Response From The ITWA Re. Transcriptgate
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