You are not a cheerleader. You are not the sports information director, nor the university’s spokesperson. You are a sports reporter. That means you file stories about alleged infractions, such as those regarding Cam Newton, whose Heisman hopes are evaporating as quickly as a stolen laptop. Still, the other candidates are not exactly alter boys, having been arrested for domestic violence and driving under the influence.
It’s never fun to watch to people’s lives implode. Never. But we need to let readers know when an athlete cheats on a test, steals a TV, takes a banned substance, or beats his girlfriend. Why? In hopes that another athlete will think twice before acting in this manner. So that coaches and athletic directors won’t hide egregious, immoral actions. So that boosters will be embarrassed when they get caught. But, most of all, so that young kids, fans reading about their favorite teams, will know this type of behavior is unacceptable.
Don’t worry that a coach won’t talk to you or that a sports information director won’t allow you into a game. The schools need your coverage more than you need to cover these teams – for both recruiting and accreditation. Without your school newspaper, who who will cover the soccer, cross country or volleyball teams. The local daily newspaper usually won’t do that. So what does a coach use during recruitment? Articles on the school’s Web site? Unimpressive. They’ll use your stories, especially those on the so-called minor sports.
If the coach still won’t talk to you, interview opposing coaches and players instead (sources that should always be used in game stories, precedes and features). Or, just don’t cover the games, inserting a note where you explain that coaches and players stopped talking to your newspaper after you reported an infraction.
If you learn about an infraction by the program or an athlete, make sure it is accurate. Verify the details through research and interviewing. Otherwise, the story is just a rumor – and we do not want to ruin anyone’s reputation with unsubstantiated stories.