Oklahoma State Football Threat Should Have Had Coach Suspended
First of all, let me state that I have covered college football for two daily newspapers, in addition to a student paper and the student yearbook.
I’ve also covered events for the Associated Press and United Press International. I’ve been in so many locker rooms and at so many press conferences, interviewed coaches and players to many times I don’t want to count the number.
And so I can say with experience and authority that Mike Gundy’s threat to not make players available for the rest of the season if reporters asked about a player transferring is a childish move that should have him fined, reprimanded and even suspended by the school.
But that’s not the point of this post. It is about how I would have reacted to it if I were still working for the newspaper or was on assignment for a wire service.
First of all, I would – as the reporters did – consult with my editor. No matter what I think, it’s the editor who makes the final decision on such matters.
I would certainly think, and hope, that the editor would react the way I would: the heck with this policy, we’re going to cover the team the way we see fit and you cannot threaten us. I would also think every other outlet would react the same way and the power of the press would prevail.
Which, in the end, is exactly what happened here.
In an ultimate chicken-shit move, Gundy did not do it himself but sent the athletic department’s PR person to do it, and if that message were delivered to me, I would remind that person that if those orders are carried out then I would no longer do him (or her) any favors of coverage.
This happens all the time between reporters and PR people. Say the PR person wants to get some coverage for the women’s soccer team. He (or she) will ask a reporter to cover it. You may not want to, but you do it as a favor. In return, the PR person may give you some special access to a player, a coach or some other inside benefit. It works well for both parties and it’s as old at an off-tackle run.
Heck, I do this on PubClub.com. If a PR person or agency invites me on a press trip or to press events, I’ll often do them a favor by running articles on other press releases they send me. It’s a common professional courtesy that keeps everyone happy.
This would not happen if someone cut off access to me.
The media can and needs to push back when someone threatens to control our coverage. In today’s citizen journalists world, many bloggers and “influencers” are not willing to do that for fear of losing privileged access.
True journalists cannot and will not be bullied by anyone: corporate executives, politicians, publicists, PR people and especially immature football coaches.