Q&A: Access to high school football sideline

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From the Churubusco News:

Q: Does HSPA have anything official that I could print up for press passes to put on lanyards?

We ran into some access issues while videotaping a high school football game. My videographers were physically thrown off the sideline by the home team’s coach. One was escorted off by a police officer.

The coach thought we were taping their plays and relaying them for the other team. Just wondering what kind of ID we should wear to prevent this from happening again.

All of the other media outlets were permitted to stay on the sidelines for the entire game. This is our 10th season taping the games, and we’ve never had any problem before. 

A: HSPA does not issue press passes. As to a lanyard, your newspaper can print an official-looking press card that you could insert into a lanyard. You could design it to include the reporter’s name and newspaper name and logo.

It sounds like you ran into a paranoid coach. Obviously, your staff was treated unfairly relative to other media representatives.

You may already be doing this, but instruct your reporters to check in with school’s athletic director or football coach prior to the game, especially for road games where they don’t know you.

Give them a heads-up that you plan to cover the game and ask if there are particular restrictions on where you can film from the field, how to get official statistics, and what the process is for talking to coaches or players after the game.

Checking in ahead of the time puts them on notice that you are legitimate media outlet with the intent to respect a school’s rules to field access and follow the rules regarding interviewing.

It would be hard for an athletic director or coach to throw you out after they’ve answered your questions prior to the game and acknowledged your credentials as a member of the media.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.

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