Student guest post: NCAA’s warning against over-tweeting limits free press

by andybechtel

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the eighth of those posts. Kelly Parsons is a journalism and political science major and former sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She will intern at The Star Tribune in Minneapolis after graduation in May.

I’ll be honest. I don’t spend much of my time reading the fine print. So when I was discussing live-tweeting upcoming basketball games with my traveling companions en route to Kansas City for March Madness coverage, I was surprised by the NCAA’s rules against it.

Attached to the email I received approving my media credentials for the tournament was an informational sheet that told me a bunch of miscellaneous information about team practices times, the media buffet and more.

In the final paragraph on the last page, under the subhead “Blogging and New Media Policies,” it reads:

Each Credential Holder (including institutional, television, Internet, new media, and print publications) has the privilege to blog (or update Facebook or Twitter accounts) during competition through the Credential Entity. However, the blog may not produce in any form a “real-time” description of the event.

The warning goes on to define real-time, which the NCAA classifies as “continuous play-by-play account or live, extended live/real-time statistics, or detailed description of the event.”

Anyone who follows a sports writer on Twitter knows that nowadays, tweeting from press row is now considered to be one of a reporter’s duties. So herein lies an interesting question: When, at least in the NCAA’s mind, does it become too much?

It appears the NCAA wants to limit the kind of free play-by-play that might keep someone from tuning into a live broadcast or even attending the game in person. However, the NCAA’s rule steps on journalists’ toes, discouraging them from doing their No. 1 job of providing information to the public.

These same guidelines can be found on the NCAA’s website, which warns that breaking this rule could lead to revocation of an NCAA-issued credential. The NCAA, however, isn’t the only institution lately to make rules against live-tweeting.

In August, Ohio State made the news when journalists were banned from tweeting during football coach Urban Meyer’s news conferences. The ban appeared to have been lifted shortly after, but not before journalists affected by it spoke out against it.

The case at Ohio State is just one example of gatekeepers not knowing how to respond to and deal with the ever-changing media that journalists use to reach out to fans. During my time at The Daily Tar Heel, I’ve covered many NCAA tournaments in a variety of sports.

Despite its warnings, I’ve never once heard of nor seen the NCAA actually revoke someone’s credential for over-tweeting. In fact, in a meeting this month with the Associated Press Sports Editors, NCAA officials said there would be no “numerical restrictions on social media posting during its postseason events.”

The fact, though, that it remains within the realm of the NCAA’s power to send a journalist home for sharing too much information makes me question how free the free press really is.

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