The Stolen Word: Controlling The Transcripts
Roland Garros has caused a stir for all the wrong reasons. It is the first to implement the wishes of the International Tennis Writers Association and cease putting interview transcripts up for public viewing. The ITWA has about 105 members and apparently all but a few were for the ban. Amongst the few who have opposed the move is Peter Bodo, who found himself in an argument with Matt Cronin in 2006. Clearly, he doesn’t feel the need to keep pressers to himself. However, most of the ITWA do. They believe that fans will be satisfied with ‘relevant quotes’ hand selected by them.
What this is, in its most base form, is censorship. The media are controlling the flow of information to fans and selecting what they think fans want to read. Last time I checked, Paris isn’t Nazi Germany and this isn’t war-time. What journalists think are ‘relevant quotes’ (could that be more patronising?) aren’t necessarily what fans want to read. When Matt Cronin (pro-censorship) mocked blogs that involve fashion and gossip, he mocked the very essence of fandom. What he forgot is that there is a very strong demand for humourous, gossipy blog websites. There’s also a lot of demand for bloggers’ serious opinions, photos, and match reviews. Tennis is a richer sport for this. But Cronin fails to see this, once even arrogantly suggesting it would be even better for fans without bloggers and other sources,” Imagine just how exiting it will be as a fan to read and hear about the sport only from the tournaments and tours.” I’m not really sure what he’s imagining here, because it sounds very bland to me.
Fans also like to make their own judgements when it comes to controversial quotes. I, for one, have gone to a presser many times when a favourite has been slaughtered by the media. I’ve often found that journalists have sensationalized the comment to get more views. By reading the transcript myself, I can make my own judgement. I know other fans feel the same way.
Despite what many journalists like to think, fans also appreciate and enjoy blogs. There are many decent bloggers and fans of tennis who benefit from transcripts. Courtney Nguyen, for example, has found fame by writing with humour and going for news outside the box, not necessarily for her writing, (although she’s as good as any professional journo). Hannah Wilks is another fantastic writer who got her start through blogging. The thing is, fans actually want to read about what Federer ate for dinner that night, or what Wozniacki looks for in a man. These may not be deemed relevant quotes by those high and mighty journalists, but they ARE relevant to fans. That’s why interview transcripts and blogs are popular.
This new rule is affecting fans, bloggers, freelance writers, and magazine editors alike. I intern and unfortunately they don’t fly me across the world for my articles and research. My pitches are often inspired by interviews and my research stems from them. If transcripts are taken away from all tournaments, it will become near impossible for writers and bloggers like myself to come up with little-heard quotes to back up our original ideas. I don’t want to regurgitate what Matt Cronin has already written. This, in turn, will only make it harder for writers and bloggers to break in to the world of journalism like Nguyen and Wilks have done. The ITWA might want to keep their numbers down to the paltry 105 mark, but the rest of the world doesn’t. I dream of a career working alongside the likes of Cronin. At the moment, it seems I’m just working against him.
Apart from 100-odd people, nobody seems happy about this unexpected change. My Twitter feed has been rife with complaints from bloggers and fans alike. The thing is though, their censoring and limiting of media won’t go far. It won’t help bring new fans into tennis; it won’t benefit the ATP or WTA. It won’t stop bloggers because they write for fun and passion, not money, and it won’t stop me. The only people it might benefit are 100 selfish journalists in an elitist group called the ITWA. Of course, we can do something.
Send this blog or your own complaints along to
Tweet your complaints to Matt Cronin @TennisReporters
Or give your thanks to people like Peter Bodo and the tennis.com staff, who understand the needs of fans, bloggers, and writers alike at
or tweet your thanks to @peterbodo
In the meantime, I’m thinking of starting a petition. Anyone with ideas tweet me @cb_s or comment here.
EDIT: Originally posted above quotes from 2006 as present. Cronin spoke out heavily against transcript releasing in 2006. It is safe to assume he still feels the same way. Carry on as normal, all.
NOTE: Opinions are my own and not associated with any websites or magazines I write for.