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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The NFL will restrict media access for a second straight season amid the coronavirus pandemic, permitting only team employees inside the locker room when players are present.

Why it matters: Sports teams already operate like media companies, churning out content, growing audiences and publishing news updates. Keeping journalists at a distance gives them even more narrative control.

  • In the past, teams and players relied on beat reporters to amplify their voices and relay their message to the masses. Now, they can speak directly to millions of fans through social media.
  • To be clear: Independent media will still have in-person access to athletes and coaches via news conferences, so it's not like they'll be unreachable this season. But the locker room is off-limits.

What they're saying: "The relationships built during locker room access and the reporting [therein] ... is the heart of NFL beat coverage," said Lindsay Jones, president of the Pro Football Writers of America.

  • "It allows for fans to have a deeper understanding of the players beyond their performances on the field," added Jones, who writes for The Athletic. "Coverage of the NFL will suffer without it."

The big picture: One of sportswriting's greatest innovations came in the 1940s, when Dick Young of the New York Daily News began gathering postgame quotes from players at their lockers, adding color to his stories.

  • Reporting has continued to evolve since then, as has the balance of power between journalist and athlete. Why give a writer a quote when you can tweet it yourself?
  • Closing locker rooms to media members makes complete sense as a precaution, and it's been labeled a temporary measure. But when access is yanked away, it tends not to be given back, at least not fully.

The last word: "The ability to report inside a locker room is nothing short of a miracle," The Ringer's Bryan Curtis wrote last year. "That's why [sportswriters are] scared ... the coronavirus will be the means by which it's taken away forever."

Go deeper: The evolution of sportswriting

Go deeper

Aug 31, 2021 - Economy & Business

Why Afghanistan fell off of the media's radar

Expand chart
Data: Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

The debate over the media's role in Afghanistan's fall is intensifying, as experts look to understand how Americans were so blindsided by the Taliban's rapid rise to power.

Why it matters: "This is the least reported war since at least WWI," says Benjamin Hopkins, a historian of modern South Asia specializing in the history of Afghanistan at George Washington University.

DOJ sues American Airlines, JetBlue to block "unprecedented" alliance

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued American Airlines and JetBlue to block an "unprecedented series of agreements" that will consolidate the two airlines' operations in Boston and New York City.

Why it matters: The civil antitrust complaint alleges that the planned Northeast Alliance (NEA) "will cause hundreds of millions of dollars in harm to air passengers across the country through higher fares and reduced choice," the DOJ said in a release.

FBI: Body identified as Gabby Petito, death ruled a homicide

A memorial dedicated to Gabby Petito near City Hall in North Port, Fla. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

A body found in Teton County, Wyoming, on Sunday was confirmed to be the remains of missing 22-year-old blogger Gabby Petito, the FBI announced Tuesday.

Driving the news: The death was ruled a homicide by the Teton County coroner's office, the FBI said. The cause of death has not been determined.