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Response From The ITWA Re. Transcriptgate

May 31, 2011

Today, myself and others recieved this response from the ITWA. I’m considering responding but would first like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Dear tennis fans

We have received a great many letters from unhappy tennis fans who were upset when told by the official French Open website that it would no longer be posting the post-match interview transcripts on the website. Fans who questioned this new policy were informed that the International Tennis Writers’ Association had requested player transcripts not be posted on the website. We have noted your disappointment at no longer being able to read the transcripts and can understand why fans would want that availability. Taking that into account, we felt we should offer you all an explanation as to why it is important to the international media that the transcripts are not posted, or at least delayed until a day later.

Firstly, our newspapers and media outlets are, like many other companies, feeling heavy financial burdens these days. Quite a number of organizations have already stopped sending their reporters to major sporting events around the world, a decision we are hoping others won’t follow. Nevertheless, we have great concern that the dwindling numbers of journalists sent on-site will continue.

Those media outlets that are still sending their journalists to events spend a great deal of money to do so. The reason they continue to send reporters is that their writers are guaranteed better access and information from reporting, interviewing, and writing on-site. In truth, the media interview room is the journalists’ workplace and, like at many organizations, no matter what the business, the workplace is not open to the general public. We are trained professionals with the responsibility of asking the important and probing questions that elicit the interesting answers that tennis fans want answered. When our exclusivity is removed by posting transcripts it makes the expense of sending journalists to cover events appear questionable to those holding the purse strings.

We have already watched as many of our colleagues have been taken off what at one time were assignments that would never be questioned. One example: in the United States the South Florida community is a hotbed for tennis fans and tennis players. Two of their three major market papers stopped covering the Grand Slams about five years ago. The third paper is planning on not staffing any Grand Slams this year and into the future. This is the type of unfortunate scenario we are seeing happen regularly to our colleagues around the world.

If fewer journalists show up at events, tournaments are likely to decide it is not worth spending money on the expensive transcription services done by court reporter companies.

Of even more concern, journalists could eventually stop covering tournaments if there is no filter on the release of information we as professional journalists are gathering. It would quickly become cost-ineffective to show up.

The bottom line: If journalists don’t go to tournaments, the issue of access to transcripts will become a non-issue. There will be no one asking the questions.

To those not on the inside of journalism today this might seem a far-fetched picture to present, but we can assure you that it is not. It could happen and sooner than anyone might think possible. Hopefully, this letter will enable you to understand more clearly our position on the subject of posting player interview transcripts.   Kind regards, The International Tennis Writers’ Association

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. Christina permalink
    May 31, 2011 10:54 am

    Comments:

    1. Do they not see the VAST gap between “a 24 hour delay” and “never posting interview transcripts ever ever ever”? The lack of logic here is absolutely mindboggling.

    2. “We are trained professionals with the responsibility of asking the important and probing questions that elicit the interesting answers that tennis fans want answered.” Well, you may have that responsibility, but I have to say that the incidence of “important and probing questions” that elicit “interesting answers” are few and far between, so maybe some professional retraining is in order.

    Still rolling my eyes.

  2. May 31, 2011 11:26 am

    “We are trained professionals with the responsibility of asking the important and probing questions that elicit the interesting answers that tennis fans want answered.”

    Only what they actually post is not the probing questions and interesting answers, but the boring and repetitive “I’m taking it point by point and match by match” and “Sure, I can still win a Grand Slam”.
    The interesting stuff is, of course, in the transcripts. So…

  3. May 31, 2011 11:32 am

    Interesting. It’s a stock response to everyone as I also received the same e-mail word for word.

    It’s questionable to me simply because quotes from players OFTEN get taken out of context. This is something that we’re all used to – as tennis/sports fans, but back then we had transcripts to cross-reference and make our own deductions on intentions of words and what not. Without the transcripts, it makes the journalists’ words less trustworthy because we KNOW that they THRIVE on sensationalism (see Dan Markowitz). All in all – it suddenly becomes that I don’t even know the real context of words that are published as “relevant”.

    If they’re talking about the “loss of appeal” of the sport in that context – then NOT having the transcripts makes it worse for the sport. The fact that media outlets are sending less teams/scrapping Grand Slams from their reporting schedules are NOT because of readily available transcripts to the public and the so-call loss of exclusivity. It’s simply because the standard of the tennis-writers are possibly diminishing and the way they report and write their articles are lacking – THAT, to me, is the real reason for the so-called scrapping. If the things you write are not generating interest, the public lose interest.

    Blame the journalists and the writers, not the availability of the transcripts.

