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$1,500 For a Press Pass: A New Low For Bodybuilding
- Updated: August 11, 2015
Competitive bodybuilding as a sport has taken its fair share of criticism and its supporters will argue that much of the negativity is purported by people dissatisfied with their placings. While judging is opinionated, the following does not have the same luxury. A promoter dangling press credentials with a $1,500 price tag over a media outlet’s head has no leeway whatsoever and is exactly what it appears to be on face value – a clear cut case of an unethical shake down.
This is exactly what Gary Udit did when Dave Palumbo contacted him in regards to obtaining press credentials for himself and the RX Muscle team to cover the IFBB North American Championships coming up on September 3 through 5 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a show that they have covered each of the last six years.
“Gary and I exchanged text messages and he told me that the request was approved by the NPC and that it would cost me $1,500 and $300 a day for WiFi,” Palumbo explained. “I was kind of taken aback by this (never having been asked for money before for press passes) and asked Gary if that was exactly what it sounded like – that I had to pay that amount in order to get the passes.
“He confirmed it and even said that Muscular Development paid the same amount to cover the recent Masters.”
In regards to MD having to pay, this was seconded by one of their employees, David Baye, who posted on their site when asked if any other companies were charged the $1,500 (as it reads there):
“Yes, and we paid it and brought kick ass coverage like we always do.”
“My opinion is that business is business and if Udit is the promoter of the show then that’s up to him as to whether he wants to charge a fee!”
“It’s all up to the promoters. We were charged a fee for the USA as well and we paid it as well and covered it as well. You guys just didn’t know about it because there was no need for anyone at MD to start an ‘omg they charged us thread’,” which was followed up by this from another member with the screen name Big Mike Cox: “Someone did and it was deleted! LOL I guess that is just a sign of the times. Glad you paid it, the coverage was damn good!”
[EDITOR’S NOTE: For people that may be unfamiliar with the process, a legitimate media outlet – which RX Muscle is – should be granted press passes for events that they would normally cover and this comes at no charge, of course. I broke into the mainstream sportswriting industry in 2005 and have covered four Super Bowls, numerous playoff games in all four major team sports, had full season press passes, etc. – all without paying. These are obviously in very high demand and one Super Bowl alone would cost thousands of dollars to gain entry. But as a journalist, I was attending to perform a job (there’s an old saying in sportswriting: There’s no cheering allowed in the press box). Hypothetically, if we were ever informed that a press pass would cost us money, we could complain to the respective league office and that person would surely be terminated and possibly charged criminally.]
Udit went on to ask Palumbo what he is doing in return for access to cover the show and that by RX doing so, it would add traffic to their website. But that is part and parcel of running an editorial media outlet.
We in turn contacted Udit to retort what we perceive being a blatant black eye on a sport that has amassed plenty of them and he responded with the following:
Your facts are incorrect. Rx Muscle was not charged $1,500 per press pass. They were, however, offered the opportunity to cover the event for a fee of $1,500. The folks at Rx Muscle have, at this point, chosen not to take advantage of this opportunity which would definitely have driven an incredible amount of traffic to their website.
I am extremely happy with the coverage that I have received from www.npcnewsonline.com, the Official website of the NPC. Their professionalism and wide ranging coverage that includes competitor photos, interviews, videos and articles is clearly the best that exists. They do a terrific job of promoting and enhancing the level of my events.
We then replied with:
Thanks for the fast reply, Gary. I will own up to that error & surmised that it was per pass, but that still does not explain how a promoter and/or organization (in this case the NPC) can charge any dollar amount – let alone $1,500 – for press access.
The entire purpose for press access is to give the fans of the sport an opportunity to read/see the events from multiple outlets and that in turn gives publicity to the organizations and the shows themselves. Of course there is a benefit in getting web traffic, but that is part of being an editorial media outlet. It comes with the territory and to have a dollar amount attached to obtaining press access brings up a number of ethical questions.
Have any other companies been asked to pay this amount and, if so, who were they? I do understand that you are content with the NPC News Online coverage, but that is from the organization itself and their opinions would not be objective. Is the strategy here to limit any potential negative press?
And I have been in the bodybuilding industry since 2008 obtaining press passes for my own magazine, as well as when I worked for FLEX and Muscular Development. This is the first time that I have ever heard of a payment being part of the equation. Is this in fact the first?
Thanks in advance. -Joe
We have not received a reply from Udit as of this writing. But Palumbo has since spoken to Jim Manion about the issue and they are looking to resolve it.