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Vol. 52, No. 3 • March 2015 • .pdf version
Past year reaffirms that USBWA is willing to fight the fight
By DANA O'NEIL / ESPN.com
So this has been fun.
No, seriously, it has. Maybe that's because we haven't gotten to the Final Four yet ...
But truthfully, serving this past year as USBWA president has renewed my hope that our business, though teetering on an ever-changing precipice, is in good hands. There are problems and worries, no doubt, but there are also very good, very smart people who genuinely care about the future of journalism, and more specifically, our little corner of the world as basketball writers.
And that's a very good thing.
Does that mean we've solved every problem? Nope. Wireless is still going to fail. Courtside seating at the NCAA Tournament remains a battlefield. But behind the scenes, there are people who are trying to do what's best for everyone.
This past year, we spent a great deal of time working in conjunction with the APSE, trying to navigate the new world of media. Our task force looked at websites to try to help universities discern which were legitimate news-gathering organizations and which were mere fan sites. It's a blurry line, but a critical one and not just because courtside real estate is harder to come by than an inexpensive New York apartment. Let's face it, too many readers aren't savvy enough or interested in understanding the difference between real journalism and fanboy propaganda, and the more those lines get blurred, the more it hurts all of us. Making sure true working media have access, then, affects us all.
We've also worked with the NCAA to create more media availability in between tournament rounds. Some local beat writers have complained that they had no access to teams after leaving sub-regional sites. This year schools will be asked – thought not yet mandated – by the NCAA to make coaches and at least two players available to local media for 30 minutes in the week between the first weekend and regional weekend of the NCAA Tournament, as well as between the regionals and the Final Four. If simply making a request doesn't force more access, we will revisit the issue again next year.
And perhaps most critical of all, we listened to those of you who are hungry and need more sleep. There will be food in the media room following both Saturday's national semifinals and Monday's title game. I only ask that you offer a "Salud, USBWA!" before taking your first bite and hunkering down over your laptops.
And our awards banquet on championship Monday is now a 12:30 luncheon, instead of a 9 a.m. breakfast. That means I expect to see every single one of you there. Too much celebrating the end of the season (ahem) on Sunday night is no longer an excuse.
I will say, on a personal note, it's been an honor to serve as the second female president of this organization, especially since the first, Robyn Norwood, is a woman whose talent, grace and professionalism I have long admired and hoped to emulate.
I am equally thrilled that there are more women taking active rules within our organization – Laura Keeley of the News and Observer and Nicole Auerbach of USA Today both currently serve as district reps – and I encourage more of you (because I know you're out there somewhere) to get involved.
I also know that I leave you in very capable hands. My good friend and colleague, Pat Forde, takes over as USBWA president. He's as passionate about this profession as anyone I know and the perfect combination of smart and stubborn. He might even be able to get the media hospitality beverages reduced from their current Ritz rate to a more amenable Fairfield price.
Look, I don't mean to make light of the issues. There's no denying that we are at an interesting, maybe even frightening crossroads in our business. Change is never easy and, very often, not a whole lot of fun. But if this past year has taught me anything, it's that this organization is here to help. We might not be able to solve every problem, but we will at least try, and having people willing to fight the fight is, without question, half the battle.
Cheers and happy hooping ...
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