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What would you do in this situation...

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by PalmettoStatesport, Aug 14, 2006.

  1. This past weekend was media day for a college that I have covered for the two-and-a-half years I have been the sports editor. The paper is a tri-weekly small publication (neither here nor there). At the media day, the head coach states that he wants to meet with me in his office and states that he has been directed by his bosses not to talk to me on the record this football season due to several columns I wrote questioning some of the decision making going on in terms of facility upgrades, fundraising, etc. The coach said it would be in my best interest to meet with the athletic director to see if things can be worked out. Now, my big thing is I can still show up and cover games without quotes from the coach.
    What would you guys do in this situation?
  2. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Well, it's a problem, but don't understand the part about game coverage. He's not going to talk to the media en masse like most coaches do after games? And if he does, are you saying they're going to exclude you from those press conferences? Some real issues there, especially if it's a state school.
  3. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    How often does the coach really give one-on-ones anyway? How many other reporters cover the team? I don't think they can very well keep you from going to press conferences, or from hanging around to hear what the coach has to say after practice. You can ask to sit down with the athletic director and discuss what they didn't like about your coverage, but be sure to point out that, unless you were writing something that was obviously false, you're not going to change the way you cover the team.

    If nothing else works, ask one of the other writers to simply give you quotes from the coach, or ask your questions for you. Frankly, they ought to be sympathetic, since it could be them who is getting shut out next time. Scoops are one thing, like getting the coach on his cell phone, away from campus, ect. But I would think other guys on your beat would have no problem giving you stuff from the daily gaggle if they won't let you attend. Especially if you're not a daily.

    Lastly, make sure you point out to the SID how extremely unprofessional it is to shut out a reporter for critical coverage of the team, and that part of his job is to make his bosses understand that you're a news organization, not a PR firm working for free on behalf of State U's athletic program.

    And as SF_Express pointed out, they can't very well bar you from the press conferences. It's a public access issue. Just go, and refuse to leave. They're trying to bully you, and you don't have to back down, even if you're a smaller paper.
  4. After games in the past, he would go do his postgame radio show, and then if there were any other reporters there (only one game out of the year that drew a crowd of media...99.9 percent of the time it's just me) he would meet with us as a group.
    Now with these recent circumstances, I am not sure what will happen in terms of post game or any interviews other than the fact that he has been instructed not to talk to me. I didn't know they were above being criticized from time to time.
  5. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    As other guys have pointed out, I don't think this will hurt you much.

    I would go to the SID, though, and let him know you aren't cowed. Might threaten to write a column about the situation, even.

    You also should tell your editor/publisher.
  6. SEWnSO

    SEWnSO Member

    Agree with Orangey bout telling editor/publisher. And you could have quite a fine time with the column...
  7. Terd Ferguson

    Terd Ferguson Member

    Total dick move on the part of the university and you need to meet with the coach, SID and administration to get things straightented out. I don't think they will be able to keep you out, especially, as somebody pointed out earlier, if this is a state school.

    That said, I would question the decision of having the same person write both columns and news on the same program. I understand it's a small shop, but I think you're asking for trouble if you're making yourself the voice of fact and opinion for the newspaper. You need to pick one or the other. Either you are the beat guy or you are the columnist. That's the best way to avoid these type issues. That, of course, might not be an option, but if it is you should separate the two jobs whenever possible.
  8. expendable

    expendable Well-Known Member

    As you stated, it's not always possible. The college needs to just grow up. This can be framed as a town/gown issue where the college almost always loses in small towns. It's not like he's taking on Big State U.
  9. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    It's obvious the coach doesn't want this policy.

    You need to find out some things.

    1. What is the structure of the athletic department? Is the PE department separate from the Athletic Department? You need to know that because you need to figure out the coach's situation. Is he tenured, in which case he should be more resistant to pressure from the athletic director.

    2. The athletic director is an idiot. I'm sure that isn't news to you. What you need to find out is the athletic director's relationship with his boss? Does the AD report directly to the president, or is there somebody in between.

    3. Who is the head of the alumni association?

    I would make your publisher or boss aware of the situation. A lot of publishers are pretty lame, but I would think some would not be happy and would apply some pressure of their own.

    Speak to the AD on the record. The AD has a boss. Don't back off - they don't hold the strong hand in this case. You hold all the cards. Being on the radio station doesn't mean squat - their athletic department isn't going to be taken seriously if their games aren't covered.
  10. Herbert Anchovy

    Herbert Anchovy Active Member

    You need to apprise the administration -- even the school's provost or chancellor if need be -- of sunshine/equal access laws in your state where applicable. The size of your paper is immaterial.
  11. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Your newspaper likely has a lawyer on retainer. At your publisher's discretion, your paper could go this route to get equal access, especially if it's state school or one that takes public money (most).
  12. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    i'm about to start my third year of law school and i can't quite understand why people are suggesting that lawyers would be involved here. sunshine laws apply to government institutions. are you guys just assuming it's a state school? if so, maybe it's a legal issue but i don't think so. legally he probably can't be barred from campus but no government official is compelled to talk to a reporter especially if palmetto is the only reporter who covers the team.

    anyway, palmetto, definitely meet with the AD, president and whomever else. get your publisher and everyone else involved.

    i would advise against a column because readers don't usually give two shits about our internal struggles. but if you start writing gamers and the head coach isn't quoted and you get complaints, explain to everyone who calls or e-mails why he's not talking and politely suggest to the complaining readers that they contact the school because there's nothing you can do.
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