Did Social Media Kill the Press Credential in Sports Coverage?

By Guest Comment

PressPass

It is not breaking news that social media has impacted the way sports are covered. The prevalence of accessible real-time information, highlights and statistics has made the wait for a newspaper or magazine antiquated. Beat writers have been required to increase their digital presence through blogs and frequently updated Twitter accounts.

We have reached a point where only 17 percent of sports fans get their breaking news from TV or radio. The one distinguishing factor that has maintained a separation point between traditional journalists and others who want to discuss a team or athletes is the credential.

Yet the value of having credentialed access to a sports team seems to be diminishing by the day. The alleged purpose is to give fans access they wouldn’t otherwise receive and to develop relationships with athletes so their thoughts can be clearly communicated to fans. With each passing day, the credential is starting to feel more and more like an unnecessary tool of an unnecessary middle man.

When New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey had fans in an uproar about his availability in the playoffs, he wrote his own article explaining his situation, rather than dealing with the New York tabloids.

A young National Basketball Association star like Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks can give a window into his life away from the sport with a YouTube channel, or a well-known National Football League superstar like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady can show off his humor on a Facebook page. It is easier than ever for athletes to go directly to the fan, without the fear of their message being misrepresented by the media.

If you want to “cover” a team for a non-credentialed blog or just follow them for your enjoyment, you can get live daily press conferences and interviews from team sites. From the Mets showing live batting practice on Periscope to the San Francisco 49ers covering their draft picks’ arrival on Snapchat, there is basically an endless amount of streaming video, information and direct quotes being presented to anyone who wants it. There is an overload of information that is becoming increasingly easy to access.

The information being given from players to reporters is becoming more and more generic. Most athletes are becoming so media-trained that every quote pregame and postgame is intentionally redundant and non-inflammatory. You can listen to how Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien coaches his team to deal with the media. When is the last time you really learned something about a player or team strategy that was directly correlated to credentialed access to a team event? Players are becoming adept at avoiding “bulletin board” material, while it is the media themselves who seems to be providing more and more of it these days.

The days of reporters traveling around the country with a team, regularly sharing meals with players and developing relationships to become their preferred mouthpiece to fans are dwindling. How far away are we from live streaming functioning as a full time digital credential, pushing the current version into extinction?

Joe Caporoso is director of social platforms at sports video content provider Whistle Sports Network.

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