Oregon’s Willie Taggart apparently ends his boycott of Oregonian. Lesson: Don’t give in to bullying by coaches

College coaches Oregon’s like Willie Taggart need to handle pressure.

They drill their players to be tough and resilient, but they act like children when a reporter uses words they do not like. In this instance, Taggart telling Oregonian reporter Andrew Greif: I won’t talk to you. Coaches like this are angry, I suppose, because they cannot control the media in the same manner as they do their own players.

Sounds like Greif, though, did an excellent job in covering this, which was confirmed by an Oregon journalism professor who verified the details in the news report on the grueling workouts that had caused several Ducks players to be hospitalized – and led to negative national coverage of the school’s football program.

This is not a smart PR move for Oregon because each time Taggart refuses to talk, everybody is reminded the reason: the rigorous (re: grueling) workouts that resulted in serious injuries to players.

On Tuesday, Taggart may have ended his personal boycott based upon the following two tweets although neither Taggart nor Greif explain exactly what happened.

I imagine the athletic director, sports information director or someone higher up in the university probably made this happen. Regardless, these kinds of childish acts, or, in some cases, bullying tactics, should not be tolerated by anybody covering a beat.

We had a situation here at our university recently where a coach wouldn’t speak to sports writers for the daily college newspaper because he was angry they had the audacity to report stats that, he felt, made the team look bad. It’s tough to put a positive spin on stats for a team that is struggling. More importantly, that’s the job of a PR person, not a sports journalist.

In another instance, this same coach chastised a reporter after he had written about some talented freshmen, who, he claimed, had not yet earned such recognition. He believed the reporter should have instead focused on his older players.

Essentially, this coach wanted to dictate coverage.

That would be more acceptable, I suppose, if the coach allowed these college beat writers to, in turn, dictate lineups and strategy during games.

I’ve found most coaches, especially at our university, are more than willing to accommodate student reporters. There are also coaches who feel uncomfortable or are more guarded around sports writers, which is fine. When a coach does get angry over coverage, it’s important that we explain the reasons for our reporting choices in private. But when a coach exacerbates the situation by refusing to talk or starts yelling, stand your ground.

Otherwise, you could eventually wind up in a situation like the one involving Bleacher Report, where the company bent to the will of Mavs owner Mark Cuban and deleted a tweet. That’s an absolutely terrible precedent, no matter if a company has a contract with a team or league.

Now, dammit, every other owner, coach, or athlete is going to think they can now apply pressure in the same manner to get what they desire.

Thanks, B/R.

 

 

 

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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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