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Photographers Sound Off on New NFL Policy

The Associated Press Managing Editors and the American Society of Newspaper Editors have both sounded off on the NFL’s newest policy, according to Editor&Publisher.

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July 31, 2007 – The Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) and the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) have both sounded off on the NFL’s newest policy requiring photographers to wear logos of two NFL advertisers, according to Editor&Publisher.

Earlier this month, the NFL announced sideline photographers at league games during the upcoming season will be required to wear vests adorned with the logos of Canon and Reebok. According to E&P, the move has sparked controversy among both organizations and individual photographers, who say the working press should not be forced to participate in the commercial arrangements of the league.

APME and ASNE have sent letters to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who responded through a spokesman by explaining that such vests have been required in the past, and that "this is consistent with other sporting events," the spokesman told E&P.

The Associated Press in New York, however, took a less defensive stance on the issue than APME, according to the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). It agreed to have its photographers wear the vests at games, but said it would show concern if the size of the logos increased.

'The Canon and Reebok logos, while of some concern, appear reasonably sized and we acknowledge the common practice of sponsorship," Associated Press Director of Photography Santiago Lyon told News Photographer magazine. 'We would, however, be very concerned should there be any increase in the size or number of these logos. Our presence at NFL events is to record them as photojournalists and distribute images the world over, not become walking billboards through larger or more numerous sponsorship logos."

According to an article published in the NPPA's News Photographer magazine, the NFL sent the vest design to its executive director for examination, whose outlook on the situation didn't change.

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'It implies that the wearer of that vest also endorses those products or at least works for the organization that does," said NPPA executive director Jim Straight in News Photographer magazine. "Wouldn't there be an outcry if journalists covering the Democratic National Convention were forced to wear a candidate's bumper sticker on their backs? Why is this different? Those logos serve no security function and they shouldn't be there.'

According to NPPA, the Chicago Tribune agrees with Straight, and has announced their decision to not comply with the new regulations next season. In a recent editorial, the Tribune attested that 'the Tribune won't allow its photographers to cover games in vests with logos … If the rule doesn't change, the paper will cover the NFL without visuals.' 

Still, the NFL contends the logos are "very small" and "about the same size as the logos on cameras and straps," and that such logos have appeared before without protest. They also argue it is "necessary from a security standpoint" and "part of a larger plan," according to NPPA. However, NPPA said many journalism organizations "are still concerned about the ethical ramifications of journalists wearing corporate advertising."   

'It totally goes against our Code of Ethics to force photographers to advertise as if they were some sort of NASCAR vehicle,' John Long, chair of NPPA's Ethics & Standards Committee, told News Photographer magazine. 'We are independent gatherers of news, storytellers with no agendas. Our integrity comes from objectivity."

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