Monday, July 23, 2012

Memo: Papers, stations required to use Sports Media Group photos for Olympics news coverage

In a stark reminder of how much local control they've lost over editorial decisions, Gannett's community papers and TV stations have been ordered to use USA Today Sports Media Group photographs for their Olympics coverage this summer.

"Gannett properties are mandated to use this imagery, which we believe to be superior to that of any other provider, as their primary source of coverage,'' Gerry Ahern, news content director, told editors and news directors in a memo Friday. (See text, below.)

The Sports Media Group, launched last year, is relying on 15 shooters and editors from USA Today itself plus US Presswire, the freelance photo syndicate GCI bought last fall.

US Presswire isn't widely known for over-the-top excellence in photography, so Ahern's claim that Sports Media's images will be better than any other in the universe is hyperbole at its worst. It is all the more striking because Ahern is president of the AP Sports Editors association, so he's dumping on AP's photo operation as well.

Ahern came to Sports Media in November, following another Yahoo executive -- Dave Morgan -- who had earlier been hired as editor in chief. GCI has set high expectations for Sports Media, which the company says will produce $300 million in new annual revenue by 2015.

From: Ahern, Gerald
Sent: Friday, July 20, 2012 2:36 PM
To: Editors of Gannett Daily Newspapers; Editors2 of Gannett Daily Newspapers; GCI CP Sports Editors; Broadcast News Directors

The USA TODAY Sports Media Group will provide comprehensive photographic coverage of the 2012 London Olympics, from the Opening Ceremonies to the Closing Ceremonies. Gannett properties are mandated to use this imagery, which we believe to be superior to that of any other provider, as their primary source of coverage. USA TODAY and US PRESSWIRE will deploy 15 photographers and editors to cover all aspects of the Games. All USA TODAY Sports Media Group Olympic Imagery will be available at If you need a login for please request via email to Please have your designers give this their attention. Follow the instructions on the attached deck to make specific coverage requests.

Thank you for your cooperation.


Gerry Ahern
Director of News Content
USA TODAY Sports Media Group
Associated Press Sports Editors


  1. Speaking to the AP sports editors association at their annual meeting last month, Ahern said:

    "I believe our organization can set the standard nationally for educating, developing, maintaining and servicing sports journalists at all stages of their careers and from all backgrounds."

    "All stages" apparently doesn't include those USAT Sports Department employees who got canned during the department's recent reorganization.

  2. We've got two reasons left to keep AP, now that we've knocked off sports photos: agate and state news. In states where we have 3+ newspapers, why don't we just chuck AP and take the savings to invest in local or regional resources. I get it, we are done with sifting wire individually at our newspapers, and that's OK. Local wins. That's good. We can get our national and world news so much cheaper.
    Love the AP, but they are outmoded in today's Internet models where we don't need them to determine news values or what is coming. No one source can replace them wholly, but we've been making trade-offs these past years without taking the cut that will really help... AP?

  3. Oh, the horror! Because after all, there is no more local story than the Olympics!

  4. Have your designers give this their attention? WTF! They laid off our designers years ago to consolidate graphics in Denver. All hail the mighty G3 in all its mediocrity.
    How many points does it cost to mention G3 these days? Just proves they only care about the product on a few stations.

  5. This is a great resource. Why the hell are you making it an issue. We own it, we should use it, period.

  6. I'll set aside the irony that a member of APSE decides to stick a shiv in the back of the very agency he is advising through his presidency. It's a classless move to be that dismissive of the photojournalists at AP, who are among the best anywhere.

    Let's just focus on this: So, if AP gets an iconic, defining shot and Sports Media Group doesn't, the iconic shot is to be ignored? If a newspaper has a local connection to the games in one of the less prominent sports and AP has the image but SMG does not, the decision is to go without the image of the hometown connection? If SMG provides pedestrian photos and AP excels, the decision is to give readers the pedestrian?

    I have no doubt there are some good shooters with Sports Media Group, and in many cases this might work out. I seriously doubt SMG will have the breadth and depth of coverage that AP has.

    Of course, when you are putting out pamphlets and calling them newspapers, it all works out, eh, Gracia?

    Overall, I take this as another sign that quality and local decision-making does not matter a bit to Gannett in its relentless march toward creating mediocre hometown news vehicles, both in print and online.

  7. My question is how would he know if the coverage is superior than that of any other provider if the photos haven't been taken yet? Sports photos especially are action shots and timing and the angle mean a lot.

  8. Mandate or no mandate, if the company is taking the time and spending the money to send people over there, the rest of the company absolutely should use it.

  9. Anybody who didn't see this coming, I have a bridge to sell you. I predicted after Gannett bought Presswire that the next step would be to drop either AP or Getty (for the papers that still have two photo wires). Next will be to cut back on staff photo coverage of professional sports. Then they will layoff photographers in greater numbers and make use of the Presswire stringers on a local basis.

  10. Well, we all saw in other fields how mandatory 2AdPro "standardized" ad building, remote "standardized" photo-toning, then production-center "standardized" ad building, etc., has worked out so well. The most common thread running through Gannett like so much crab grass and dandelions is the assumption that consumers are as stupid about the value of the product as the leadership is.

  11. Who cares? Olympics coverage belongs to TV only. USAT in print and online has always been an also-ran when it comes to the Olympics.

