College athletics access, College Media

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.

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Sports Media Ethics

Don’t allow sources to approve anything before publication

Jemele Hill interviewed Janay Rice for this essay that was published in ESPN's magazine and on its website.

Jemele Hill interviewed Janay Rice for this essay that was published in ESPN’s magazine and on its website.

No matter what anybody tells you, never allow a source to approve a story before it gets published. Your credibility as a journalist gets crushed if you allow a source to control a story, no matter how hard you might attempt to explain that nothing important was removed.

This is why I am bothered by ESPN’s interview with Janay Rice, wife to suspended NFL running back Ray Rice.

Last year, Sports Illustrated allowed LeBron James to review a story, but the magazine did not offer approval rights. Still, avoid this approach as well, because readers will question your integrity, believing a source probably did have some control over the final product. As outlined in the Society of Professional Journalism’s Code of Ethics, we must remain independent.

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Sports Media 101

Make your website attractive to fans

Originally posted June 2010

So what are you doing to create ‘the‘ place where fans turn for sports news on your campus? Or do you feel cocky, believing no other media can beat you for sports coverage? But does that include your own sports information department, which is probably cranking out copy, developing resources, and posting links all over its Web site?

Yeah, but that’s not journalism right? Think fans care? Really?

College newspapers are going to have to deliver more content on many more multimedia platforms much more frequently, if they are to remain relevant. Continue reading

Sports Media Relations

SIDs are not the enemy of sports journalists

Originally published June 2012

A few thoughts on sports information directors after the national CoSIDA conference in St. Louis this week.

1. SIDs are not journalists’ enemies. Sure, some SIDs try to ‘control’ everything from telling journalists when they can speak with athletes to sitting in on interviews (an egregiously bad move, btw, SIDs – unless, of course, you want to create negativity around your program. An open approach is always best, as several media consultants mentioned at the conference).  But these power freaks are the exception, much like a sports journalist who demands tickets to games or asks for autographs. SIDs are there to help. Who else is going to send you notes about games, facilitate interviews, and offer news tips? There’s no doubt the SID advocates a point of view – guarding the university’s reputation – but that does not mean this person is constantly lying. Build a professional relationship so you both can speak candidly, even if it’s off the record at times.

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College Media

Too many college staffs fumble NSD coverage

National Signing Day is like Christmas to college football fans, coaches and athletic directors.

For most college sports staffs, unfortunately, Wednesday might as well have been Arbor Day for the lack of timely coverage of football signings across the country.

While there’s a direct correlation between a team’s success and the quality of its recruits, according to, the relationship between college newspaper staffs and NSD is much more tenuous, even among student media covering traditional football powers. Sports staffs continue to wait until the next edition gets printed on paper to reveal news like this, an approach that is as antiquated as pica sticks and paste-up. There are exceptions, though, like student media at LSU, Michigan and Boise State, where staffs innovate and break news. Sadly, far too many sports staffs have failed to learn how to report in today’s media environment, where breaking news gets posted immediately – especially when readers have a voracious appetite for the content. Auburn fans, for instance, want to know who they’ve signed instantly – during a coffee break, while eating lunch or on their phones at any time.

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