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HomeOpinionEditorial: The WinterJam tour shines its colors

Editorial: The WinterJam tour shines its colors

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As a journalist covering Christian music since as early as 2012, I have seen multiple sides of the industry that few will ever see. Particularly on one side, you have your producers and labels. On the other, you have your tour staff and everyone associated with the artist or band performing at a venue. Still, on a third side, you have the artist or band.

On Saturday, February 19, 2022, I arrived as I do every year to cover a Christian event known as WinterJam, said to be the largest Christian music tour. I’m sure Bill Gaither would disagree.

I had messaged WinterJam multiple times since October of 2021 to obtain a media pass. In late December 2021, I was told that there were no media passes for the February 19 event in Nashville. I, however, let the individual know that myself and a staff member would still show up, regardless.

I walked inside Bridgestone Arena after showing my credentials to the door person. I explained who I was to a member of staff and asked for a media pass so I could do some quick interviews with some of the artists, in addition to interviewing those attending. I waited for them to have a tour representative come talk to me about the media passes. When Nick Oswald of WinterJam came up, he wanted me to wait another minute. He proceeded to dial Joy Johnston, also of WinterJam, to help verify who I am.

Keep in mind, I am a journalist. I have a job to do. I am tasked with conducting interviews, photographing, investigating stories that our team works, making calls to sources, going to events and concerts, etc. My day is busy from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. I wake up at 7:00am each day. Sometimes, I don’t get to sleep until 3:00am.

When Oswald got off the phone, he inquired about my need to go backstage, I tell him that I am there to cover interviews. He then asked who my sources are. I told him that I do not out give out the names of my sources. As a journalist, our rule of thumb is to never reveal our sources unless directed to do so by a court of law.

Oswald bluntly told me, “I can’t let you backstage if I don’t know who you’re sources are. The media passes are mine to hand out.”

While I don’t disagree that he’s in charge of handing out media passes the tour, I’m sure he’s wrong about being selective. You can’t pick and choose who you want to cover your event. Each journalist that I know covers events differently. Some are more prepared, some aren’t. Some are sponsoring the event and some aren’t. But to declare that a journalist reveal their sources, takes on a whole new road that you never want to cross.

According to mtsu.edu, “Journalists are reluctant, however, to reveal confidential information in such situations for fear that it will dissuade sources from providing information in the future. They argue that breaches of confidentiality have a chilling effect and harm journalists’ ability to do their jobs. Therefore, they assert, it is in the public interest to grant reporters the right to refuse to reveal sources and confidential information.”

The report goes on to share, “Furthermore, having journalists constantly subpoenaed potentially imposes a substantial burden on news organizations because it takes away from valuable reporting and editing time. In addition, many journalists feel an obligation to protect their sources even if they are held in contempt of court and threatened with jail time.”

Of course, WinterJam is not a court and couldn’t act as a court. I am under no obligation to reveal who or what organization has given me permission to conduct interviews backstage at a concert event.

In fact, WinterJam is well-known for limiting what the press is allowed to do at their events. According to prior emails with Carol Anderson of CMA Promo, WinterJam does not allow flash photography, even though the venue is dark inside during concerts. They also do not allow interviews with the artists backstage.

According to the 2020 photographer registration form, “The license hereby grants use of any photographs, materials, images or work product resulting from photography of TOUR by PHOTOGRAPHER to be used for personal use only and is not to be used for commercial use of any kind, including, but not limited to: selling, licensing, reproducing, distributing, advertising, etc. either for free or for monetary gain, or to be otherwise exploited in any manner whatsoever without prior, explicit, written consent from TOUR. Photos may be used for non-compensated editorial use.”

Any other concert I have been to, I’ve gotten backstage for interviews just by showing my credentials. I’ve gotten event credentials from those in charge of each event to allow me to do my job. At no point prior have I ever been asked about my sources. It is a common courtesy to allow the press as much access as needed to conduct interviews and photograph bands and artists as they need to without holding them hostage to a form or set of rules that undermines their job function.

What WinterJam is doing is wrong. Complaints against WinterJam are expected to filed as early as Monday, February 21. We are not expecting anyone from the event to respond to the complaint.

I also want to note, that by denying a journalist credentials into such events, prevents and hinders the press from doing their job. WinterJam, as it is apparent, is not concerned about the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The “First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely,” according to Cornell Law.

By WinterJam limiting what the press is allowed to cover at it’s events, they are flagrantly disregarding Constitutional law.

Furthermore, the event was promoted as a maskless event and no vaccination cards or proof of a negative COVID test were required as outlined the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services. I did, however, wear two masks over my nose and mouth to help protect myself. All those that attended, must be tracked down in the coming days to make sure no has contracted COVID. I too, will be getting tested on Monday.

Thomas Lineweaver
Thomas Lineweaverhttps://tommyclineweaver.com
Thomas Lineweaver is a real likable guy with a passion for technology, design, music, and helping mankind. He is an accomplished journalist, writer, and podcaster since 2012. He currently resides in Nashville, TN with his husband Michael.

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