Take a look on Stuff’s sports page this Monday night.
Four athletics stories and one bagging Stephen Kearney in the Top 5. While it was refreshing to see Tom Walsh to get the credit he deserves, some of the other ones seemed a bit strange.
Then there’s one about an ex meth dealer winning in London followed by video of Kane Williamson taking a decent catch. In the Caribbean Premier League.
That was all good until you realised an All Black training squad was named today, and it’s literally nowhere.
This came on a day when none of the Fairfax dailies had coverage of their respective Mitre 10 Cup sides in tournament build-up matches. And the Mitre 10 Cup is the stalwart of Fairfax dailies. While they are a minor player in the Auckland market, they dominate elsewhere.
Come Thursday night and nothing had changed. A rugby union free zone at Stuff.co.nz and its printed papers around the country
So there is clearly a quiet war going on between Fairfax and New Zealand Rugby.
Remember last year’s Olympic Games and how hardly any NZ journalists travelled to Rio to cover it? This was over a squabble over how much footage could be used on news websites. SKY argued that video footage was sport, and they owned the rights to it. Other media organisations argued that, for example, a New Zealander winning a gold medal was actually a genuine news event.
The latter argument is a pretty hard one to argue against. There was talk of taking the whole thing to court, but guess who missed out in the long run.
That action was taken within a fortnight of the start of the Rio games, and it wouldn’t be stretching it to think that it’s no coincidence that the start of the Rugby Championship is a fortnight away.
Same broadcaster, different sporting organisation and, presumably, similar fish-hooks when it comes to media accreditation.
So it would appear that Fairfax has decided to take a stand beyond not agreeing to increasingly staunch accreditation conditions.
The timing is shrewd too. On one hand it is the only weekend in a window that goes from mid-February to late November that features no professional rugby. This means it leaves a two week window to reach an unlikely compromise without giving up too many clicks.
It is also the build-up to the Mitre 10 Cup and as stated above this is core business for Fairfax. The provinces won’t be happy with this vacuum of coverage, and you can assume a few phone calls to Steve Tew can’t be too far away. The Cup struggles enough as it is, but with no promotion from normal channels in its key markets it makes it even harder.
It is probably not a coincidence that SKY suffers more than a little from this as well.
Nobody likes a bully, and you have to admire Fairfax for taking what is a pretty bold stance.
Ultimately however, maybe we need to put our faith in the court process; as unappealing as that may appear.