Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Roland Garros 2011: Transcript Gate

The decision of Roland Garros to acquiesce to the International Tennis Writer Association's request not to publish interview transcripts is gravely mistaken on a number of levels.

Now to be fair, to my best understanding, ITWA only wants the transcripts not to be published within 24 hours of the match because these post-match pressers are their primary source while the news is still hot. Nor have they asked for videos of the post-match pressers to be delayed for publication. Roland Garros has simply chosen not to post the transcripts at all. Nevertheless a significant number of tennis fans are not happy with the Roland Garros (and the ITWA) for what is perceived to be the "suppression of information."

First and foremost it seems clear to me that ITWA does not have any property rights over such transcripts. The tournament does. And they have only acquiesced as a favor to them. Roland Garros' decision not to publish any transcripts at all (for now) is overcooked.

Second, the assent to the ITWA's request was justified as allowing official journalists to provide "relevant quotes" of the post match interview. Unfortunately, trust between many fans and journalists is not exactly at high point, because there have been numerous instances of so-called professional journalists who have made fairly egregious mistakes. Even more worrisome is the frequency with which quotes taken out of context and/or the quotes "used" to drive a predetermined story line.

Third, the players themselves should be protected. It is THEIR words that should be faithfully represented for all to see, rather than filtered through the lens of the all-too-human official media. Some players such as Justine Henin and Roger Federer have a speaking style which is more discursive. They speak in paragraphs rather than sound bites. It actually is important to read or hear what they said in its context.

Finally and most importantly, a historic tournament like Roland Garros needs to publish to these interview transcripts as they are a primary source of modern tennis history. Tennis nuts often go back to a website like Roland Garros for an interview transcript to try to recall what a player said often a few years back.

For views advocating a similar view as I do, see:

UPDATE: Transcript gate has blown up to be a bigger emotional issue (on both sides) than it ought to be. I've amended my original post to be more reasonable and fair-minded to both sides. But the basic point is still the same: failure to publish interview transcripts is wrong.

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