The bj-league (Basketball Japan League) is planning to extend its ban on The Japan Times for another season.
It says that The Japan Times must agree to never make contact with players or coaches without permission every time, and that all contact must come directly through the team's PR or league PR approval.
My company will not accept these demands. I don't have the authority to agree or disagree, only to do what's ordered. But I remain committed to reporting on a league that has grown exponentially, from six teams in 2005 to 22 for this coming season (3 teams have also left the league)
Access - timely access - to players and coaches is absolutely necessary without waiting and waiting and waiting for interview requests to be ignored or rejected. Games are played, and quotes are needed (and also for other features and columns and notebooks) ... especially since we publish 365 editions a year on the Internet and 355 daily editions a year in print.
Regarding this ban ... My stomach is in knots. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. The league office doesn't understand how modern media operates, nor does it do ANYTHING to provide the necessary assistance that a national newspaper needs to be able to report on all 22 teams and write roundups on all games, which I have done since the second season. There are never player quotes posted online quickly after games or even distributed to the media. Player quotes are absolutely necessary to enrich real game coverage and provide news articles that readers are interested in. That is part of the need to reach out to players directly to get these quotes, because the league doesn't distribute these quotes EVER, unless it's the All-Star Game or the Final Four, and with the All-Star Game web posting, for example, that came around 2-3 a.m., more than 12 hours after the game ended. Deadline had already passed for the next day; 10:30 p.m. is deadline for all stories -- quotes are needed quickly. That's always been the case, by the way.
***About the ban -- I appreciate (and need) collective opposition to this blockage of my job duties. Please contact the bj-league PR dept (email@example.com), which is putting a stranglehold on my ability to do my job properly.***
The need for email and phone contact with coaches is not an option that can go away; it is a necessary tool to be a reporter in the 21st century. It is unrealistic for every interview and nugget of material from players and coaches to be arranged for every time in advance. Furthermore, the league doesn't care to understand these challenges despite repeated explanations about them.
The league needs to set guidelines for what its employees can say publicly, but to have zero approved access without a PR person nodding their head every time is unrealistic. There are not enough hours in the day, week, month or year to wait for up to 22 teams to approve interview requests for each and all stories. Sometimes, I am juggling 5-10 story projects at once, plus editing duties. I need to manage my time as much as I can and do things as quickly as possible. There have been many instances when 3-4 email and 4-5 phone messages for the same team have gone ignored; there isn't time to be ignored in this business. Interviews must be set up and done.
I have been a reporter since I was 16, working as a sports radio correspondent. It is the only job I've ever wanted to do.
I have always taken this job very seriously and strive for 100 percent accuracy with all stories. I also recognize the need for sources to have an opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns, and that not all stories will be glowingly positive or well-received by certain organizations. But I always give a league or team. for instance, a chance to respond to what the topic will be about. (If they choose not to, that is also their choice).
-Over the years, I have written freelance sports stories for around 100 publications, in Egypt and Uganda, in Jamaica and South Korea, in Canada and New Zealand, and for newspapers in about 30 U.S. states.
-In summary, I have reported from the 2008 Super Bowl, the 1997 Rose Bowl, the Summer Olympics (twice), MLB playoffs, NBA playoffs, NHL games, the 1997 Senior Olympics, 2006 World Basketball Championship (Hiroshima, Saitama), 2007 IAAF World Athletics Championships (Osaka), 2007 World Figure Skating Championships (Tokyo), plus eight bj-league seasons.
I'm an ambitious, busy, award-winning reporter and also a full-time editor, which underscores the importance I place on all assignments, including my primary beat, the bj-league, and the reason I moved to Japan to begin this job in July 2006.
The ban started last fall: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2013/10/29/basketball/bj-league/bj-league-bans-jt-access/