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"discilpinary reasons"

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Smallpotatoes, Feb 24, 2007.

  1. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    We received a letter to the editor today that took exception to a line in a hockey story that stated that several upperclassmen on the team were out of the lineup in a particular game for "disciplinary reasons."
    The writer said that the phrase (which is the phrase the coach used) could imply a number of things that could have happened on or off the ice. In this case, the coach benched the players because of misconduct penalties they received in the previous game. By just using the words "disciplinary reasons" the reader could imply it was drinking or some other more serious issue.
    While the phrase "disciplinary reasons" is accurate, I will admit, it's not as precise as it could have or should have been, and I guess if there's any way something can be misinterpreted, it could be.
    By not being as specific as I probably should have been, could what I have written been libelous?
    Also, maybe it's just me, but I get a sense that even if I were more specific about it, the letter writer still would have complained because I didn't avoid the subject altogether.
    I guess if I had to explain why I used the words I did, it was probably because while it was something that needed to be in the story (and I think we'd all agree anytime people who usually play a lot don't play, it does need to be in the story), it wasn't anything that I felt needed to be made more of than it was.
  2. SoSueMe

    SoSueMe Active Member

    Well, they were out for disciplinary reasons - that's not a lie.

    I wouldn't sweat it. But if a coach tells me why players are out, I print it.

    If he doesn't, I used whatever phrase he chose: disciplinary reasons, because I said so, team issues, philosophical differences, whatever.
  3. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    That's what he told you. I presume you pressed him on how much detail or how specific you could be and that's what he opted for. It's fine.
  4. HandsomeHarley

    HandsomeHarley Well-Known Member

    It's accurate, and if a coach won't go into details as to why the player(s) were disciplined, then the reader needs to direct their venom at the coach, not the paper.

    Wow, imagine that! A reader bitching to the coach instead of the paper!
  5. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    If he told you they were out because of misconduct penalties in previous games, then that's what you should have written.
    To me "disciplinary reasons" usually implies off the field issues.

    Libelous, not even close. But not as clear as you could have been.
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    You are ok on this. But next time if you are writing about why players aren't playing and the coach says "disciplinary issues" or "violation of team rules" try to get him to be more specific.

    If you know its because they were redcarded or late to practice, explain to the coach that you will write what he says but people will make assumptions and he may want to be more precise.
  7. ColbertNation

    ColbertNation Member

    There was no intended malice, and what you wrote wasn't false, so it's not even close to being libelous. Did the coach tell you beforehand it was because of penalties, or did he simply say "disciplinary reasons?" You can only print what he told you.
  8. melock

    melock Well-Known Member

    It's fine. Remember you're dealing with kids and there's no reason for everyone in the public to know they're business. Even if a coach told me what exactly the kid did to be suspended I'd hesitate to print for the reason I just stated. Let people's imaginations go wild with the "disciplinary reasons" explanation. No matter what you tell them they're doing that anyway.
  9. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    Can't wait for the game note that says, "player X has been suspended for nailing the coach's wife/daughter."
  10. Just_An_SID

    Just_An_SID Well-Known Member

    A lot of times, the coach or school have their hands tied because they are not allowed to say anything more specific than "for disciplinary reasons," or "a violation of team rules." Student-athletes have rights to their privacy and this has severly limited what a school can or can't say.

    The same rules are in effect regarding injuries. I've had writers complain to me because I can't tell them what is wrong with a football player in the middle of a game. It isn't that I don't want to tell him, I am not allowed (for fear of legal reprisal).
  11. clutchcargo

    clutchcargo Active Member

    You did the right thing by writing the term inology used by the coach. It is your job to press the coach or other sources to get the details, but if you can't, you can't.

    Also, others in this thread have mentioned libel. I don't think libel is the issue here. More than likely, the issue at stake here is "privacy". Coaches are very limited in what they can say about a student-athlete. There is also the issue of legal problems and cases being adjudicated that coaches can't yet comment about. Etc.
  12. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    I would strongly suggest that before you make any leap to "disciplinary reasons," you get those exact words out of the coach's mouth.

    I mean, if you ask the coach about why so-and-so didn't play, and the coach says, "He's not going to play, either, until he starts listening to me," it's not carte blanche to write "disciplinary reasons." And some of these prep parents are going to be quick to say that such a mention negatively affects their child's chances to procure a college scholarship.

    Trust me on this one. I wrote it. And I lived it.
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