MMA journalists shut out of Strikeforce event
April 9, 2011
The media for tonight’s Strikeforce event will have a few less covering it as Zuffa has denied access to several media members for tonight’s fights.
Media members were required to fill out an application to receive media access for the Strikeforce event. The application included a set of Professional Journalism Policies. Notably, Loretta Hunt of CBS and Josh Gross of ESPN and Jeff Sherwood of Sherdog.com were denied credentials for tonight’s event.
As a result of Hunt not receiving access, CBS Sports will not cover tonight’s Strikeforce event. This should concern Zuffa since Strikeforce has ties with Showtime/CBS. Any hopes of a network broadcast on CBS may be fractured by this snub. Although Gross was denied access, ESPN will have coverage of the event through MMA Live’s Franklin McNiel.
Bloody Elbow opines:
It’s a curious policy, and one that prevents talented journalists from offering comprehensive coverage of the sport of MMA and Zuffa’s MMA organizations. I don’t believe the Zuffa is “wrong” for their media policy. They are within their rights to withhold access from any individual or organization that they see fit.
Zuffa wants coverage in which they can control the narrative to some degree, and they are willing to cut off legitimate sources in order to achieve that goal. It’s an unwritten contract that regularly credentialed publications must live up to should they want to continue to receive direct access to UFC events.
We shall see if anything is different for the credentialed media and if coverage of tonight’s event will differ from prior coverage. Who will have access to the fighters after fights? How will the press conference be run? It will be interesting if the new media policy will continue into UFC 129. Although new to Strikeforce, it is not unusual to vet media requests in professional sports. The surprise is that several notable journalists tied with reputable outlets (and avid readership) have been shut out of coverage. Is the exclusion of certain journalists punitive for past run-ins with the UFC? Is it a message to those excluded that they need to change the way they write to regain access? As journalists covering an event, access is needed to obtain good articles.
If the UFC and Strikeforce are to be considered on par with other major sports leagues it must allow access to those that may have a differing view. There needs to be some level of journalistic freedom for writers to express their point of view. That is where public relations can come in to assist and educate journalists to some degree. Certainly, Zuffa can demonize the internet message boards and web sites that have a contrary view to it. But eliminating certain outlets may be detrimental to long-term growth as a company and as a sport.