NPPA consul sees WIAA policy as Don’t ask don’t tell

By Scott Anderson


On April 1, the Illinois State Senate passed a bill preventing the Illinois High School Association from barring photographers from the sidelines of sporting events even if the newspapers they work for make their photos available for sale to the public. See Related Article

While this issue in Illinois has been getting considerable attention over the past several weeks, an ongoing and similar dispute exists here in Wisconsin. See Related Article

In Wisconsin’s dispute, area newspapers have been sparring with the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association over the rights to sell photo reprints taken at high school sporting events. Last year, the WIAA wanted to ensure their two contract agencies, Visual Image Photography Inc., and When We Were Young Productions, didn’t have any competition from area newspapers. Newspapers, however, said they have always been able to sell reprints, and are upset over the WIAA’s efforts to restrict photographers on the sidelines.
Fast forward to 2008, and a News Media and Law article that takes an in-depth look at the growing trend of friction between the news media and state-based athletics associations over photo reprint dollars.

Wisconsin’s situation is highlighted later in the article when the author interviewed Mickey Osterreicher, the General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, in which he says the WIAA is now selectively enforcing photographer restrictions.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

In Wisconsin, Osterreicher said, the athletic association entered into a similar contract with a private photography company, but said to his knowledge, it is not being strictly enforced. “I think for the most part it’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

Rob Hernandez of the Wisconsin State Journal’s comments in the article add more ambiguity to the WIAA’s stance:

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association presented its policy during the 2006-2007 school year, said Rob Hernandez, the Wisconsin State Journal’s assistant sports editor for high school athletics. As a member of WIAA’s media advisory committee, Hernandez said he was surprised it was not brought to the committee.

But, he said, “WIAA said it will not pursue legal action for newspapers in violation of the agreement right now, but if someone in another state successfully argues the rule, that may change their stance.”

As loosely-defined as these interpretations may be, they represent a marked change in the WIAA’s behavior since this NPPA article, published in March 2007, in which the WIAA wanted to charge newspapers a $100 licensing fee to cover state high school tournament events and the ability to sell photo reprints.

If you or anyone you know who is a professional photojournalist who feels they have been confronted unfairly by the WIAA, the Wisconsin News Photographer Association would like to know. Please send any commentary to the webmaster at

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