Mailbag: UFC Credential Follow Up

May 29, 2008

In response to this post on the UFC’s credentialing process, MMAPayout.com received the following response:

“I love your articles… I particularly appreciate how you strive to keep your personal opinion out of most topics. In this case I would love to read how YOU feel about this topic.

You closed your article with what it took to receive credentials from other organizations, which along with the signature, made it clear to me that the UFC was being ridiculous in what they were asking from Abowitz.

Here’s what I’m getting at. It seems like you’re more than qualified to call “BS” on this situation, or agree with it, and I would like to hear your thoughts explained further.

Keep up the good work.

James Weber

RESPONSE:

James,

First off thanks for writing. We love feedback and read each one we receive.

While I have done lots of work with media credentials, I’m not sure that I’m “qualified” to call the UFC out on this one. You basically have to look at it from both sides, the UFC’s side and the Abowitz’s/ journalists side.

From the UFC’s point of view, in the age of information overload, where everyone is a personal printing press (with dual-core processor and a 300 gigabyte hard drive), it can be hard to discern who is a legitimate journalist or blogger.

Part of the problem with credentialing MMA events in particular is that the majority of its current core fan base has evolved from loyalists who packed online forums long before the sport became pallet table to the mainstream media. All you had to do in the early days, was start a blog, fill out a form and you were in. Only a few months ago when I attended EliteXC’s ShoXC event in Atlantic City, the majority of folks I was sitting with weren’t writing for the NY Times or USA Today. It was mostly dot-com writers and bloggers.

Futhermore, media credentials are pretty powerful pieces of plastic (that usually come with a snazzy free lanyard). They let you into places that most people can only dream. For UFC events, it usually means a cageside seat (which for UFC 85 would cost about $600 each). And instead of debating the finer points of say, Wanderlei Silva KOing Keith Jardine with your friends at the bar, you can ask the “Axe Murderer” himself how sweet it felt to get the KO coming off a loss to Chuck Liddell.

So I hope you understand my point that folks at the UFC need to weed out the legit journalists and bloggers from folks who might be looking for a freebie. (And I am not trying to imply that Abowitz was looking for a free ride, just giving you a hypothetical as to why the UFC needs to be stringent.)

From my own experience in applying for credentials, there are varying levels of scrutiny. As I previously mentioned, for MLB and NHL games, a request on company letterhead sufficed. However, when I covered the Democratic National Convention, I was asked about everything short of my shoe size. In preparation News12’s coverage of the Pope’s recent visit to New York City and Westchester, I had to submit a passport style headshot and my social security number.

Asking for a signature isn’t the end of the world either, if it’s for some simple clause like: “The holder of the credential agrees to abide by the rules set forth…” Also, many media organizations will print the guidelines for using a credential on the back. Typical clauses include:

  • No autographs
  • No giving your credential to someone else
  • Media/ broadcast release (in other words, you might be seen on-camera or in a photo and waive any right to compensation)

However Abowitz’s allegation that the credential form dictated, as he put it, “controlling where and when I was allowed to write about the event forever more,” is a major issue for journalists.

I’ve never been asked to sign anything regarding how or when I covered a story. Asking any journalist to do so tramples on the basic principles of objectivity and unbiased coverage that are taught in high school journalism classes.

I have not actually looked at the credential application that Abowitz filled out. However, if what he alleges is true, the UFC pushed too far. The UFC does have a right to control it’s brand, but typically, acceptable sports journalism practices do not involve telling a journalist how to cover an event.

This begins to touch on the UFC’s media strategies, which I hope to blog about at some point in the future.

Thanks for your email, James!

–Andrew Falzon

Got something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.