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Vol. 51, No. 3 • March 2014 • .pdf version
We can't cover games that we can't even see
By KIRK WESSLER / Peoria Journal-Star
The photo was appalling. Shot from the front row of the press section in one college arena, the view of the action on the basketball court was obliterated by students doing what they're supposed to do, jumping up and down as they cheered the home team. Sadly, as a result, the reporters in the front row were unable to do their jobs the way their bosses and readers expect them to.
The photo arrived with a plea for help from the reporter who sent it. I'll not call out the host university here because, frankly, it's not the only offender. And the SID at the school thanked me for the letter of protest from USBWA, acknowledging that his office is "embarrassed" by the situation.
Well, that's a start. But we need follow-through and a strong finish. We need embarrassment to fuel conviction and action.
So this is a challenge to our members who are SIDs. The basketball writers of the USBWA need you to stand up and fight for us. The primary goal of the USBWA has been simply stated since its founding in 1956: "To serve the interests of journalists who cover college basketball." The flat truth is these ridiculous seating arrangements don't do that.
Look, we get it. Your first obligation is to the university that pays your salary. We understand (even if we lament) the pressures to create more "premium" seating for fans who can maximize revenues. And the best atmosphere is one with a large and lively student section.
But SIDs also are liaisons between the media and the teams. That means advocating for reasonable working conditions, which include unobstructed views of the live action on the court.
All of you know this. Some of you might feel powerless to stand up to your bosses, but you're not. You don't have to wage that battle alone. As a member of this organization, you have our support. Ask for it. Please.
Our Online Credentialing Task Force is submitting a proposal to the USBWA Board of Directors that is designed to help school and conference media directors sort out the riff from the raff, so to speak.
If approved, the guidelines would be used to determine whether an online entity meets accepted standards of professionalism and ethics in journalism, among other factors. USBWA would grant approval – or not – to online organizations that cover college basketball and make its "approved" list available to school and conference SIDs.
The schools and leagues would retain their right to grant or refuse credentials to any organization. Our list would simply be an additional tool to help them determine an applicant's legitimacy.
More details to come.
This is my last column as USBWA president. Even with the stress of some weighty issues – most notably the battle with the NCAA over tournament seating – it was my pleasure to serve you as an officer these past four seasons.
Special thanks to Board member Chris DiSano for heading up the Online Credentialing Task Force and bringing what seemed a pipe dream to reality. Thank you to past presidents Bryan Burwell, Lenox Rawlings and especially John Akers for all you did to prepare me for this year. Thanks to fellow officers Frank Burlison, Ed Graney (who stepped in when Frank felt compelled to resign) and Pat Forde. To Dana O'Neil, thank you for your level head, sound advice and humor – and good luck.
Finally, thank you to our executive director, Joe Mitch. You've been a true friend for 35 years. I don't know how you do it.
What next? Oh, yeah. Peace. Out.
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