A Wisconsin case that could have nationwide implications for how reporters cover and how parents watch high school sports is making its way through the courts, with crucial constitutional arguments taking place Friday in federal court in Chicago.
The case pits community newspapers against the association that oversees high school sports in Wisconsin. Fans in many states rely on community newspapers for news about high school teams, and the newspapers say they need easy, unencumbered access to sporting events to provide that coverage. But the association says it can’t survive if it can’t raise money by signing exclusive contracts with a single video-production company for streaming its tournaments.
The newspapers argued Friday before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of press should enable them to put such publicly funded events online as they see fit, free of charge.
The case began in 2008, when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association sued The Post-Crescent of Appleton after it streamed live coverage of high school football playoff games. After a U.S. District judge sided with the association last year, saying its exclusive deal with a video production company didn’t impinge on freedom of the press, the newspaper’s owner, Gannett Co., and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association appealed.