During the last few months, I have been proud to work with my old school in developing a sports media program for the College of Media. Great bunch of dedicated people and I’m looking forward where it is going to take us.
Now I have a suggestion for a new class: Introduction to sports journalism for football coaches.
Specifically, one football coach: Tim Beckman.
The Illinois football coach, whose Big Ten record is 4-20, wants the media to join in the effort to save his job.
But when Beckman asked in no uncertain terms that the media abandon objectivity and jump aboard the Illini bandwagon, he showed more than a basic lack of knowledge about and respect for the job of the press. He overshadowed his own success story of the day and ultimately steered the narrative away from what he actually was trying to achieve: a slam dunk positive day in the news.
“What are (recruits) reading?” he asked reporters directly. “What are you saying? … The challenge is still, how important is the University of Illinois to you? It’s very important to us. We can be successful if we’re all in it together.”
Part of a coach’s strategy is controlling the message about his team. Understood.
But there are less blatant ways to go about it than an out-and-out directive to media to throw away objectivity. (More and more have in press boxes, but that’s another story.)
“Let’s build this thing into a champion,” he said, addressing reporters. “The more positive stuff you can talk about the better off we all are.”
Ridiculous and alarmingly naive. Writes Ryan:
Does Beckman truly think the purpose of the media is to fill the same role as the university’s public relations staff? In return, is part of Beckman’s mission to help the Tribune sell newspapers?
No, but it is his job alone — and not mine at all — to sell his program.
Where Beckman is concerned, he has gotten himself into odd, awkward spots — repeatedly — with his words. He’s a little tone-deaf, OK? He says stuff that makes people ask, “Did he really just say that?” It’s almost always harmless stuff. Again: nice, earnest guy. I mean that, truly.
But he is so far off in asking the media to essentially cheerlead, it’s beyond comical. It’s also wayyyy wrong. He’s out of line and, it seems, doesn’t even know it.