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The NCAA and Blogging

Over the weekend NCAA officials at the Super Regional game in Louisville, KY asked a local reporter to leave the press box because he was doing a live blog of the game. According to Eric McElrain of AOL Fanhouse and Off Wing Opinion the NCAA said that a live blog was a violation of the broadcast rights of the game which stipulate that only the NCAA and it's designated rights holder can broadcast or provide a live internet update of the game. What arises from this is an interesting set of issues concerning blogging and how the NCAA(and others) might handle the new media.

As McElrain pointed out at Off Wing Opinion I am not necessarily ready to bash the NCAA for the decision since there are indeed very complicated rules and regulations as it pertains to certain business relationships. At the same time as blogging in sports becomes more and more an outlet for fans to express themselves and attain information about their favorite teams what does the NCAA and other governing entities do about this mainly unfettered forum. One issue the NCAA faces, outside the rights issues which is fairly ironclad in my opinion, is how they come to treat independent bloggers who are often times the biggest critic of the organization. Serious bloggers like myself who focus on one school usually have plenty to say about the NCAA which might be appear to be stifling criticism in closing off bloggers.

Another aspect is one that the reporter points out and that is the fact bloggers like me and Tar Heel Mania/Digital Headbutt will do full live blogs of games, especially NCAA Tournament games by watching TV. Does what we do constitute a copyright violation? If I become an outlet for someone who cannot see the game(which I have had readers tell me was the case for ESPN only games) in that way I replace the rights holder(CBS, ESPN etc) as an outlet for information on the game. That being said, I know when I live blog I tend to do it as a means of offering my thoughts on the game as though my readers were sitting in the room with me and we were talking about the game. I would argue what I do is largely original material because it is more opinion than it is my description of the game. I would speculate that what the reporter in Louisville was doing was a pure description of the events before him. If that was the case I wonder had the reporter been simply offering opinions on the action without necessarily describing the actions in detail if the NCAA would have allowed him to stay.

The NCAA, as much as any business, has to guard it's product for maximum profitability. I have no problem with that. On the other side, as a blogger, I would hope the NCAA would keep an eye on the new media as a outlet for exposure. The blogosphere still operates under the cloud of skepticism by the mainstream media and those who believe we are all 35 year old men living in our parent's basement. There is a stigma that still attaches itself to bloggers that they are a largely unaccountable, willing to abscond with the general rules of journalism dictating sources, and prone to openly attack/criticize their subjects without impunity. The responsible bloggers often get lost behind the noise made by message boards and websites who are interested in hit counts by any means necessary. Like many other bloggers I would love the chance to be given greater access not so much my own promotion but so we can produce a higher level of content. The perspective bloggers offer can often be fresh view up against the standard narrative the established media tends to lean on.

Here's hoping the NCAA does a better job in getting on the cutting edge of this issue...for once.