"We believe that the new policy is an arbitrary attempt to limit independent news reporting on SEC sporting events and ultimately to restrict the coverage that SEC fans have long enjoyed and have every right to expect as supporters of SEC teams and taxpayers financing SEC institutions," said David McCraw, vice president and assistant general counsel for the New York Times Co., owner of the The Tuscaloosa News.
— SEC plans to enact new media policy | TuscaloosaNews.com | The Tuscaloosa News | Tuscaloosa, AL
There is a new Media Policy for the SEC, which was distributed this past week. Among other rules, the SEC is now prohibiting credentialing of anyone other than full-time salaried employees of news outlets. The Tuscaloosa News worries about its effect on freelance journalists or hourly wage employees they hire, but I think this policy is aimed squarely at bloggers.
Lately, many bloggers including our SBNation colleagues cocknfire at Team Speed Kills and Joel at Rocky Top Talk have succeeded in getting credentialed for events like SEC Media Days. Apparently the SEC has changed its mind about its tentative embrace of "the new media" if bloggers, most of whom have day jobs, are not allowed to be credentialed simply because they are not full-time salaried employees of their news outlets.
As an organization made up of more than 90% public, government institutions, I wonder if the SEC is considered a "state actor" for First Amendment purposes. If it is, the SEC would be subject to the limitations imposed by the First Amendment. I would think this would limit the kinds of rules they can place on who can cover their events, and how. As a government actor, I think they could say, "No one gets credentialed," but if they say, "Here are the rules of getting credentialed, and some of you are eligible while others of you aren't," they will have to justify the distinctions WHEN someone sues. Not "if" someone sues. When.
Other rules sound very problematic, such as restrictions on publishing "descriptions" of games. If the SEC really wants to push this issue, I think they will find they've really overreached legally.