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Vol. 44, No. 2 • February 2007 • .pdf version
Press-row advocates shouldn't forget the press room
By STEVE CARP / Las Vegas Review-Journal
For all of us, the idea of having a place to work seems so elementary, so simplistic in its concept, we probably never give it a second thought.
It's an automatic. You cover a game, you have a place to write.
Or is it?
How many of you have walked into an arena for the first time, only to find the place where you had your pre-game meal also served as your workstation for the evening? Or worse, as a visiting media person, you come into a building and find there's one "visiting media" spot and there are three of you.
Think about it. When it comes to working conditions, a lot of places are substandard.
I'm not talking about where we're assigned to watch a basketball game. I'm talking about the press room.
That's right, the media work room where you spent your most critical moments, juggling your notebook, tape recorder, final stat sheet and game notes against an unrelenting deadline, trying to make semblance out of what you just spent 2½ hours witnessing, the place where it all hopefully comes together, is a nightmare.
If it's not as dark as a coal mine, there's not enough electrical outlets. If the wireless isn't tilting out, the phone system is so antiquated, you have to dial "7" to get out and your computer isn't programmed to put a "7" in front of the toll-free number your paper gave you.
And it's not limited to old-time buildings such as the Palestra or McArthur Court. How many of you have walked into an ultra-modern building only to find cramped quarters when it comes to finding a place to write postgame?
A lot of the newer NBA buildings (Miami comes to mind), have small media work rooms. At Madison Square Garden, which is not a new building, space in the press room is as valuable as anything across the street on 7th Avenue.
For the college writers who come into these NBA buildings, it's probably a bit of a shock.
But it's not just an NBA issue. Recently, the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas hosted a Thanksgiving weekend college tournament that featured Florida, then the No. 1 team in the country, and Kansas, which was ranked 10th. The promoters of the tournament were given use of the press room.
While it might be big enough for the ECHL hockey team that plays there, it wasn't big enough to accommodate the many writers who had come to cover basketball.
Guys were spread out over the entire room trying to work. It was a chaotic scene. Especially when the game ended at 1 a.m. Eastern Time on a Saturday, which makes it next to impossible to make deadline.
Logistically, things at The Orleans were good. The interview room was adjacent to the press room as was the access to the court. Once the Wi-Fi bugs got worked out, things seemed to move smoothly. The stats got delivered in a timely fashion.
But ultimately, the issue is space to work. What compounds the problem these days is that photographers don't use dark rooms anymore. They shoot digital images and use their laptop computers to transmit their information like we writers do. They need work space to do their job, as well.
Some buildings have separate areas for photographers to file. The NCAA Tournament has done a good job with this over the years. But at places such as the Orleans or UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center, where there is limited space, it's every man and woman for himself and herself.
There are no easy solutions, given that every building is different and has its own set of unique issues. As always, it's up to us writers to work with our sports information directors to come up with creative solutions, whether it's adding a power strip here or an additional table and chairs there or an extra lamp here.
As we continue to fight the good fight to maintain our presence courtside in the rising tide of turning press row into Gucci Row, we would be negligent to ignore the environment where our final product is produced.
Granted, in the grand scale of things, it's not like working in a mine or a dusty field. But the press room is where we do our work, and anything that can be done to make it a better place should be explored and acted upon. I'm sure our readers would ultimately appreciate it.
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