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Bordewyk: Livestreaming high school sports becomes essential journalism tool

David Bordewyk is executive director of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, which represents the state’s daily and weekly newspapers.

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Between innings of a Kernel baseball game at Mitchell's Cadwell Park, viewers of a Mitchell Republic livestream were able to take a break and enjoy a bonfire taking place over the right field fence.
Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic
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Like clockwork, football fields and high school gymnasiums across South Dakota have come alive once again with high school fall sports underway and fans cheering on their hometown teams.

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David Bordewyk, executive director of the South Dakota Newspaper Association

Likewise, journalists at community newspapers and other news media outlets are busy as well, covering all the action, with photos, stories, video clips and yes, play-by-play livestreaming of the competitions.

There was a time when coverage of local sports consisted of perhaps radio play-by-play, maybe a clip or two on the 10 o’clock TV news and the write-up in the next issue of the local newspaper. And that was about it.

Then came the internet and like all else, everything changed with it. Today, updates and results of games are available as they happen. Fans can get snippets of the live action on the field or in the gym via social media posts. And, increasingly, they can watch a livestream of their favorite high school team in action. Yes, livestreaming of high school sports has become part of the norm of covering the action.

It was about 10 years ago or so when livestreaming of high school sports in South Dakota began to take off. And with it, the realization of newspapers and other journalistic outlets that they needed to provide livestreaming because fans were expecting it.

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It also was at this time that some schools began to restrict the ability of news outlets to livestream high school sports, in part because they feared it would deter attendance at the events. More to the fact, some schools were entering into exclusive revenue deals that forbid local news outlets from livestreaming the local sporting events.

That is when the legislature stepped in. In 2013, South Dakota lawmakers approved a bill that prohibited public schools from unreasonably restricting the ability of local journalists to do their job covering local high school sports. And that job sometimes includes livestreaming of those hometown sporting events.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed Senate Bill 119 and it remains the law today in South Dakota. The law prohibits public schools from entering into exclusive contracts for news media coverage of interscholastic events such as football, basketball and volleyball games. Nothing more, nothing less.

The law applies only to regular season games and events of public schools in South Dakota. The law does not apply to state tournaments under the jurisdiction of the South Dakota High School Activities Association. For several years now, South Dakota Public Broadcasting has had the rights to broadcast post-regular season competitions such as the state football and basketball championships.

Fans and consumers have come to expect that news outlets will deliver news and sports on various platforms. And today, that expectation includes livestreaming of their favorite hometown team.

South Dakota Newspaper Association and its member newspapers across the state are committed to ensuring that livestreaming of high school sporting events and extracurricular activities meets the evolving expectations of fans and the subscribers of our community newspapers. That also means ensuring the law as enacted in 2013 is followed and that no school district or organization creates any roadblocks that prevent it.

Cooperation of all parties involved and compliance with the law ultimately means that the student-athletes and participants in extracurricular activities are the real winners because their talents and achievements receive an even broader showcase.

Journalists readily understand the expectations of their readers and viewers and work hard to meet them. So, cheer on your hometown team this sports season and look to your hometown journalists for the best coverage anywhere.

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