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QBREES9 02-14-2010 02:14 PM

Saints Vs .com
 
SAINTS VS. THE MEDIA

Here’s one wish for the coming offseason: That the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints make peace with NewOrleans.com and reporter Brian Allee-Walsh.

One of the stories that got little play going into Super Bowl week was the decision by the Saints to ban NewOrleans.com and Allee-Walsh from covering the team. For background’s sake, NewOrleans.com is a relatively new site that has hired many experienced reporters to cover news, sports and entertainment around the city, taking on the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Allee-Walsh is one of those experienced reporters, having covered the Saints and the NFL for 23 years for the Times-Picayune before taking a buyout from the newspaper and joining New Orleans.com earlier this season.

On two occasions this season, the Saints banned the website and Allee-Walsh from covering the team. That included a few days during the week between when the NFC championship game and when the Saints left for the Super Bowl. Once at the Super Bowl, Allee-Walsh was approved by the NFL to cover the team and the event.

“You have to understand that as the season went on and we got to 8-0 and 9-0, every website out there was trying to get credentialed to cover us,” said Saints spokesman Greg Bensel, who said he planned to re-examine the team’s coverage policy and sit down with the owner of NewOrleans.com this offseason. “It’s our decision to credential who we want and I talked it over with a lot of other media relations people from other teams to see how they were handling it.

“We feel our decision is in line with what other teams have done.”

Well, some yes, some no. The Dallas Cowboys, for instance, credential just about any news organization that applies, including a one-man operation that sends out a newsletter and isn’t even online. Other teams, like the Saints, have wrestled with trying to differentiate between legitimate news-gathering operations (Profootballtalk.com is a prime example of a non-traditional site that has grown over the years) and websites that are little more than somebody sitting in front of a computer spouting off whatever he thinks without bothering to check.

The bottom line is this: NewOrleans.com hired an established reporter to cover the Saints on a full-time basis, both at home and on the road. This is as obvious an attempt to establish a legitimate news operation as any organization could possibly make. This was not hiring a reporter straight out of college saying, “Go get’em, ace.”

Even that circumstance, in this age of media upheaval, is hard to criticize without running into pratfalls. In other words, if someone is willing to spend time covering a team on a full-time basis and dedicate resources to giving it legitimate coverage, it’s hard to say that organization should be banned. Fact is, websites have potentially far greater reach than even local TV or radio shows.

The Saints should back off this policy as soon as possible.

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