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Reporting on a player's expulsion

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mr. X, Dec 1, 2007.

  1. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    I was informed early Saturday by my paper's publisher that a member of the school's football team was expelled for stealing cellular telephones. Published said he was not sure who the player was, but "apparently he was a prominent player."

    Assuming for sake of argument that you can get the player's name, do you report this? I say yes.

    In his memo, publisher said it was "barely newsworthy." This from the same fellow who banned reporting on a suicide of a student at the high school and mandates writing that someone "passed away" instead of died.

    In our paper, this would best be a short news story, rather than a sports story. The key is to get it into the paper, rather than where it goes. More people would find it in news and if it were to go into sports, it would wipe some of the game coverage out, enraging some parents.

    Any feedback, especially from people with experience in similar situations, would be appreciated.

    P. S. The team's season ended two weeks ago with a first-round playoff loss, so it is not like the player would be missing a game this season. I've given all the facts on this I know.
  2. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    This is the journo equivalent of your girlfriend asking, "Do I look fat in this?"
    Tread lightly, my friend.

    Seriously ... is this college or preps? If preps, I wouldn't mess with it unless the guy is a returning underclassman or a major recruit. If it's college, of course it should be reported.
  3. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    A couple thoughts here.

    He pointed it out and admitted it was newsworthy.

    Was the expulsion related to football? Cell phones stolen from the locker room?

    Is he a regular player in another sport?

    Was there a police report? Maybe it's more for news side? Do they report on school explusions.

    If he was going to start in basketball, wrestling, hockey, etc., or was an all-league pitcher, yes, you follow it up.
  4. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    This is high school.
  5. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    i'd ignore it and pray it goes away. god knows we don't get paid to do anything that might be a little uncomfortable.
  6. Writer33

    Writer33 Member

    Age is a factor. Is he a minor? Is there a police report? Was there an arrest? Otherwise, the Polarcats were playing without star running back Jack Joe who was suspended from the team ...
  7. I've only been on the job probably, say four months, and I've unfortunately already run into this.

    What we did, and it was a little different because the kid in question got the shaft in response to community outrage over a slap-on-the-wrist punishment for shooting someone with a pellet gun, is just note that he didn't play due to suspension/expulsion. Then, when the season was over, the kid wanted to talk so I did a big ass feature about it.

    Since the season is already over, unless he's a senior, just run a short little blurb on it in your section if you can fit it in. Try to reach the kid for comment, if he has anything compelling to say it might make for a nice little feature, but it's definitely important if this is going to impact the team at all next year. If he's a senior, or is going to be back for next football season, screw it.
  8. Italian_Stallion

    Italian_Stallion Active Member

    It doesn't have to be a story, but it should be reported in some format, most likely in a game advance or in a gamer.

    By the way, your editor is a fool. Find a new place to work. Not reporting a suicide? How about a story and then a public forum on the perils of being a teenager, a dialog among students that might help them to heal from the tragedy and recognize risk factors in their own lives and the lives of friends, possibly even saving a life.
  9. BigJim5190

    BigJim5190 Member

    I think it depends on how rabid your readership is for the sport in question. I usually pass on the smaller stories like this, especially the drinking suspensions. If it's like 20 kids at a party that gets broken up and six are football players, I might bang out 10 inches on it for the paper.

    We just had a girl at a fringe school for our paper get suspsended from the state XC meet for getting caught drinking. Coaches daughter, too. I heard the coach tried to circumvent the process (this school is notorious for having the VP/football coach change grades and things like that), but she was denied delaying the suspension until winter. I didn't write the story, partly because I heard the "juicy" stuff a week after the meet, and no sense in bringing it up now just because I whiffed on it.

    However we did have a star RB at a playoff football team get busted earlier in the season for stealing $1,000 from the part time mall job he worked. I made a call on it and was told that the deal was made for him to pay it back and the charges would be dropped. I passed on the story because it made no sense at that point. Fast-forward four weeks later and there are rumors he will be charged with sexual assault.

    I start making calls, getting my ducks in order, talking to police contacts in the area in case he gets charged. Once he officially gets charged, I plan to call the coach and AD and all those people. No need to go crazy with things early - especially if there's no story if he doesn't get charged.

    The local paper up there (they cover that school as one of their main schools out of the five or six in their area) has a new guy who is the typical kid out of college, had a big internship with a major paper, and is now looking to make a splash in his new zone. Good kid, but he wants it all now and feels he's too cool for the room (still waiting for his internship paper to offer him a full time gig). Apparently he hears the same rumor and calls the coach, the AD, the player and everyone else with the intent to run the story the next day. Before charges are even close to being filed.

    Now I'm left picking up the pieces of this kid - who never got the story AND succeeded in letting the player and school circle the wagons just in case.


    But yeah, if it's a big enough story (possible jail time, long suspension) you almost have to run it. Not fair when the star player getting caught warrants a story but the backup TE getting caught doesn't. Such is life.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Right now, it's not a story because you don't have enough information and you don't know if what the publisher told you is accurate.

    But if it's an 18-year-old and there is a police report, yes, it's a story.

    If the kid is a minor, it's different and dicey.

    I would start by asking the football coach or AD about it. And try to see if there is a police report. If you have that and can name the kid, you're good.

    If it's a minor and was arrested but not named or a kid who was caught by the school and no cops were called, I'd go back to the publisher with what you have and ask him how you think you should proceed, since it was his tip.
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