  4. Deborah permalink
    May 31, 2011 11:39 am

    I don’t get it. No one objected to a delay. It was the lack of any access to the full transcripts. Somehow, though, I doubt if transcript exclusivity is going to be enough to stem the tide of journalistic cost cutting.

  5. May 31, 2011 11:52 am

    its nothing but a cheap trade protectionist excuse

    none of us objected to 12/24 hour embargoes, but complete embargo?

    GTFO really

  6. J. Scott Fitzwater permalink
    May 31, 2011 12:15 pm

    As a sportswriter, I call BS.

  7. May 31, 2011 1:00 pm

    Hey guys I replied to the original email stating how I thought we fans were never opposed to a 12/24 hr embargo and I got this reply from Marco Keller,

    “I agree with you, the 24 hour embargo would be the best solution for all involved parties and all tournaments. And that’s what we are basically aiming for and were in this case as well.

    I can’t really predict how the whole matter is going to end but be assured that we have the fans in mind too!”

  8. BTennis permalink
    June 1, 2011 3:51 am

    Meanwhile read all of the transcripts at tennisleask.blogspot.com Guess it’s someone’s version of Wikileaks.

    Also thesportscampus.com has been posting them since the beginning of the tournament. Guess the ITWA hasn’t caught them.

  9. tinica permalink
    June 1, 2011 6:20 pm

    I would be perfectly happy reading foreign language transcripts. To find out more about the Fognini departure, I listened to his announcement on either Gazzetta dello Sport’s website, or La Repubblica’s. While the Roland Garros site does give us video clips of interviews, I often find myself trawling, say, Serbian websites to fill in gaps as described by anna_tennisfan.

    Years ago (pre-Internet) I worked for a transcription company – but not too many people were interested in Corporate Annual meetings. And the cost for our services wasn’t budget-breaking.

    a 24-hour embargo would not stop journalists from showing up. We’ve already had the 24-hour delay for many tournaments.

  10. evie permalink
    June 1, 2011 9:05 pm

    Pretty sad that they seem to think withholding transcripts is a firewall between them and unemployment. If a journo worked for me and couldn’t file stories with more value than a verbatim transcript, I’d fire them, too.

    And it won’t work, anyway. You cannot stop the natural evolution of a business; you need to figure out how to evolve yourself.

  11. BTennis permalink
    June 2, 2011 11:51 am

    You can find all of the transcripts at http://www.thesportscampus.com

  12. sheila permalink
    June 2, 2011 8:59 pm

    I smell a big, stinking, steaming pile of B.S. So completely blocking access to post-match interviews will somehow save tennis writers’ jobs? Don’t make me laugh.

    I loved this line:
    Quote- “We are trained professionals with the responsibility of asking the important and probing questions that elicit the interesting answers that tennis fans want answered.”

    Bwaahahahaha. What a joke. I can’t remember the last time a journalist asked an “interesting, important, and probing question” that tennis fans want answered.

    • tinica permalink
      June 3, 2011 8:54 pm

      so true. Sadly, this is also why players revert to stock answers, not interesting answers that have been elicited by these trained professionals.

  13. Diamond permalink
    June 3, 2011 9:16 pm

    One of the biggest stories of the year so far (Clijsters saying she would not play in Japan) was broken by two tennis bloggers who paid their own way to Miami and worked their asses off covering as much tennis as humanly possible. That is how you keep your readers coming to your website and buying your product. Sitting in an air conditioned screening room and showing up for press conferences so you can hog the transcripts to yourself is not journalism, it’s good old boy network laziness. These ‘journalists’ need to stop being so lazy and stop pissing off tennis fans, or they really will be out of work.

    • frantennisfan permalink
      June 9, 2011 10:10 pm

      One of those two “bloggers” is an award winning author, the other a photographer. Kudos to them for covering the first 5 days of the tournament and the tennis site who gave them the access. More tennis sites should do this. It was ridiculous how they were not given the credit they should have received from the mainstream media. Guess neither of the gentlemen, nor the people who runs the site they were representing is part of that “Old Boys” club. Hope to see and hear more from them at future tournaments.

  14. tinica permalink
    June 10, 2011 3:38 pm

    Tennis has its own “leaks” site, I think it’s http://www.tennisleaks.com

  15. frantennisfan permalink
    June 23, 2011 3:09 pm

    I guess Wimbledon has now stopped posting transcripts. I see none for Wednesday. The Monday and Tuesday interviews were up around 1 am London time the next day. :-(

  16. srdjana permalink
    June 23, 2011 4:40 pm

    Still no transcripts from Wednesday. Frustrating.

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