If you have a hard time finding AP photos of Saturday’s football game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Duke Blue Devils, that’s because of new university protocols that push up against longstanding journalistic integrity standards.

Due to the protocols, the university has put in place, they are not allowing any independent photographers unaffiliated with the school to cover the game inside Notre Dame Stadium. Per the school, the decision comes out of an abundance of caution for the students, school staff members, faculty, and player family members who will be allowed to attend the game.

“In preparation for the 2020 season, the university has always put the health and safety of the campus and local community at the heart of its decision-making — from who would be eligible for tickets to the game-day experience,” Notre Dame athletic department spokesman Aaron Horvath said in a statement to AP. “Our decision to provide pool photos to all media entities free of charge, using internal resources instead of welcoming outside organizations was no different. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Per Horvath, the school has been testing each of the three school-employed photographers three times a week, the same as the players, coaches, and other essential staff involved in the game. The school said that the photographers will upload all of their images to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s online media portal where any media organization will use them.

On paper, it’s a decision that seems to jive with the safety-first aspect of everything happening right now in the pandemic (inasmuch as we can call playing a football game played in front of thousands of people a “safety-first” activity right now). However, many new organizations have balked at not only the proposal but also any offer to receive photos from the school.

“The integrity and trustworthiness of AP’s coverage is reliant on its use of journalists and photojournalists that are independent from the institutions that they are assigned to cover,” said Denis Paquin, APs Deputy Director of Photography for Global Sports and Operations. “Accepting coverage from an unknown source, in this particular instance hired by the school, is tantamount to accepting handouts, which AP policy prohibits.”

Getty Images, the USA Today network and other newspaper publishers have also objected to these restrictions, which they see as being harsher than anything the pro sports leagues have done so far. None of the agencies are expected to accept or use the handout images from the school.

As other journalists have pointed out, it’s a longstanding rule that many news organizations will not simply accept photos from the schools and teams they cover since those images come to them having been vetting and pre-approved in order to maintain a certain look or feel. The school may also edit or remove any images they might not want to be shown, which isn’t in keeping with the journalistic mission.

While an arrangement could not be worked out for today’s game, the university and AP have “agreed to discuss alternative arrangements to provide images from independent photojournalists at future home games this season.” Notre Dame also doesn’t have any say over who photographs games when Notre Dame is playing elsewhere.


About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.