Here’s how to cover a college beat even when ADs, SIDs limit access to athletes

In the past week, I have received several queries from college sports media staffs stating that a sports information director or athletic director is limiting access to athletes – and, thus, are trying to control coverage. In one case, a college staff was told it could never speak to college athletes, only with coaches. Not only is that rule absurdly idiotic, it also begs to be challenged as a free speech issue.

Bottom line: Do not back down from these fights no matter how much you believe covering games is essential, otherwise you’ll rarely get what you want, need or even deserve to share with these athletes’ fellow college students in the future. It’s sad when it is easier to speak with college administrator than with college students who happen to play a sport on campus.

Anyway, there are many (many!) things you can do instead of covering college games, which can both improve your overall coverage and make your athletic program feel – justifiably – uncomfortable.

In many cases, you might want to continue some of these practices even if you gain better access to athletes. Good luck.

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About jgisondi

I covered sports and worked as a sports copy editor for more than 20 years at several newspapers in Florida, including the Fort Myers News-Press, Clearwater Sun, Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. I started writing for a weekly sports publication in Coral Springs, Fla., at age 15. I have been hooked on sports journalism ever since. I was fortunate to have worked with some amazing editors along the way, journalists who took the time to help me even when my copy was not top-notch. Now, I teach journalism at Eastern Illinois University and work as an editor for Landof10.com, a vertical that focuses on Big Ten athletics. A second edition of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports" will be available sometime in February 2017. The book is a practical guide to preparing, observing, interviewing and writing about 20 different sports, from auto racing to wrestling. Chapters also address ways to cover high school sports, fantasy sports, to develop sports blogs. You can also learn how to cover games, to write features and to interview better. Fans can also learn basic rules of these sports, along with ways to better observe the action. New chapters in the second edition will address social media, advanced analytics, fantasy sports coverage and revised, expanded chapters address game coverage, features and columns, among other new sections.
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