Friday, February 18, 2005

Communication breakdown

I am reminded almost daily how entrenched certain paradigms and cultures are in our way of doing things.

Take a simple thing (or so it seemed when I thought of it) like obtaining press credentials to cover a high school basketball tournament. Tonight begins the annual rite of winter in Maine, the boys and girls high school basketball tournaments, which will crown a high school team, state champion, in the various classifications. As I wrote about this morning, I plan on doing some coverage, maybe in a semi-conventional way, but with a few twists from the "normal" way that sports reporters cover these things.

Assuming that others are "tuned into" what new media is all about, I called the MPA to inquire about obtaining press credentials to cover the tournament.

Like any bureaucracy, the MPA does an excellent job of ensuring a standard product offering, maintaining order, and following rules of protocol, particularly as it benefits themselves. Not to demean what this governing body does, as it provides a certain organizational flow to the proceedings of the annual tournament.

The gatekeeper, a pleasant and efficient woman, informed me I'd need to talk to their executive director in charge of the tournament. Being that today is the start of the tourneys, it was no surprise that I was given his v/m, due to his being on the phone.

The gentleman, a taciturn and bureaucratic chap, typical of many in similar roles, called me back to inform me that I'd need a letter from a sports editor, from the newspaper I would be covering the event for, on stationary with a letterhead. I would then need to hand-deliver it to an official at the game site. I tried to explain freelancing and the nature of the beast, but he didn't seem able, or wanting to follow my explanation.

I didn't have the spunk at that point to explain blogging, new media, and the old paradigm thinking that he was exhibiting. I know the drill--as I've been subjected to it countless times before--any time you attempt to "educate" others serving in roles of authority, it's a battle with an uneven playing field and one that you are bound to lose. When you have the upper hand, there's no need to cede control.

I did tell him I might do some web-based coverage via my website and he was quick to point out that any pictures I posted could not be sold or downloaded for profit. He also wanted to make sure I wasn't going to pass out any flyers or distribute business cards.

You see, this tournament is first and foremost a money-maker for the MPA. My being given press credentials as a freelance journalist, would rob him of the $5 per pop that I'm sure I'll pay at each game. It may even be more, as I haven't been to a tournament game in four years. Any other opportunities for financial renumeration must be tightly controlled. I resented his intimation that I somehow might be trying to exploit high school athletes for my own personal gain, when that turf has already been divvied up long before I came along.

It amazes me that regardless of what endeavor you engage in, how often the financial well-being of those in charge is fervently protected.

Well, I'm going to do my best to try to cover a few games without being sanctioned by the powers that be. It will be interesting to see how it goes and whether I run afoul of the authorities.


ChefDunn said...

Technically, you are the editor. So, write yourself a nice letter with your own letterhead and bring it along. Hand it to the official. Chances are he will have no idea of your previous encounter.

Jim said...

Compliments to the Chef!

Taking your advice, I was credentialed and treated like any other member of the media.

Amazing what happens when you just find the right person. Granted, finding him/her can be an art in and of itself, but when you do, things often work out.

ChefDunn said...

Often times the higher up the ladder you start, the more difficult your climb will be. So, always start at the bottom. ;)