  12. Re: Anonymous said...
    This is a great resource. Why the hell are you making it an issue. We own it, we should use it, period.

    7/23/2012 1:21 PM

    It's about serving our readers and providing them the best material available. To think that Presswire will provide the best material possible is folly. Their photos might be very good, but they can't hope to compete with AP, which will have more photographers, cover more events and have more camera positions.

    Papers should be able to pick and choose from the best photos, not from the Gannett approved photos.

  13. This was a no brainer decision.

  14. Correct me if I'm wrong, and I may well be, but 15 photographers and editors doesn't sound like very many.

  15. 1:21 who says? Sports throughout Gannett is now under Tom Beusse and his team. This is the future stop whinning

  16. The Olympics IS a local issue at my site because we have two local athletes in the games. Here's the clincher: what if the Sports Media Group photogs fail to catch our local folks in action--but another source does? Do we get to use the other source or risk losing audience engagement and page views because we can't give people what they want?

  17. Saw this memo last Friday when it came out and the "mandated" thing stuck out huge.

    But apparently there were others who questioned it, too, and Kate Marymount sent a memo addressing it later Friday afternoon, saying something to the effect of while it's preferable to use the USA Today Sports Media Group photos, it's not "mandated" by any means, and each paper should use the best images for their purposes, whether it's AP, Getty, US Presswire, USA Today Sports Media group, etc.

    From what it sounds like, Gerry Ahearn was trying to puff his chest out and prove he's all-powerful when it comes to dictating coverage, and Kate Marymount knocked him down a few pegs.

  18. We're not covering the Olympics. Turns out, it's not a passion topic.

  19. Ah, the old "we're the best because we've declared ourselves to be the best" management technique.

  20. 11:36 Interesting on Marymont, but this is just one of the early rounds.

    USAT Publisher Larry Kramer has his eyes on the U.S. community dailies and the 23 TV stations. Their resources were clearly part of what drew him to Gannett.

    For example, during the recent presentation to the media stock analysts of New York, Kramer told the group:

    "We're going to leverage the 5,000 plus journalists we have in this company to all be part of what will be a national news brand not just a newspaper. And those journalists are in print, they're in television and they're going to be part of what we're going to do."

    Ultimately, someone is going to assert overall editorial control for Gannett. Historically, USAT; the community papers, and the TV stations operated as separate editorial silos.

    But that now appears to be changing.

  21. Why have a silo when a barrel or two can hold everything you have left?

  22. Agree Jim. There is definitely more we're going to hear from these players as they continue to puff out their chests and play the game of "I've got control"

    I just found it interesting that someone took the time to copy and paste that entire Ahern e-mail, but couldn't find the time to do the same from Marymount's rebuttal from the same day that makes his memo a moot point.

    Having both memos would have still been interesting and worth discussing, but I guess the poster who put it in the comments string didn't want the whole story out there. I wonder why ...

  23. It would be instructive to see Marymont's note.

  24. Doesn't make the original memo "moot."

    From: Marymont, Kate
    Sent: Friday, July 20, 2012 3:24 PM
    To: Editors of Gannett Daily Newspapers; Power, Ted; Glick, Jeff; Frank, Timothy; Kirchner, Jim; Collins, Tracy
    Subject: Olympic photography


    I want to clarify the expectation on use of photos from the Olympics.

    You’ve seen the note from Gerry Ahern, director of content for the USAT Sports Media Group, in which he wrote:

    The USA TODAY Sports Media Group will provide comprehensive photographic coverage of the 2012 London Olympics, from the Opening Ceremonies to the Closing Ceremonies. Gannett properties are mandated to use this imagery, which we believe to be superior to that of any other provider.

    That raises questions about photography of Olympic events that they aren’t staffing, of other events around London, of — heaven forbid — security problems or other issues. In answer, Gerry wrote:

    Happy to clarify.

    As for events and incidents that are not covered by USATSMG photogs of course other photo services can be used. News must be covered.

    The mandate is meant to maximize use of the resources and talent we have on the ground in London for the benefit of the network.

    Hope this helps.


    I want to reinforce that we do want to use the work of our photographers in every case possible.

    There is not a ban on photos from AP or other sources.

    There is an expectation that we showcase our own good work and that we cover the news.



    Kate Marymont
    Vice president/news
    Office: 703.854.6790
    Cell: 571.230.4445
    Fax: 703.854.2016

  25. Clearly, Ahern didn't think it necessary to consult beforehand with the editorial director of Gannett's biggest division before he sent out his note.

    I look forward to seeing what happens next time.

  26. I'd love to have heard any of the conversations between Marymont and Ahern after his first e-mail was sent out. I'm guessing they were not of the "pat on the back" variety.

    His follow-up e-mail, still with the incorrectly applied use of "mandate", screams of someone who was cut off at the knees by his boss (and rightly so) and is trying to save face.

    I'd also be interested in why the person who posted the first Ahern e-mail on Monday didn't see fit to include any of the follow-ups that were sent out on Friday?

  27. Ahern is clearly a base and rude amateur, with a ton of pompous thrown in as well. I am a lowly Production Director and I could have got the message across and no one would have felt anything but supported and happy to participate with the mission.

    Congrats, USAT-holes, you are getting what you deserve. Ain't it cool?

  28. Marymont has a new title.

  29. 10:36, dont lump all Usat a-holes with the Sport Media Group A-holes. They are in a whole special category.


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