It’s a case of the tail trying to wag the dog. We don’t tell the IRB how to run their tournament, so we object when they try to tell us what we can or can’t put on our websites.” Australian journalists from fairfax and News limited were barred from the press box at the rugby World Cup, forcing them to find innovative ways to cover the games. Credit: AAP; BeloW: fierce defence. . . Tonga stifle another french attack. Credit: Stewart Baird Trevor Allen NPA it’s going to be “ one of the defining issues of sports journalism”