Sunday, September 23, 2012

Appleton | As high school sports market grows, Wisconsin daily trips over commercial photo use

The Post-Crescent used photographs it took of a high school athlete in promotional materials for the Appleton, Wisc., newspaper -- a move that led the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association to threaten her with suspension for violating a rule about appearing in commercial endorsements.

The paper took Miriam Scholl's photo during a Kimberly High School hurdling meet. Starting in July without her permission, the paper used her photo in billboards and on buses to promote coverage of high school sports. That same month, her father Phil contacted the Post-Cresent to complain, according to a local TV station. The paper told him "they own the image and they're able to do whatever they want with it," Scholl told the area Fox TV affiliate.

The situation came to a head this past Thursday, when the WIAA ruled Miriam ineligible -- a step it revoked only after the paper promised to take down the ads.

The paper backed off when the matter was brought to the attention of Publisher Genia Lovett, according to WLUK. The TV station didn't say why it took until last week for the paper to stop using Miriam's photo -- more than two months after her father says he first complained.

The Scholl case comes when Gannett and other companies are moving aggressively into an expanding market for high school sports. What's being (incorrectly) billed as the first nationwide high school sports TV, web and mobile news network is launching this fall.

GCI's High School Sports Network was renamed USA Today High School Sports in July, and it's now publishing a football print magazine. GCI bought the network in 2007.

This isn't the first time the WIAA has tussled with Gannett's Wisconsin operations. GCI challenged, on First Amendment grounds, the association's assertion that it controlled Internet video coverage of its members' events. In August 2011, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judgment against GCI.

Earlier: When bad ads happen to good people in Burlington, Vt.


  1. The student ought to sue Gannett for misappropriation of her image for advertising purposes. She'd have a strong case. Newspapers should know better. You can't take a news photo and use it for advertising without the permission of the person pictured.

  2. And yet, this is a pretty common practice, no?

    Where the paper fell down here, apparently, was in giving the family the runaround.

  3. 10:49 has a point.

    This could be a major screw-up. News -- one thing. Advertising -- very different.

    (Gracia, start taking notes)

    There was an NYT Sunday Mag case. Had a guy on cover, walking past NYSE. Did NOT pay a penny. No I.D.

    He got PO'd, sued. NYT won on technical issues -- but it looked bad and spent $100000s in legal fees. No pay, no request for permission.

    Just because you can, that does NOT mean it is morally right.

    You and/or your organization look phony, jerk-like, stupid, small and common. That's epidemic in D.C.

  4. Lovett us just another dumb ass kissing publisher who has no clue about newspapers. Just another yes man for her corp. lady friends, who are also clueless on running a paper.
    I say fire her, get rid of the salary and the dead weight.

  5. I think a large part of this is having hit-and-run executives. Having been in sports media in Wisconsin from 1974-2011, I know very well that you can't do what the Post-Crescent did - the WIAA is VERY protective of athletes amateurism. They have very strict rules on athletes in ads - about all you can get away with is a face shot in a "congratulations on your great season" ad or a team shot with signature ads. All they had to do was check with the WIAA before running the ad and it would have been made clear they couldn't do what they did.

  6. The rule against using images for commercial purposes is pretty well-known to photographers at least. Management not so much.

  7. As a former Gannettoid and a photographer who is repped by Getty and Corbis, among others, I can only laugh and wonder what they were thinking. Stock agencies will not even consider taking such an image without a properly signed model or property release. This image is clearly being used to advertise a product and is not being used in an editorial manner.

    Jim the paper "fell down" in a number of areas. She should consult an attorney. It's a very clear cut case.

  8. Gannett has screwed its photojournalists over for so long that they assumed that attitude extended to the images they take too.


  9. Yup. Advertising is a very separate use from editorial. Whether they paid her or not a signed model release stating that her likeness would be used for advertising purposes would have protected the paper. It's photography 101 stuff here.

  10. between litigation, bad publicity, and then the fact that the site sputtered, to put it mildly, on launch, its a wonder Gannett is still wailing away at this deceased equine.

  11. It's the attitude Gannett and especially Gannett Wisconsin have that they can do anything they want - to readers, subscribers, people in the news, the communities or employees. The marketing people and managers don't know the basics from journalism 101, and Gina and the editors don't really care as long as advertising and web numbers keep coming in.
    She has overstayed her welcome - it used to be publishers were moved about every 4 years and she is on her sixth.
    If the student or others think it's bad trying to work with Gannett Wisc, to correct a screw-up, they should try working for them and offering an opinion.
    Maybe when new figures show subscriptions and web hits taking a dive, the much-needed house cleaning will begin.


    Three words -- class action. As in, lawsuit.

    Gotta believe, some lawyers are already looking at this.

    Beyond stupid and rookie-like. Truly Gannettoidism, at its peak. Dumb, moronic, and clumsy.

  13. I love it! College and pro sports are closing the door on access and reaching the fans thru the web and social media. Large media corporations are losing their influence and ability to make money off of these sports, so they turn to the last frontier-high school sports.

    We need more WIAAs to shut down this embarrassment of making money off of teenagers. More parents need to wake up and realize their kids are being prostituted across the country.


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