Newcastle United to charge media for exclusive access?

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s actions and words causing controversy with the media is not a new phenomenon, but word of a “pay to play” package for publications covering the Magpies is a fairly outrageous idea.

And apparently true.

On the heels of banning local paper The Chronicle from covering the team for their coverage of an Ashley protest (picture above), NUFC is said to be introducing an “exclusive access” package to publications. At a charge, reporters would be allowing further privileges than the non-paying media.

From the Chronicle:

“They have told reporters from national titles who are working in the North East that they will no longer be given access to their players between matches this season and will instead give those “privileges” to organisations that pay them.”

The idea is receiving widespread condemnation and may be unlikely to stand the test of popular opinion, but Ashley is no stranger to controversy, having changed the name of St. James Park to Sports Direct Arena and back again among several perceived foibles since buying the Northeast club in 2007. The Chronicle post criticizes Ashley’s new media approach for even simpler reasons; There was less coverage and good will for Newcastle players’ recent visit to an area hospital.

Such an idea seems to be a first and should be viewed as the most slippery of slopes. What would stop Newcastle, or any club employing a strategy, from slapping restrictions on reporting or encouraging bias in the already murky waters of media access? How far are we from plenty of pertinent stories missing the media completely?

In short, this could set a standard that would transcend soccer to other major sports and endanger truth in reporting.